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Ebden, Stebe Among Biggest Challenger Movers Of 2017

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:13pm

Five years ago, Matthew Ebden and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe were playing the best tennis of their careers. Both the Aussie and German had made the leap to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time and were on the ascent as they continued to realize their dreams on the ATP World Tour.

But no path to stardom is identical and everyone takes a different route to the top. Ebden and Stebe would see their thriving careers cut down due to serious injury setbacks and after many years on the sidelines, both players would make triumphant comebacks in 2017 as the top performers on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Ebden and Stebe were the biggest movers to the year-end Top 100 this year, with the Aussie rising a staggering 619 spots to No. 76 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and the German soaring 381 positions to No. 82. Looking to translate their Challenger success to the ATP World Tour in 2018, both find themselves within just 15 spots of their career-highs attained in 2012.

On the comeback trail following knee surgery, Ebden not only enjoyed great success on the Challenger circuit as a two-time titlist in Canberra and Toyota, but the 30-year-old reached his first ATP World Tour final on the grass of Newport in July (l. to Isner). At age 27, Stebe, who underwent hip impingement surgery and pelvic surgery, won titles in Poprad Tatry, Slovakia, as well as Vancouver, Canada and Sibiu, Romania, in addition to reaching the second round at the US Open as a qualifier. He was a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year in the 2017 ATP Awards Presented By Moët & Chandon.

Ebden and Stebe were two of nine players to make leaps of 100+ spots to the Top 100 this year. Nicolas Jarry was the only other player to soar at least 300 places, while Rolex Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic and #NextGenATP stars Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas also enjoyed breakthrough campaigns.

Biggest Jumps To Top 100 Of Emirates ATP Rankings

Player Jump Year-End 2016 Year-End 2017 Matthew Ebden +619 No. 695 No. 76 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe +381  No. 463 No. 82 Nicolas Jarry
+300  No. 400 No. 100
Filip Krajinovic +203  No. 237
No. 34
Denis Shapovalov +199  No. 250 No. 51 Peter Gojowczyk +130  No. 190 No. 60 Blaz Kavcic +123  No. 220 No. 97 Stefanos Tsitsipas  +118  No. 209  No. 91  Andrey Rublev +117 No. 156  No. 39 

In his return from a broken wrist, 22-year-old Jarry is wasting no time in picking up where he left off two years ago. On the heels of a trio of clay-court Challenger crowns, including one in his hometown of Santiago, Chile, he made his Top 100 debut after rising 300 spots. Meanwhile, Krajinovic, who led the ATP Challenger Tour with five titles, moved up 203 spots to No. 34, capping his campaign with a stunning runner-up finish at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris.

Shapovalov (+199 to No. 51), Rublev (+117 to No. 39) and Tsitsipas (+118 to No. 91), meanwhile, carried the teenage torch with their own Top 100 breakthroughs. Shapovalov thrust himself into the spotlight at the Rogers Cup, but the Canadian had already began plotting his ascent with Challenger titles on home soil in Drummondville and Gatineau. Tsitsipas also notched his maiden crown, prevailing on the clay of Genova, Italy, in September.

Peter Gojowczyk and Blaz Kavcic are the only other players to rise at least 100 spots to the Top 100, with the German becoming one of six to win on both the ATP World Tour (Metz) and ATP Challenger Tour (Happy Valley, Australia) this year. Slovenia's Kavcic led the Challenger circuit with 50 match wins, lifting trophies on Canadian soil in Winnipeg and Granby.

Significant Emirates ATP Rankings boosts weren't exclusive to the aforementioned group, however, with many others making great strides on the ATP Challenger Tour. After five years of battling on the circuit, Tennys Sandgren finally made his mark in 2017. The American enjoyed a jump of 97 spots to year-end No. 96, behind titles on home soil in Tempe and Savannah. Germany's Maximilian Marterer, aged 22, is contributing to his nation's youth movement with an increase of 87 spots to a career-high No. 90. He capped his campaign with a 21-3 run and titles on clay, hard and carpet.

Notable movers poised to break into the Top 100 following impressive seasons include 22-year-old Cameron Norrie, who vaulted 164 spots to No. 114 behind a trio of titles, and #NextGenATP stars Sebastian Ofner and Matteo Berrettini. Ofner and Berrettini broke onto the scene in 2017 with moves of over 200 spots to the Top 150.

In addition to Marterer and Stebe, other Germans celebrating standout seasons were Yannick Hanfmann, titlist on home soil in Ismaning and runner-up at the ATP World Tour 250 in Gstaad, and Oscar Otte, who lifted his maiden trophy in Lisbon. Both players will look to complete their stunning climbs to the Top 100 next year, having combined to post just a 3-16 record in Challenger main draws entering the year. Hanfmann rose 195 spots to No. 119, while Otte vaulted 379 positions to No. 131.

Germans On The Rise

Player Jump Year-End 2016 Year-End 2017 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe +381  No. 463 No. 82 Oscar Otte
+379 No. 510 No. 131
Yannick Hanfmann +195  No. 314
No. 119
Peter Gojowczyk +130  No. 190 No. 60 Maximilian Marterer +87 No. 177 No. 90 Alexander Zverev +20  No. 24  No. 4 

Best of 2017: The Backhand Behind Federer's Success

Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:25am

In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot talks to Roger Federer about his phenomenal start to the 2017 season and the importance of his backhand.

Best of 2017: Andy & Mischa Chat Fatherhood And Brothers

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 10:07am

In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, Mischa Zverev chats to World No. 1 Andy Murray about fatherhood and having brothers on tour while hosting ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot.

St. Petersburg Open 2017 Tournament Highlights

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 3:31am
Take a look back at the 2017 St. Petersburg Open tournament highlights.

Best Of 2017: Elias Ymer Visits Ethiopia

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 2:23pm
In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot joins Elias Ymer and his father on a special visit to Ethiopia, where Elias explored his heritage and where his family came from.

Wawrinka Speaks For 1st Time Since Ending Season

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:38pm

Stan Wawrinka is looking forward to returning to the ATP World Tour in 2018, but admitted to media at the Geneva Country Club that he is still working hard to overcome his knee cartilage injury, which required two surgeries.

“The last five months were the most difficult ones of my career,” Wawrinka said. “Even today I’m not 100 per cent yet physically and with my tennis. I’m working hard each day to improve. But at least it’s going in the right direction and I’m very satisfied with that.”

The 32-year-old advanced to the final at Roland Garros and the BNP Paribas Open, the semi-finals at the Australian Open and also won the title in Geneva, but did not play the rest of the season after losing his opener at Wimbledon due to his knee injury.

“The first surgery was arthroscopy to have a look at the problem and the second one was to reconstruct the cartilage,” Wawrinka said. “It was very difficult and tough, a big surgery. I needed crutches for eight weeks and lost a lot of muscles because of that.”

Nevertheless, Wawrinka still aims to play in the 2018 Australian Open, and has been working with longtime fitness trainer Pierre Paganini, who also trains Roger Federer, to prepare for the Australian summer. He is also seeking a new coach to work alongside Yannick Fattebert after Magnus Norman’s departure in October.

“I still have many weeks to work on what is still missing. Everything went well during the last few weeks, there were no delays,” Wawrinka said. “I was very lucky to have Pierre Paganini in my entourage. Without him I would have stopped. I really needed someone who knows me inside out and who knows what I need to be fit again.”

Best of 2017: Brown And Tiafoe Put Houston Partygoers In Hot Seat

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 5:16am

In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's best of 2017 series, Dustin Brown and Frances Tiafoe caught up with their fellow stars, such as Juan Monaco, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, at the players' party in Houston!

Fun In London With Felix Auger-Aliassime

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 3:27am
Get to know 17-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of his good friend Denis Shapovalov after winning two ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2017.

Rivalries Of 2017: Dimitrov vs. Goffin

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:54pm
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Continuing our Season-In-Review series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2017. Today we feature Grigor Dimitrov vs. David Goffin

What makes a rivalry — is it the mix of playing styles or personalities, the intensity of each battle or something different? In 2017, two perennial grafters with great potential clashed on five occasions, improving both tactically and mentally for year-end Top 10 finishes in the Emirates ATP Rankings. While Grigor Dimitrov beat David Goffin in four of their five FedEx ATP Head2Head series meetings this year, the statistic as read is too simplistic to be dismissed as one-sided — a non-rivalry. For while Dimitrov and Goffin are never going to relentlessly overpower an opponent, the fluency of their games and the risks they take under pressure in their pursuit of victory made them leading players of the 2017 season.

Visit Best Of 2017 Series

When Dimitrov reached the 2014 Wimbledon semi-finals, to first break into the Top 10, the achievement was heralded. Here was a former junior World No. 1, finally making his mark, a disruptor to the established order. But the potential threat failed to materialise and he dropped outside of the Top 40. In 2017 and under the guidance of Dani Vallverdu, Dimitrov got off to a 16-1 start — the best record of any player. “There is no hiding from the Australian sun, and when the new season begins you see who has been working and who hasn’t when you come out of the garage,” said Dimitrov, who certainly justified his off-season statement.

In the space of four weeks, Dimitrov and Goffin — both 26 years of age — faced off three times. First there was the Australian Open quarter-finals, a nerve-wracking affair that Dimitrov won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; then, two weeks later, the Garanti Koza Sofia Open final, when, under enormous pressure on home soil, the Bulgarian collapsed to his knees and burst into tears after a 7-5, 6-4 win. Goffin exacted revenge five days later 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament quarter-finals, playing throughout with great aggression.

Goffin, at 150lbs and one of the lightest players on the ATP World Tour, harking back to the weights of Michael Chang, Lleyton Hewitt and Gilles Simon in their playing primes, had finished 2016 at a year-end No. 11. So the calibre of the Belgian, the consistent threat he posed, was a known factor. But this year, upon overcoming an ankle injury in a freak accident at Roland Garros, his performances were laced with aggressive intent, a willingness to step into the court — particularly on his backhand wing – and hit his serve with greater power. The new approach, backed by his coach Thierry Van Cleemput, resulted in back-to-back ATP World Tour titles at the Shenzhen Open and his first 500-level event at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2017 in Tokyo. And, just like Dimitrov, who had won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in August, the reward for a career-best season was a much-deserved spot at the elite eight-player Nitto ATP Finals in London.

By the time of their fourth meeting of 2017, at the Nitto ATP Finals, Dimitrov had recorded a debut round-robin win against Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 at The O2, while Goffin had opened his season finale account with a first victory over World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, albeit hindered by a knee injury, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4. A semi-final berth at the Nitto ATP Finals was up for grabs and both players were full of confidence, yet Dimitrov blitzed Goffin in an eagerly-anticipated clash, 6-0, 6-2 in 74 minutes. “It’s a special win for me,” said Dimitrov, who won the first 10 games. “You get a few days out of the year that whatever you touch turns to gold, and that was the first set. My movement was great, I was reading the game really well and believing in my shots.”

It was a signal of intent for Dimitrov, who afterwards admitted, “I am not here just to participate”. Goffin soon recovered with victories over Dominic Thiem, then Roger Federer in the semi-finals. He had been 0-6 against the Swiss superstar, including a 6-1, 6-2 loss in the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel three weeks earlier and prior to the semi-final, Goffin had admitted, “Honestly, I don't know what to do tomorrow." The Belgian did some quick thinking and shocked Federer 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to become only the sixth player to beat Nadal and Federer at the same tournament. What next? Dimitrov, four days on from that thumping loss.

The size of the prize and the opportunity to hold aloft the Nitto ATP Finals trophy guaranteed nerves aplenty in the final, but also terrific drama in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000 fans in east London. Dimitrov and Goffin were at their athletic and resilient best, yet once Dimitrov saved four break points in the first game of the deciding set, Goffin was visibly tired, but continued to fight. Dimitrov ultimately claimed the biggest title of his career 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to follow in the footsteps of Spain's Alex Corretja, who won the title on his debut in 1998. The fifth and final match of their 2017 series was perhaps their finest, showing the desire and mental fortitude, potential and threat both World No. 3 Dimitrov and No. 7-ranked Goffin possess, and, importantly, can inflict at the top of the sport next season.

View FedEx ATP Head2Head (Dimitrov leads 5-1)

Dimitrov vs. Goffin: 2017 Meetings

Event Surface Round
Winner
Score Australian Open Hard QF Dimitrov 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Garanti Koza Sofia Open Indoor Hard F Dimitrov 7-5, 6-4
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Indoor Hard QF Goffin 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
Nitto ATP Finals Indoor Hard RR Dimitrov 6-0, 6-2
Nitto ATP Finals Indoor Hard F Dimitrov 7-5, 4-6, 6-3

Stepanek Joins Djokovic’s Coaching Team

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 10:05pm

A couple weeks after announcing his retirement from professional tennis, Radek Stepanek already has a new gig: coach to Novak Djokovic. The pair broke the news Thursday on Instagram Live. 

“I’m ready to go,” said Stepanek to Djokovic on the split screen as they spoke to each other from their phones. “Where are you?” Djokovic asked, before opening a door to reveal the recently retired Czech on the other side. “All right guys, this is the new team, baby!” said Djokovic.

Stepanek joins Andre Agassi on the Serbian’s coaching team, and will be working with Djokovic in Monte Carlo as he prepares for the 2018 season. Djokovic is scheduled to return to the court at the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, where he is a two-time defending champion, after being sidelined since Wimbledon with a right elbow injury.  

“Radek is one of my very close friends on the tour and I was always impressed with his level of determination, passion and love for the sport,” Djokovic posted in a statement on his website. “He has lot of experience and knowledge, and he has played on a high level for many years. I am excited to join our forces together and cannot wait to compete again having a new team to back me up.

“On Andre’s suggestion I pursued Radek, therefore I am sure the two of them will work well together. The new season is about to start and there is a long way to go back to where I left off. We are aware that I need to go step by step, not hurrying anything. I feel much better now, and I can’t wait to play matches again.”

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The 38-year-old Stepanek had stated upon his retirement that he planned to stay in tennis, and he looked ahead to his new collaboration with Djokovic.

“I’m honoured to be a new member of Novak’s team,” said Stepanek, who ranked in the Top 10 of both the singles and doubles Emirates ATP Rankings. “It is a new and exciting challenge for me, which I’m looking forward to and I believe that as a team we can help Nole to reach his goals. As longtime friends off the tennis court, I believe that our friendship and similar views will translate onto the court as well, and we will share some memorable moments together.”

Djokovic brings aboard Stepanek as coach

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 5:58pm
Novak Djokovic is bringing aboard former top-10 player Radek Stepanek as a coach.

Former US Open finalist Vinci to retire in May

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 1:04pm
Former US Open finalist Roberta Vinci says she will retire from tennis after the Italian Open in May.

Noah will again captain France in Davis Cup

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 9:58am
Yannick Noah is staying on as France captain for the Davis Cup defense next year.

Rivalries of 2017: Nadal vs. Dimitrov

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:15pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2017. Today we feature Rafael Nadal vs. Grigor Dimitrov.

They are two of the most exciting players to watch on the ATP World Tour. No one fights harder and for longer than Rafael Nadal, who always engages the crowd with his patented “¡Vamos!” shouts and left-handed upper cuts. It's as if Nadal, the master of the mental game, is seeking a body blow to his opponent when he delivers the fan-favourite celebration.

But few players leave you in awe when they're in the zone as Grigor Dimitrov does. The Bulgarian's one-handed backhand will have you writing “Did you see that?” texts to friends, and his do-everything game gives him the chance to compete for “Big Titles”, as he first did in 2014, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and beating defending champion Andy Murray along the way.

But when Nadal and Dimitrov faced off in the first of their three 2017 FedEx ATP Head2Head matchups, all of which went the distance, it was a surprise meeting of sorts, considering the stage – the Australian Open semi-finals – and what both had been through during the past year.

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Just three months before the season's first Grand Slam tournament, Nadal couldn't even comfortably rally on court. In what seems unbelievable now, in mid-October 2016, when Roger Federer helped the Spaniard open his academy in Mallorca, Spain, neither was in good enough shape to play. Nadal was still recovering from his left wrist injury, and Federer was still recuperating from knee surgery that had made him end his season after Wimbledon.

Dimitrov, meanwhile, had also endured a frustrating 2016. His Emirates ATP Ranking had dropped to No. 40 in July, his lowest spot in more than three years, and he had fallen in all three of his title matches.

Yet here they both were, in the semi-finals of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, reigniting their careers to kick off 2017. Nadal had prevailed in five sets against German Alexander Zverev, and rolled into the semi-finals by beating sixth seed Gael Monfils and third seed Milos Raonic. His wrist injury seemed well in the past.

Watch Dimitrov's Intense Off-Season Training In Monte-Carlo:

Dimitrov, after a productive off-season in Monte-Carlo, had started 10-0, including three Top 10 wins (Thiem, Raonic, Nishikori) en route to the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp title. The Bulgarian had another reason to be confident in his second Grand Slam semi-final: He had gained his first win against Nadal the last time they had played, in October during the China Open quarter-finals.

“I feel like I have all the tools to go further, and my job isn't over yet,” Dimitrov said before facing Nadal. “I'm looking forward to my match on Friday. I think I'm prepared. I think I'm ready to go the distance.”

Nadal started quicker in their semi-final, though, taking the opener in only 35 minutes with a steady supply of looping crosscourt forehands to Dimitrov's one-handed backhand. The tactic that had helped Nadal for years against Federer was also working against Dimitrov.

But the Bulgarian, who had struggled with consistency in big matches in the past, stayed in the semi-final, encouraging himself with frequent “Come ons” and fist pumps. He smacked a forehand to lead 4-1 in the second set and later evened the match.

Nadal's backhand, not his forehand, helped him clinch the 70-minute third set, as he crushed back-to-back shots from that wing on set point. It looked as if he would take over and wrap up the semi-final in four sets. But Dimitrov refused to fade, staying aggressive, attacking the net and matching Nadal's level.

Midway through the fifth set, however, Nadal snapped a run of 26 consecutive holds and later served out the match. He overcame a staggering 79 winners, including 22 aces, from Dimitrov, who, according to John McEnroe, played the “match of his life”.

Read & Watch: Nadal Edges Dimitrov In A Thriller

Nadal would fall to Federer in the final, the Spaniard's first Grand Slam title match since 2014 Roland Garros. But it was the start of another banner year for Nadal in Grand Slams. He would go on to win a record 10th Roland Garros crown and his third US Open title.

Read & Watch: Federer Tops Nadal In Epic To Win 18th Grand Slam Title

“I feel very happy to be part of this match,” Nadal said after the Melbourne semi-final. “There was a moment in the fifth set that for sure I wanted to win. I said to myself, 'I am giving my best, I am playing very well. If I lose, that's it. Grigor deserves it, too.' I think both of us deserved to be in that final.”

The two wouldn't meet again until the final stretch of the season, and the circumstances had drastically changed since Melbourne. At the China Open in Beijing, top-seeded Nadal was closing in on his first year-end No. 1 finish in the Emirates ATP Rankings since 2013. Dimitrov had cracked the Top 10 for the first time since February 2015 and was looking to secure his debut at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London.

A year ago, Dimitrov had upset Nadal in the Chinese capital, and the Spaniard was eager to earn revenge for that lone blemish on his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against the Bulgarian. He blitzed Dimitrov to start, leading by a set and a break. But Dimitrov, the 2016 finalist, broke twice in the second set and evened the match with a stunning backhand winner.

In the third, however, Dimitrov's level slightly dipped, and Nadal seized his moment, breaking three times to prevail 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Nadal earned his 60th match win of the season and sprinted into the Beijing final, the 110th of his career. He would beat Nick Kyrgios in the final to celebrate his sixth title of the season.

He and Dimitrov wouldn't have to wait long for their third and final contest of the season. A week later, on the quick hard courts of the Shanghai Rolex Masters, they again met late in a tournament, this time in the quarter-finals of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.

And it was another treat for fans as both players showed off their world-class athleticism and array of hot shots. Nadal took the first set but Dimitrov roared back, overcoming a 2/4 deficit in the second-set tie-break to force a third set. It marked the seventh time in their 11 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings that they were going the distance. Nadal was again too good in the third set, though, and he served out the match with a service winner to advance 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3.

The Spaniard would finish the season at year-end No. 1 for the fourth time (also 2008, 2010 and 2013). But Dimitrov would end the year on a career-high note as well. In his debut, the 26-year-old went unbeaten to win the Nitto ATP Finals, becoming the first debutant to capture the title since Spain's Alex Corretja in 1998. The last player to go undefeated and win the season-ending crown on debut was John McEnroe in 1978.

The title, Dimitrov's fourth of the year, pushed him to a career-high No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Should Dimitrov and Nadal meet once more in Melbourne, in January 2018, it could again be in a semi-final. But this time around, no one should be surprised.

View FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Nadal leads 10-1)

Nadal vs. Dimitrov: 2017 Meetings

Event

Surface

Round

Winner

Score

Australian Open

Hard

SF

Nadal

6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4

China Open

Hard

SF

Nadal

6-3, 4-6, 6-1

Shanghai Rolex Masters

Hard

QF

Nadal

6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3

Dolphins owner nears deal to host Miami Open

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:10pm
The Miami Open, which has been played on Key Biscayne since 1987, has an agreement in place to play at the Miami Dolphins' stadium and adjacent grounds.

Best of 2017: Bublik Interviews Murray, Federer and More

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:50am
Alex Bublik takes on the role of #NextGenATP reporter as he puts Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and more on the spot with his tricky questions.

Qureshi Inspires On 'Stop War Start Tennis' Tour In Africa

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 10:41am

The school kids circled Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, waving their hands with rapid quivering gestures – the traditional Ugandan greeting for the hearing impaired. The interpreter introduced Qureshi as a professional tennis player and explained that he had arrived in Uganda to offer help.

Suddenly, smiles shined bright as the kids grunted their joy while climbing all over Qureshi. Some reached for his hands, others hugged his legs and the littlest ones asked to be picked up and held.

Qureshi would soon learn that the hard, baked dirt field full of pebbles, ruts and patches of grass he was standing on was about to become a tennis playground. There were more kids than there were racquets and balls but that did not stop the kids from playing.

During the next six days, Qureshi would share his tennis testimony to variety of disadvantaged groups: barefoot kids and amputee adults, kids with special needs and displaced refugees, orphans diagnosed with AIDS and able-bodied adults looking to rise above the poverty line by teaching tennis to upper-class expatriates. Each stop of Qureshi’s “Stop War Start Tennis” tour had a different story to tell, but they all had one thing in common – a hope that tennis would lead to a better life.

Kigali, Rwanda

Qureshi kicked off his “Stop War Start Tennis” tour in Kigali, Rwanda. Qureshi’s mission on this tour, which also included a visit to Kampala, Uganda, was three-pronged: spotlight existing projects, assess the needs of the local partners and verify that donations are being used transparently.

“I felt like it was important to get my feet on the ground and eyes and ears on the people involved,” Qureshi says. “I aim to be more involved with 'Stop War Start Tennis' and not just by raising more funds, but by getting to know and develop relationships with the key people who are making things happen.”

Prior to Qureshi’s arrival in Kigali, he donated five tennis specific wheelchairs from foundation partner Motivation (https://www.motivation.org.uk/) to the newly-formed Rwanda wheelchair program run by the Rwanda Tennis Federation with Kenya’s Lawrence Karanja as expert coach.

In #StopWarStartTennis we believe Sports & Education are the most powerful weapons to promote Peace and end with Wars.

Down The T or Out Wide? Depends What You Want

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 12:33am

Where should your primary first serve location be? Straight down the T, or out wide to initially pull your opponent off the court?

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals clearly shows that players who won their matches at The O2 utilised the first serve out wide more than down the T in their quest for victory.

It begs the question: when players are behind in a match, does the scoreboard pressure them to go down the T more often to try and secure quick points to get back into the match?

Serving wide is a higher percentage serve than down the T, offering a bigger target area to aim at, but down the T is the quickest way home, and where more aces were hit in London. Out wide in the both the deuce and Ad court accounted for 69 aces, while straight down the T in both service boxes yielded 111 aces.

So if the T delivers instant results, why did the match winners opt for out wide so much? Because right around 70 per cent of all serves are returned back in play, and if you begin with the returner wide off the court, you initially enjoy more advantageous angles to exploit.

Grigor Dimitrov was the only player to win all his matches in London, and the location where he hit the most aces was deuce court out wide, with eight.

Dimitrov First Serve Ace Location

Deuce Court

  • 8 wide

  • 3 T

Ad Court

  • 5 wide

  • 3 T

Overall, Dimitrov hit 55 per cent (127/230) of his first serves out wide in both the deuce court and Ad court for the tournament.

Roger Federer and David Goffin hit the most aces in London, with 35 each. Goffin, in particular, had a favourite serve location of down the T in the deuce court any time he was under pressure and needed the point. He switched out wide as a secondary option to surprise opponents.

Dominic Thiem led the field with first serve points won, at 81 per cent, but lost twice in Group Pete Sampras play to David Goffin and Grigor Dimitrov, while narrowly defeating Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4 in the third set.

First Serve Points Won

  1. Dominic Thiem 81%

  2. Roger Federer 80%

  3. Grigor Dimitrov 75%

  4. Marin Cilic 73%

  5. David Goffin 73%

  6. Alexander Zverev 73%

  7. Jack Sock 69%

  8. Rafael Nadal 65%

  9. Pablo Carreno Busta 56%

Match winners at The O2 collected more first serve points out wide in the deuce court and Ad court than they did down the T. It’s a good lesson for players at all levels of the game.

Editor's Note: Serve direction metrics from the Goffin vs. Thiem Group Pete Sampras match were unavailable. 

Best of 2017: Me Or You With Thiem & Goffin

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 2:19am
Dominic Thiem and David Goffin decide who has the better backhand and who is the better dresser in this fun game of Me or You on ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot as part of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series.

Rivalries Of 2017: Kyrgios Vs. Zverev

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:53pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2017. Today we feature Nick Kyrgios vs. Alexander Zverev:

One of the great rivalries in ATP World Tour history was thrust into the spotlight once again in 2017, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal sweeping the Grand Slams and returning to the Top 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But that wasn't the only matchup that attracted attention. The curtains opened in what might be one of the next great FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalries.

Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios, 20 and 22 years old, respectively, are the two youngest players near the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings. They each were at one point the top-ranked junior in the world, and have been widely considered two of the best young talents on the ATP World Tour.

It was only a matter of time before Zverev, armed with his all-around powerful game, met the enigmatic shotmaker, Kyrgios. And the tennis world got its first look at the matchup this year.

Kyrgios, the No. 15 seed, and Zverev, the No. 18 seed, each defeated Argentines in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells to set up the first of what was expected to be many meetings between the friends. But it wasn't close, with the Australian cruising 6-3, 6-4 in a 73-minute third-round match without facing a break point. He played aggressively, but under control to dismiss the German.

“He's young and will have a great career,” Kyrgios said after the victory. “We will play each other many more times.”

Kyrgios would then go on to defeat second-seeded Novak Djokovic for the second time in 2017 before withdrawing from a quarter-final against Federer due to illness.

It was clear from Zverev's comments after the match that he was highly disappointed with his performance, calling it the “worst match I played all year”. But in the very next tournament, another ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, he’d get another crack at his fellow rising star.

But again, at the Miami Open presented by Itau, it was Kyrgios who got the better of Zverev 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 in the quarter-finals without facing a break point. This match, however, was far more intense. Emotions ran high under the lights in a high-quality affair, but Kyrgios seized his sixth match point to claim the victory.

“I respect his game. He's beaten some of the best players in the world,” Kyrgios said. “We're going to play a lot more times. And he's only going to get better. He's 19 years old… He's going to continually make me better.”

At the moment, it seemed like Kyrgios was not only ahead in the rivalry, but that he was playing his way to the top of the game. After beating Zverev, the Australian competed in just his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final, and pushed Roger Federer — who would win the tournament — to the brink, holding the match on his racquet serving up 5/4 in a final-set tie-break. It was arguably the most impressive performance of his career given the circumstances.

Yet it was the German who was making a charge into the upper echelon of the ATP World Tour by the time they next met. In fact, Zverev soared up the rankings from 24th at the end of 2016 to as high as No. 3 this year, earning his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy in Rome.

So when the duo was set to face off in the Round of 16 at the Coupe Rogers in Montreal, there was even more hype than before. Zverev had just earned his fourth title of the season at the Citi Open and broke into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Just days after saving three match points against Richard Gasquet — including one with a 49-shot rally — everything seemed to be going his way.

And that did not change against Kyrgios, with Zverev cruising 6-4, 6-3 in 73 minutes.

“Against him, it's not easy because he's one of the biggest servers that we have,” said Zverev, who would go on to claim his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Montreal. “He plays with not a lot of rhythm.”

But Zverev found his rhythm in the match and the tournament, becoming the first player outside of the ‘Big Four’ (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) to win two Masters 1000 titles in a season since David Nalbandian in 2007, and only the second active player (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) outside of the quartet to own two of the elite trophies.

While Kyrgios can take the racquet out of his opponents' hands, smacking forehand winners from anywhere on the court and serving his way out of trouble on both first and second serves, Zverev brings more of a consistency and will be in virtually every match with his steadier aggression from the baseline, which is especially potent on his two-handed backhand wing. It is an unpredictable matchup in which either player can win on any surface on any day.

That is why it wasn’t entirely surprising to see Kyrgios blast through Zverev in the semi-finals of the China Open, winning the last of the pair’s meetings this year, 6-3, 7-5.

While Zverev and Kyrgios are still working to reach their potential, they are inching ever closer to the very best in the sport. Zverev proved it this year by finishing fourth in the Emirates ATP Rankings and earning a berth at his first season finale. Kyrgios on the other hand did not win a title this season, but triumphed in four of six matches against the Top 5, including two wins against Novak Djokovic.

Both players have the talent to continue improving and if they do so, they will challenge each other in the process.

“He's going to beat me plenty of times in his career,” said Kyrgios at Indian Wells. “I'm going to beat him [too].”

View FedEx ATP Head2Head (Kyrgios leads 3-1)

Kyrgios vs. Zverev: 2017 Meetings

 Event  Surface  Round
 Winner
 Score BNP Paribas Open  Hard  R32  Kyrgios  6-3, 6-4
Miami Open presented by Itaú  Hard  QF  Kyrgios 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-3 Coupe Rogers  Hard  R16  Zverev 6-4, 6-3
China Open  Hard  SF  Kyrgios  6-3, 7-5