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Updated: 20 min 13 sec ago

Del Potro Downs Nadal, Will Face Murray For Gold

Sat, 08/13/2016 - 9:32pm

Juan Martin del Potro was at his best for over three hours at the Rio Olympics on Saturday, ultimately prevailing 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5) against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. The 2012 bronze medalist will face 2012 gold medal winner Andy Murray for the title on Sunday.

“I am living like a dream,” del Potro told the ITF. “My emotions are so high after every match and the crowds make me cry in every match and I would like to say thank you to them.”

Coming into the week, del Potro had not won five consecutive matches in over two years. The Argentine, who took out top seed Novak Djokovic in the first round, beat Nadal by breaking down the Spaniard’s strength, playing heavy inside-out forehands into the No. 5 seed’s lefty forehand throughout the match. The audacious tactic paid off, as del Potro finished with 18 forehand winners and converted three of nine break point opportunities.

With del Potro serving for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set, Nadal showed his trademark fighting spirit. The 2008 gold medalist staved off elimination by breaking back at love with a vintage forehand pass. But Nadal ripped an inside-out forehand wide on del Potro’s third match point in the deciding tie-break to bow out.

“It was a good match, good level of tennis and all I can say is congratulations to del Potro. I try my best, I give my best till the last ball... I am very satisfied by what I did the whole week,” Nadal told the ITF.

The Spaniard will face Kei Nishikori, who lost to Murray in the semi-finals, for the bronze medal on Sunday. “Tomorrow is another day and I going to try to be ready for it," Nadal said.

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Murray imposed his will on Nishikori, winning 6-1, 6-4 in 80 minutes.

"I played really well and I served well, by far the best this week," Murray told the ITF. "That last service game I think was the only one that went to deuce on my serve, maybe two in the match, but I didn’t give him any opportunities on my serve and I was very aggressive when I was returning.

“I'm happy that I'm guaranteed a medal after today but the goal is to win a gold medal so I will give it my best effort tomorrow to win another one."

Murray was nearly untouchable on serve, landing 76 per cent of first serves and never facing break point. He dominated backhand exchanges from the baseline and won nine of 13 net approaches. Outmatched from the first ball, Nishikori was able to win only 39 total points to Murray’s 61. The Japanese star went for broke on his forehand and saved Murray’s first two match points, but succumbed shortly thereafter.

Murray, Nishikori On Cincy QF Collision Course

Sat, 08/13/2016 - 4:08pm

World No. 2 Andy Murray returns to Cincinnati next week bidding to capture a third Western & Southern Open title. The Scot – a champion in 2008 and 2011 (d. Djokovic both years) – faces a tough route if he is to recapture the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown in Ohio. No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori is a likely quarter-final opponent, and Murray is slated to meet fourth seed Milos Raonic in the semi-finals.

The Brit's projected final opponent, second seed Stan Wawrinka, had his best result in Cincinnati in 2012 when he reached the semi-finals before falling to countryman Roger Federer. Wawrinka will likely have to find a way past No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals before a showdown with 2013 champion, No. 3 seed Rafael Nadal, in the semi-finals. Nadal has claimed 15 of 18 FedEx ATP Head2Head clashes with the World No. 4 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

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Murray opens his campaign against this week’s Abierto Mexicano Mifel finalist Ivo Karlovic or Argentine Juan Monaco in the second round. Murray has never lost to 37-year-old Karlovic in seven career meetings. He has, however, fallen to Monaco twice in five matches. French No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet is drawn to meet Murray in the third round.

Wawrinka, meanwhile, will begin against either #NextGen American wild card Jared Donaldson or Spanish former World No. 9 Nicolas Almagro. Wawrinka has never faced Donaldson and boasts a 6-3 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Almagro. His third-round opponent could be this week’s other Abierto Mexicano Mifel finalist Feliciano Lopez, or former Top 10 players Gilles Simon or Grigor Dimitrov.

Third seed Nadal, who fell to Lopez in the third round in Cincinnati last year, faces either Pablo Cuevas or Sam Querrey in the second round with a trio of #NextGen players – 14th seed Nick Kyrgios, Lucas Pouille and Borna Coric – all potential third-round obstacles. Sixth seed Tomas Berdych is drawn to meet Nadal in what would be the pair’s 23rd FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter. Nadal has won 19 of those matches.

A semi-finalist in 2014, fourth seed Raonic faces a tricky start to his Western & Southern Open campaign against either Italian Fabio Fognini or fellow big-server John Isner. Eighth seeded #NextGen star Dominic Thiem or French No. 9 seed Gael Monfils would be Raonic's expected quarter-final opponent.

Seven-time champion Roger Federer and five-time finalist Novak Djokovic will be missing from Cincinnati due to injuries.

Karlovic To Face Lopez In Mexico Final

Sat, 08/13/2016 - 3:58am

Ivo Karlovic and Feliciano Lopez will clash for the Abierto Mexicano Mifel title after posting contrasting semi-final victories on Friday.

Third seed Karlovic reached his third ATP World Tour final from his past four events after Dusan Lajovic retired with wrist and elbow pain after just 45 minutes of play, while top seed Lopez booked his berth with a one-hour 46-minute triumph over countryman Pablo Carreno Busta 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Karlovic looked on his way to winning his fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in as many encounters with Lajovic after taking the opening set 6-2 before the Serbian called time at 1-1 in the second set.

It marked an unfortunate end for the World No. 72 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, who took down No. 2 seed Bernard Tomic and No. 7 seed Nicolas Almagro en route to his third ATP World Tour semi-final.  For 37-year-old Karlovic, it extends an impressive run of form of late, in which he has won 13 of his past 15 matches.

“I’m really happy that I’m in the final but then again I know him really well and know that he’s a really good guy so I would never wish this for him,” Karlovic said. “I began really aggressive and that’s my game. I was going to the net and he was missing all the passing shots.”

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Karlovic will bid for an eighth ATP World Tour title while Lopez will be gunning for his sixth. The Croatian leads the pair’s FedEx Head2Head rivalry 5-3 although they haven’t met since 2014 in Memphis.

“This is what I was hoping for when I arrived here,” Karlovic said. “I was doing really well in the last month or so. I made finals in Newport and Washington and also here now. I’m really happy about that.”

Lopez avenged a defeat to Carreno Busta in their only prior meeting in Valencia two years ago.  The 34 year old won his eighth match on the run having claimed the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad leading in.

Carreno Busta was aiming to reach his third ATP World Tour final of the season and his first on hard courts. Lopez finished with seven aces, claiming 85 per cent of his first-serve points. 

Despite dropping serve twice to concede the opening set he regrouped to level the match before breaking the 25 year old for 2-0 in the deciding set. Lopez sealed the result on his second match point with his third break of serve.

"Against players before like Ivo or Isner, these kind of players, you just have to focus, try to hold your serve," Lopez said of the final. "This is basically what I have to do tomorrow. Hold my serve, stay focused, take the two or three chances he might give me for the whole match. 

"I know it’s going to be tough against him. He’s been playing great. He won a tournament and made the final in Washington. He’s very confident but I’m also confident. 

"I won a title in Switzerland and have made a final again, back to back. It’s really a tough challenge for me tomorrow."

Indians advance to doubles final

It will be an all-unseeded doubles final after Indian pairing Purav Raja and Divij Sharan and Israeli-British duo Jonathan Erlich and Ken Skupski won their respective semi-finals. Raja and Sharan had a comfortable 6-4, 6-4 victory over British-Canadian pair Jonathan Marray and Adil Shamasdin, hitting seven aces between them and claiming 83 per cent of first-serve points. They saved four of five break points in the one-hour, eight-minute affair.

It was a more nail-biting finish to decide the second doubles semi-final with Erlich and Skupski saving a match point at 8/9 in the match tie-break to deny Spaniards David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-3, 11-9. Both duos were broken three times in the one-hour, 23-minute encounter.


Lopez/Nadal Top Mergea/Tecau For Gold In Rio

Sat, 08/13/2016 - 1:10am

Rafael Nadal teamed with countryman Marc Lopez to win the gold medal in men’s doubles tennis at the Rio Olympics on Friday, beating Romania’s Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the final. Lopez/Nadal were down a break in the deciding set, but swept the last three games to prevail. The win capped off a busy day for Nadal, as the 2008 singles gold medalist (d. Gonzalez) came back from a set down to secure his 800th match win in the singles quarter-finals over Thomaz Bellucci.

The Spaniards, seeded fifth, landed 81 per cent of first serves in the opening set and did not face a break point. Mergea/Tecau relied on power to level the match, firing 19 winners (46 total) to send the match to a deciding set. The Romanians appeared in command after breaking Lopez to love in the seventh game of the final set, but could not hold on and succumbed after two hours and 30 minutes.

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Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock won the bronze medal after topping Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 6-2, 6-4. Johnson/Sock used their heavy forehands to good effect against the Canadians’ net-rushing game. They hit twice as many winners (26 to 13) and did not face break point in the 63-minute win. It was the second match of the day for Johnson, who pushed Andy Murray to three sets in the singles quarter-finals.

Rafa Joins 800 Match Wins Club In Rio

Fri, 08/12/2016 - 8:53pm

Rafael Nadal scored a milestone quarter-final win at the Rio Olympics on Friday, coming back from a set down to beat home hope Thomaz Bellucci 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. Nadal became the eighth player in the Open Era to register at least 800 career singles match wins.

800 Match Wins Club

Player

Wins

1)     Jimmy Connors

1,256

2)     Roger Federer

1,080

3)     Ivan Lendl

1,068

4)     Guillermo Vilas

929

5)     John McEnroe

877

6)     Andre Agassi

870

7)     Stefan Edberg

801

8)     Rafael Nadal

800

Rafa’s Milestone Wins

No. 1      – 2002 Mallorca 1R  d. R. Delgado

No. 100 – + 2005 Stuttgart 2R d. Armando

No. 200 – 2007 Miami 4R   d. del Potro

No. 300 – + 2008 Queen’s  QF d. Karlovic

No. 400 – 2009 Davis Cup 1R d. Berdych

No. 500 – + 2011 Barcelona SF d. Dodig

No. 600 – + 2013 Indian Wells F  d. del Potro

No. 700 – 2014 Wimbledon 1R d. Klizan

No. 800 – 2016 Olympics QF d. Bellucci

+ Won title

Bellucci struck eight winners to Nadal’s two in claiming the opening set. The Spaniard regained momentum by attacking the net. After only coming forward once in the first set, Nadal went 11-for-13 the rest of the way. He improved to 6-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with the Brazilian.

Next up for Nadal is Juan Martin del Potro, who edged Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 7-6(4). The powerful Argentine fired 42 winners, including 27 off his favoured forehand wing, in the two-hour, 11-minute encounter. Nadal leads the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 8-4, but del Potro swept the pair’s most recent meeting, winning 6-2, 6-4 in Shanghai three years ago.

"I cannot believe the moment, the crowd makes me cry in every match," del Potro told the ITF after his match. "I don’t want to think about Rafa yet, he is the next opponent and he is the favourite to get to the final and get the medal, but I am so glad with my success and I will try to be 100 per cent."

Second seed Andy Murray beat No. 12 seed Steve Johnson 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(2) to reach the semi-finals. The defending Olympic champion, who came back from a break down at 3-4 in the third set, fended off 31 winners from the American and won 78 per cent of points off his first serve to advance to the last four in two hours and 11 minutes.

"It feels special because we don’t get this opportunity all of the time, competing to win medals for your country," Murray told the ITF. "For me, it has nothing to do with having won the gold in London. It's trying to win more medals for your country and your team and I'll give my best shot to do that."

Watch Murray FedEx ATP Profile

Murray next faces fourth seed Kei Nishikori, who saved three match points in beating No. 6 seed Gael Monfils 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(6). Nishikori was trailing 6-3 in the deciding tie-break, but won the last five points of the match to advance. He finished with 23 forehand winners.

Stars Participate In Kids Day Los Cabos 2016

Fri, 08/12/2016 - 2:07pm
Alexandr Dolgopolov is among the ATP World Tour stars to take their talents to the mini court and inspire future stars in Los Cabos. Video Courtesy: Abierto Mexicano Mifel

Lopez, Karlovic Advance To Los Cabos SFs

Fri, 08/12/2016 - 2:54am

Top seed Feliciano Lopez remains on course to lift his sixth ATP World Tour title at the Abierto Mexicano Mikel after he reached the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over fellow 34-year-old Julien Benneteau in 73 minutes. Lopez lost just three of his first service points to reach his fifth ATP World Tour semi-final (or better) in 2016.

Lopez now faces fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, who rallied from a set and a break down to beat Santiago Giraldo 6-7(4), 7-6(2), 6-3. The Spanish wild card, runner-up at the Argentina Open and Millennium Estoril Open earlier this year, broke serve five times over three hours in the hot and humid conditions of Los Cabos.

“It was quite a difficult match,” Carreno Busta said. “Santiago was a tough opponent. Things were not looking good after I lost the first set, but I stayed calm and got the win in the end.”

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Third seed Ivo Karlovic fired down 19 aces past eighth seed Marcel Granollers in the pair’s first meeting for eight years (since 2008 Hamburg). Karlovic, who has now hit 37 aces in two matches this week, won 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-1 in one hour and 50 minutes. The giant Croat, who is currently No. 24 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, recently reached the Citi Open final (l. to Monfils).

“It was a long match, but it wasn’t really tiring,” said Karlovic. “I will definitely have enough energy for tomorrow. In the beginning I didn’t feel good, but I was fighting with myself to stay in the match.”

Dusan Lajovic advanced to his third ATP World Tour semi-final of 2016 (also Sao Paulo, Kitzbuhel) by defeating seventh seed Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 7-6(5) in one hour and 33 minutes. Lajovic led 5-2 in the first set, then recovered from a 2/5 deficit in the second set tie-break.

“I’m pretty happy with the way I played today,” said Lajovic. “It was tough with the wind, we both struggled at the beginning. I felt I controlled the game pretty well and he made some mistakes at the end of the first set. I then raised my level, having stalled a bit. I’m happy to have finished it in two sets.”

Indians Into Doubles SFs

Purav Raja and Divij Sharan recovered to beat Nicholas Monroe and Artem Sitak 1-6, 6-3, 10-7 to move into the semi-finals. The Indian duo claimed 11 of 16 second-serve return points and broke serve three times (3/4) to advance in 74 minutes.

Also victorious were Jonathan Erlich and Ken Skupski, who took out third seeds Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Mate Pavic 6-4, 1-6, 10-5. Erlich/Skupski saved seven break points (7/11) in the 72-minute encounter.

A Day In The Life In Los Cabos With Giraldo

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 7:10pm

At 8:00 am on Wednesday, Santiago Giraldo was already up and running along the Sheraton Hotel Beach in Los Cabos. He stopped to take pictures of local sea animals and climb some rock formations. After 20 minutes, it was on to the next activity!

 

After a quick shower, the Colombian ate breakfast on the hotel terrace overlooking the stunning Pacific Ocean. He ordered papaya, watermelon, kiwi, tortillas, eggs and Tabasco plus tea and water. After, it was time to grab transportation to the tournament site, just ten quick minutes from the hotel.

 

Jeremy Chardy was Giraldo's first training partner of the day. The temperature was high at 11:00 am at the Delmar International School, where the tournament venue is located. Between rallies, Giraldo spoke with the Frenchman about the first time they played, and determined it was in 2003 when they were juniors. “You’re too old," said Chardy’s girlfriend, who was also attending the training session.

 

An hour later and the first of two practices ends. Giraldo packed everything into his bag, carefully - grooming items, supplements, strings, grips, hearing aids, glasses, a watch, a change of clothes and his seven racquets. One of his racquets has an inspiring message.

 

Giraldo returned to the hotel, ate soup and rice with chicken for lunch plus a lemon water to drink. He took a 40-minute nap before taking a shower and then finally embarked on another journey to the site. His next training partner was Juan Batalla, a 17-year-old Mexican. “Thank you. Good luck. Always listen your coach," he recommended to the youngster at the end of the practice. Giraldo then had a couple of hours before his match, which meant it was time to relax and focus in the players' lounge.

 

After 15 minutes of physio, the Colombian left the players' lounge with his packed racquet bag and perfect amounts of hydration. Not a detail is to be missed! It’s the second time in his life travelling without a coach, so everything depends on him. On his way to the court, Giraldo saw the match between Julien Benneteau and Jared Donaldson on the next court.

 

Giraldo's countryman, Alejandro Falla, supported him in the stands. The left-hander motivated him as he saved two break points on serve. In the end, Giraldo won in straight sets, knocking out fourth seed Sam Querrey.

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Giraldo spoke with the media, returned to the players' lounge, went back to the hotel, stretched, ate and went to bed early. He needed to rest as the next day awaits the same routine, against another tough opponent!

 

Murray Reaches Rio Last Eight

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 6:54pm

Second seed Andy Murray battled to beat Fabio Fognini 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 in Rio on Thursday. The defending Olympic Champion converted on six of his 12 break point opportunities to advance to the quarter-finals, where he will face No. 12 seed Steve Johnson. The American needed 64 minutes to defeat Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-1.

Third seed Rafael Nadal topped No. 15 seed Gilles Simon 7-6(5), 6-3 to advance to the last eight, hitting 21 winners in the two-hour match. Nadal, the Olympic Champion in 2008, will next face home hope Thomaz Bellucci, who upset No. 8 seed David Goffin 7-6(10) 6-4. The Brazilian won 71 per cent of his first serve points and hit 18 winners to advance.

Watch Nadal FedEx Profile

Juan Martin del Potro prevailed 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-2 over Taro Daniel, firing 43 winners to reach the quarter-finals. The Argentine will look to advance to the medal rounds when he faces tenth seed Roberto Bautista Agut, a 6-4, 7-6(4) winner over Gilles Muller

Watch Bautista Agut FedEx Profile

Gael Monfils will take on Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals after beating Marin Cilic 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4. Nishikori edged Slovakia's Andrej Martin 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles Final Set

Nadal ensured that he will be taking home at least one Olympic medal, teaming with Marc Lopez to defeat Canada's Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil 7-6(1), 7-6(4) in the doubles semi-finals. The Spaniards will face Romanians Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau for gold. Mergea/Tecau topped Americans Steve Johnson and Jack Sock 6-3, 7-5. The American and Canadian teams will face off for the bronze medal.

Bautista Agut FedEx ATP Player Profile 2016

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 1:59pm
What's Roberto Bautista Agut's best advice for players looking to break through?

Lopez, Giraldo Into Los Cabos QFs; Lajovic Tops Tomic

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 8:09am

Dusan Lajovic upset second seed Bernard Tomic at the Abierto Mexicano Mifel on Wednesday, winning their second-round clash 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4 in just under two hours.

“Bernie is a very good player. Perhaps I was a bit more confident on big points because I had already played a match,” Lajovic said. “The balls were flying quite a bit and he was having a tough time controlling the ball at the end of the third set. I was able to use that.”

“It was a good match,” Tomic said. “[Lajovic] was going for his shots and deserved the win, for sure. It’s a beautiful tournament. It’s a shame I lost today but I am looking forward to coming back next year.”

Lajovic will next face seventh-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, a winner of 13 ATP World Tour titles, who downed countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6(4), 6-3 in one hour and 42 minutes.

Top seed Feliciano Lopez will look to deny Julien Benneteau the 250th match win of his career on Thursday when the pair meet for a place in the semi-finals. Lopez lost five of his first service points and saved all four break points he faced in a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory over 18-uear-old Reilly Opelka in 87 minutes. Benneteau, 34, hit 13 aces to beat Zeballos 6-1, 6-7(1), 6-1.

Santiago Giraldo, who is currently No. 137 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, scored a 7-6(1), 6-3 second-round upset over No. 4 seed Sam Querrey. The Colombian survived 12 aces and moved into the quarter-finals in 83 minutes. He will next face Pablo Carreno-Busta.

Giraldo, who won consecutive tour-level matches on hard court for the first time in 2016, secured 80 per cent of first-serve points and only faced two break points (1/2). The 28 year old broke Querrey twice (2/6) to improve to 2-3 in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.

“It’s hot at all of these summer tournaments. I’m used to it, but it can still be difficult,” said Querrey, who is planning on staying in Los Cabos a little longer to fine-tune his game. “I’ll be out here practicing tomorrow morning. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some wins in Cincinnati and Winston Salem, and get some momentum going.”

Carreno Busta eased past American Austin Krajicek 6-0, 6-3 in under one hour. The Spanish wild card lost only two first-serve points and converted all five break points opportunities.

Ivo Karlovic, the third seed, saw off Mischa Zverev 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a quarter-final meeting with Marcel Granollers, a 7-6(2), 6-2 winner over Tobias Kamke. Karlovic landed 69 per cent of first serves and blasted 18 aces to oust qualifier Zverev.

Lindstedt/Qureshi Beaten In Opener

Spaniards David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco, who have a 6-4 record in ATP World Tour doubles finals, knocked out second seeds Robert Lindstedt and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 7-6(6), 6-3 in 84 minutes for a place in the quarter-finals. They will face Almagro and Marcelo Demoliner.

Elsewhere, Jonathan Erlich and Ken Skupski saved three match points against Swedes Johan Brunstrom and Andreas Siljestrom 2-6, 6-0, 13-11 in 77 minutes. Erlich and Skupski saved match points at 7/9 and 10/11 in the Match tie-break.

Blancaneaux Rides Roland Garros Success In Challengers

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 5:44am

After winning the boys’ singles title this year at Roland Garros, Geoffrey Blancaneaux is turning his attention to the pros.

The 18-year-old Frenchman is competing at this week’s $50,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Trnava, Slovakia. After coming through qualifying, Blancaneaux won his first-ever main draw Challenger match on Tuesday by defeating local wild card Patrik Fabian, 6-4, 6-3.

“It was a big experience for me and I felt a bit of pressure going into the match. Even though I’ve played in Grand Slam qualifying before, it’s not quite the same,” said Blancaneaux. “It’s a lot tougher in Challengers compared to the juniors. I constantly play against Top 200 players and sometimes even Top 100.”

Blancaneaux made headlines earlier this year at Roland Garros, where he saved three championship points to prevail in an 8-6 deciding set over Felix Auger Aliassime of Canada in the boys’ singles final. With former Roland Garros champion and fellow Frenchman Yannick Noah looking on, Blancaneaux struck a forehand winner on match point and collapsed to the ground in celebration.

“Winning there gave me so much confidence, especially on clay. I’m improving each day and seeing my level go up quickly,” he said. “I just need to be stronger on the first few balls [of the rally] now, which is what I’m missing.”

Although Blancaneaux will play the junior events at the US Open, his primary focus is on playing Futures and ATP Challenger Tour events. But after this week, he said it’s a safe bet he will return to Trnava.

“I've played the ITF Junior event here before, but this is completely different. The tournament director, structure and courts are all unbelievable,” said Blancaneaux. “I’m telling players they should come here and I will come back with pleasure.”

Chinese Teens Announce Arrival In Local Challengers

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 5:04am

With a new crop of ATP Challenger Tour events being held throughout China this year, these tournaments have been a chance for some of the country’s youngest stars to showcase their best tennis.

At this week’s $125,000 ATP Challenger Tour event in Qingdao, 18 year old Rigele Te prevailed in the first round over fellow Chinese player Yecong He to win his second main draw match in a Challenger. His first main draw Challenger win came last week at the $125,000 Challenger in Chengdu, where he was also a wild card.

Although Te lost in the second round in Qingdao on Thursday to Danilo Petrovic of Serbia, the youngest player on the Chinese National team said the past two weeks have been an invaluable experience for him.

“To be able to win matches in Challengers for the first time is exciting,” said Te. “I know I still have a long way to go. I just need to play more matches, gain more experience and boost my confidence.”

Another player taking his first steps this year on the ATP Challenger Tour year is 16 year old Yibing Wu. Currently ranked No. 19 in the ITF Junior Rankings, he made his Challenger main draw debut this week in Qingdao, where he lost to former World No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia in straight sets.

“I was very excited when the draw came out and to have the chance to play Janko. I really enjoyed it. I thought I played aggressive tennis in the first few games, but couldn’t keep up with him because he is so solid,” said Wu. “The pro players take everything very seriously. I learned a lot from that.”

Te and Wu’s appearances in Qingdao also come on the heels of 18 year old Fanjing Sun coming through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals last week in Chengdu. All three are aiming to get into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, but said they want to be part of a contingent of top Chinese players.

“I hope when I reach this goal,” said Wu, “We already have Top 100 players from China.”

Lah Reflects On Challenger Main Draw Debut

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 4:54am

Slovenian veterans including Blaz Kavcic and Blaz Rola are taking to the court at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Portoroz, but a local teenager also took the first steps towards what he hopes is a long pro career.

Sven Lah, 17, made his ATP Challenger Tour main draw debut on Tuesday against second seed Renzo Olivo of Argentina.  Although the World No. 113 in the Emirates ATP Rankings was by far the highest-ranked player Lah had ever faced, the youngest player in the draw held his own on Centre Court in a 6-2, 6-3 loss.

“It was a pleasure to play in such a good tournament and playing against Renzo is one of the best experiences of my career,” said Lah. “Playing against pros was a really good lesson for me, so I’m happy that I got the opportunity.”

Currently ranked No. 84 in the ITF Junior Rankings, Lah has spent most of this year competing in some of the world’s biggest junior events. But while he’s comfortable competing against quality opponents, he admitted the ATP Challenger Tour was a new level for him.

“The biggest thing I learned this week is that everyone knows how to hit serves, forehands and backhands, so the main thing is what you’re able to show on court,” said Lah. “The head is the main factor in the mind game out there.”

The Slovenian plans on eventually turning pro, but is first looking at first playing at college tennis in the U.S. because “from the beginning of my career we have been playing on clay, so I have to learn how to play on hard courts.” Lah plans to play more pro events over the next year, though, and is already plotting his return to Portoroz.

“It was a great week for me,” he said, “But I hope that I will come back next year without needing a wild card.”

Challenger Experience A Top Priority For Surging Shapovalov

Thu, 08/11/2016 - 2:16am
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Denis Shapovalov has had just one week to digest how his summer is unfolding. Junior Wimbledon title... check. First ATP World Tour main draw at the Citi Open... check. First ATP World Tour match win against World No. 16 Nick Kyrgios in front of thousands of screaming home fans at the Rogers Cup... triple check.

Where most 17-year-olds are enjoying their summer months relaxing at the beach and lounging with friends, Shapovalov is spending countless hours on court as he strives towards his professional ambitions. Having experienced a taste of success on both ends of the spectrum, the Canadian understands that developing his skills and building confidence at the Challenger level is imperative.

"My parents told me from the start to not expect this all the time," Shapovalov told ATPWorldTour.com at the Challenger Banque Nationale de Gatineau. "It's two wild cards at two dream tournaments, but then it's back to reality and back to grinding. I expected it and it hasn't been a problem for me yet. Those tournaments motivated me more than anything. It's a long way and I just have to keep working. These Challengers give me that opportunity."

Shapovalov's longtime coach Adriano Fuorivia agrees that it's a long process and the ATP Challenger Tour is an important next step for his pupil to return to the big stage.

"Hopefully playing in Challengers against guys in the 100-200 range will continue to push his level and further motivate him to reach for that top level. He won some Futures events in Florida at the beginning of the year, then came off the big win at Wimbledon juniors and now against Kyrgios, so he's been playing with so much more confidence and is believing that he belongs in a higher category.

"We told him that you have to earn your way there. The wild cards into Washington and Toronto were a nice opportunity, but you have to earn your way back. That means playing more Challengers. I know it's tough. It's not easy to play in the spotlight at Wimbledon and night matches in Toronto in front of large crowds. But it's a learning experience.

"Going back out there every single day and feeling that you have to perform in front of that crowd can be a different pressure. That's not necessarily Denis' problem, but these are thoughts in my mind that you have to prepare yourself for. And then you're back playing on Court 1 or 2 at a smaller event, but that's just another step in his development at a young age."

Shapovalov's tenure on the ATP Challenger Tour got off to an auspicious start in March, with a stunning run to the semi-finals on home soil in Drummondville. His first-round win over countryman Filip Peliwo made him the first player born in 1999 to win a Challenger match, which he proceeded to follow up with a straight-sets upset of second seed Austin Krajicek. Shapovalov would catapult more than 200 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings to No. 551. It was a week that set the tone for his breakthrough season.

"I played some incredible tennis there and I wasn't expecting to beat [Krajicek] in the quarters," Shapovalov reflected. "We actually packed our bags, getting ready to go home before that. When I played Daniel Evans, I played amazing too. Ever since then he's been in the Top 100 and made the third round at Wimbledon. It gave me so much experience and confidence. Now I need to pump up my fitness and work with Adriano to get ready for a few Challengers in the U.S. at the end of the year."

"I don't want to say it was a surprise, but just the level he was playing at was pretty high," Fuorivia added. "Everything was clicking. His serve, forehand, backhand were all on. I don't look at who he beats because everyone has an off day. I look at his level. If I feel that the level was looking pretty good, then I know he can play with these guys. And when the level is high, then the ranking will follow."

The Italian-born Fuorivia, who first started working with Shapovalov four years ago, acknowledges that his pupil's greatest asset is his mental approach. Where most teens would be looking ahead to an upcoming family vacation in Greece, Shapovalov, who is into his second straight Challenger quarter-final this week in Gatineau, is wired differently.

"He's very perceptive in that he immediately notices what it takes to compete at this level and say 'I have to do this better' or 'I need a better 1-2 shot'. He's never played a junior game. It's always been a 'go for it' game.

"The transition to playing the pros was easier for him. His serve improved and his attacking ball got better. I'm not saying he's there, but it wasn't so hard for him to stay in points because he goes for his shots. There's so much in him to learn and get better."

Stars Enjoy The Sea In Los Cabos

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 7:47pm
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Abierto Mexicano Mifel - Los Cabos, Mexico

Top seed Feliciano Lopez, second seed Bernard Tomic and No. 4 seed Sam Querrey launched the inaugural Abierto Mexicano Mifel with mini tennis on a boat that included a scenic view of El Arco.

Ivo Karlovic, Jeremy Chardy, Santiago Giraldo, Lopez, Tomic, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Marcel Granollers, Pablo Carreno Busta, Fernando Verdasco, Robert Lindstedt, Tim Smyczek and more stars relaxed during the tournament players’ party on Sunday night. Watch

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Karlovic, Chardy and Giraldo took a scenic boat ride in Los Cabos for some snorkeling at Playa del Amor. Watch

Carreno Busta, Dusan Lajovic, Adrian Mannarino, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Tigre Hank took part in a unique activity when they visited the Wild Canyon adventure park. The players soared above ground on the Monster Ziplines and rode all-terrain vehicles across Los Cabos Canyon Bridge. Read & Watch

Chardy, Dolgopolov, Purav Raja and Divij Sharan participated in kids’ day activities.

Julien Benneteau, Austin Krajicek and Carreno Busta are among the stars who met fans and signed autographs on site. 


 

Tomic Lopez Querrey Play Mini Tennis In Los Cabos 2016

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 7:40pm
Bernard Tomic, Feliciano Lopez and Sam Querrey take to the water in Los Cabos for some mini tennis on a boat. Photo: Jorge Reyes. Video courtesy Abierto Mexicano Mifel

Querrey Tomic Lopez Excited For Inaugural Los Cabos 2016

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 7:29pm
Sam Querrey, Bernard Tomic, Marcel Granollers and Feliciano Lopez are all excited for the inaugural Abierto Mexicano Mifel, an ATP World Tour 250 tournament, in Los Cabos. Photo credit: Jorge Reyes.

Estrella Burgos Wants To Change Tennis

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 4:54pm
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The moment Victor Estrella Burgos waited years for has finally arrived, and the Dominican can hardly breathe. He lies collapsed face down, his head buried in the red clay of Quito, his body shaking from disbelief.

Estrella Burgos has just beaten four-time titlist Feliciano Lopez, then No. 14 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, to win the 2015 Ecuador Open Quito. At 34, he has made history, becoming the oldest first-time ATP World Tour winner in the Open Era. He's also become the first player from the Dominican Republic to win an ATP World Tour event.

By this time, though, Estrella Burgos had already made a career of shattering obstacles. As a boy, he taught himself how to play tennis. In his 20s, he taught the sport for years to fund his future career and achieve Dominican tennis history. When he could finally afford to go pro at the age of 26, people laughed at him. “It's too late,” they told him.

But he has proved them wrong year after year, and when he retires, he'll try to accomplish one more ambitious goal. The lifelong Santiago resident wants to make sure his story is never repeated. He wants everyone in the Dominican Republic with an interest in tennis to have the ability to pursue the sport.

“I don't want the younger kids to have the same problems as me, like what I had before,” he said. “I want to change everything."

Had it not been for his abundance of energy, who knows if Estrella Burgos' own tennis talent would have been discovered. When he was eight, his dad asked a tennis teacher at a local club if he had anything that could keep his son busy.

“I was the ball boy,” Estrella Burgos said.

For about three hours every day, after and sometimes before school, Estrella Burgos would dash around the court, acting like a human tennis bucket, gobbling up balls while watching people play. During downtime, he'd grab a racquet and play like the people he saw: right-handed.

That's why, almost 30 years later, even though Estrella Burgos writes with his left hand, he still hits a forehand with his right hand. “I didn't have anybody to show me [how to play],” he said. “I saw the people play with their right hand, I took the racquet and I started.”

As a nine year old, Estrella Burgos won a junior tournament at the club, which upped his interest and landed him some advice. “So many people started to help me,” he said.

He gradually kept improving, becoming a top junior in the Dominican Republic and eventually teaching at the club. Through international competitions, including the Pan-American games and Davis Cup matches, Estrella Burgos soon believed he had the talents to compete among the best in the world.

As a 23 year old, for instance, he faced Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas, then 18, in a Davis Cup match. Estrella Burgos, No. 1,110 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, swept past the future Top 20 player 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. “I knew I had the level,” Estrella Burgos said.

But he lacked the finances to spend months and years on tour. So he kept working and teaching lessons at the club, squirreling away funds to someday launch his pro career.

No one from the Dominican Republic had done what he was trying to do – have a successful Top 100 career on the ATP World Tour. Yet Estrella Burgos was committed, and in 2006, as a 26 year old, he finally felt comfortable enough to give it a go professionally. He moved away from Santiago and relocated to Miami to practise with more people on a regular basis.

“Everybody thought, 'It's too late to start.' But I think it's never too late,” he said.

Read More: First-Time Winner Spotlight: Estrella Burgos

Estrella Burgos sweat it out at Futures events, his ranking in the low 900s of the Emirates ATP Rankings. By 2010, he had climbed to No. 211. By 2013, he had overcome torn cartilage in his right elbow to win multiple ATP Challenger Tour events for the first time in his career, including the Quito title, the start of his successful streak there.

The next year, Estrella Burgos hit his prime. In March, he became the first Dominican to crack the Top 100. In July, he reached the semi-finals in Bogota, beating then No. 14 Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals before falling to eventual champion Bernard Tomic in a third-set tiebreak in the semi-finals.

In late 2014, Estrella Burgos became the oldest player to make his main draw debut at the US Open. He also became the first player from his country to play in the Grand Slam championship's main draw.

The achievements kept coming and coming, but the best came in February 2015 in Quito, when he won five consecutive matches to take the title. In July 2015, he also reached a career best No. 43 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Earlier this year, as a 35 year old, he won five more matches in Quito to become a two-time ATP World Tour champion.

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“Quito is just special for me,” he said. “I feel very confident. I feel I play very good and thank God I won the tournament again.”

He's not done yet, either. “I think I can get better and better this year,” said Estrella Burgos, who turned 36 earlier this month.

How many titles, though, would Estrella Burgos have if he had turned pro when he was 18? How high would he be in the Emirates ATP Rankings?

These are questions he doesn't want another Dominican to have to consider, so when he retires, he plans to start a foundation that will help promote tennis across the country. To start, Estrella Burgos, who moved back to Santiago after a handful of years in Miami, wants to work with the government to build public tennis courts in Santiago, which has a population of 550,753. When he was a kid, the city had nine public courts. Now, he said, it has zero.

If you want to play tennis but don't belong to one of the three private clubs in Santiago, he said, you have nowhere to play. “That's why everything is hard, because we don't have the facilities,” he said. “If you are not a member, you cannot practise... That's why everybody decides to play baseball, basketball, or another sport, not tennis.”

Estrella Burgos, who still lives in the home he grew up in, also wants to make sure kids who show tennis talent at a young age can gain the proper instruction. “I know so many of them play good but they don't have any help or anybody to help them to make tournaments,” he said. “With my experience, with my ideas and everything, I have to help.”

He has seen how his historic career has generated interest in tennis in the Dominican Republic, and he wants to make sure he's not the first and the last player from his country to win titles and break ATP World Tour records.

“This is my dream, to make a foundation,” he said. “We can make something different.”

 

Djokovic Withdraws From Cincinnati

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 3:38pm

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from next week’s Western & Southern Open due to a left wrist injury. It is the only ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament he has yet to win.

“I am very sad to announce that I won't be able to play this year in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open,” said Djokovic, a winner of a record 30 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. “I have a recurring injury that has taken its toll on my body due to a very busy and active schedule this year. I have played many matches and I have to take some rest in order to heal. I always have my hopes high on returning to Cincinnati and winning the only trophy I am missing in the Masters [1000] series."

Djokovic, who has finished runner-up in Cincinnati on five occasions, is not expected to play until the US Open, the final Grand Slam championship of the year, beginning on 29 August. The 29-year-old Serbian has a 51-5 match record on the 2016 season, including seven titles.