UK Tennis Live News
Fognini Clinches Båstad Title
Sun, 22 Jul 2018 14:12:00 Z

Fabio Fognini captured his second tour-level trophy of the season on Sunday, beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at the SkiStar Swedish Open.

The third-seeded Italian, who lifted the Brasil Open title in February, converted five of 11 break-point chances en route to the victory. Fognini has now won seven tour-level crowns, with each of his triumphs coming at outdoor clay-court events.

The World No. 15 improves to 7-9 in tour-level finals after securing his 31st victory in 45 matches at tour-level in 2018. Gasquet was also bidding to clinch his second ATP World Tour title of the season after winning his 15th tour-level trophy at the Libema Open in June.

"[Fabio] is a very good player. He played well and he deserved this win," said Gasquet. "It was my first time in Båstad... I am very happy to be here, finally. It is one of the best tournaments... for sure I will come back next year and try to win."

As a result of the one-hour, 47-minute win, Fognini levels his FedEx ATP Head2Head record against Gasquet at 2-2. The 31-year-old has won both of their encounters on clay, while Gasquet has emerged victorious in their two hard-court clashes.

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Gasquet made the first move on a bright day on Sweden's west coast, capitalising on a series of groundstroke errors to clinch the first break of the match. But Fognini soon found his rhythm, hitting with great depth and approaching the net at times to flip the set on its head. The Italian reeled off five consecutive games to lead 5-2, before closing out the set, after 32 minutes, with a love service hold.

Three consecutive double faults from Fognini gifted Gasquet an early lead in the second set and, despite surrendering the break in the following game, the Frenchman soon re-established his advantage with strong defensive skills from the backhand corner.

Consistent backhand aggression earned Fognini an immediate break of serve in the deciding set and with increased confidence in his service games, the Italian soon moved towards victory. After wearing his opponent down, in an extended rally, to earn a second break, Fognini converted his fourth championship point as Gasquet fired an aggressive forehand beyond the baseline.

Later in the day, Fognini will aim to add a second Båstad title to his trophy cabinet. The Italian, alongside countryman Simone Bolelli, will contest the doubles final against Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos. Fognini and Bolelli have won three doubles titles from seven tour-level finals as a team, including the 2015 Australian Open.

"For sure, I am going to be tired. I have another final to play. I need to take a shower, eat a little bit and try to be ready," said Fognini.

Fognini receives 250 ATP Ranking points and collects €89,435 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Gasquet gains 150 points and receives €47,105.

Did You Know?
With 31 tour-level match wins already this season, Fabio Fognini is just five victories short of equalling his 2017 match-win total. The Italian ended his 2017 campaign with 36-23 tour-level record.

Scouting Report: 30 Things To Watch In Atlanta, Gstaad & Hamburg
Sun, 22 Jul 2018 14:02:00 Z

The first hard-court event on the ATP World Tour since March takes place this week in Atlanta, while European clay-court action continues in Hamburg and Gstaad.

Wimbledon singles semi-finalist John Isner leads the field at the BB&T Atlanta Open, where he has captured four of his 13 tour-level titles. Reigning champion Fabio Fognini is the top seed at the J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad, fresh off of a triumph in Bastad. And Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem will look to pick up his ninth clay-court trophy at the German Tennis Championships 2018 presented by Kampmann in Hamburg.

View Draws: Atlanta | Gstaad | Hamburg

10 THINGS TO WATCH IN ATLANTA 
1) 33 is the New 23: Isner, who turned 33 in April, is enjoying a career year. He defeated three Top 10 players in the ATP Rankings at the Miami Open presented by Itau to become the oldest first-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 champion in history. Isner then reached a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time at Wimbledon. He was edged by Kevin Anderson 26-24 in the fifth set after six hours, 36 minutes.

2) Georgia Pride: Since the ATP World Tour returned to Georgia in 2010, Isner has played every edition of the BB&T Atlanta Open. The University of Georgia legend is 27-4 with four titles in seven finals at Atlanta. His worst finish was a semi-final loss to Andy Roddick in 2012. Isner is 19-1 at the tournament since then, capturing his first trophy at the event in 2013 by defeating Anderson in three tie-breaks.

3) Wimbledon Champs: With Bob Bryan still nursing a hip injury, Mike Bryan and Frances Tiafoe will team up for the first time this week in Atlanta. Mike captured a record-tying 17th Grand Slam doubles title at Wimbledon with Jack Sock and became the oldest World No. 1 in ATP Doubles Rankings history at age 40.

4) Clash of the Champions: The only active player other than Isner to win the Atlanta singles title is Nick Kyrgios. After beating Isner in the 2016 final, Kyrgios missed the 2017 event due to a left hip injury. The 23-year-old Aussie is in pursuit of his fifth ATP World Tour title.

5) Ram Ram Rising: Ramkumar Ramanathan, a special exempt, will look to back up the best week of his career at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open in Newport, where he became the first Indian to reach an ATP World Tour final since Somdev Devvarman did so in 2011 at Johannesburg. 

6) Special Smee: Another special exempt, Tim Smyczek, is also fresh off of a strong performance in Rhode Island. The American reached his first tour-level semi-final before eventually losing to Ramanathan in a tight two-setter.  

7) Korean Comeback: Australian Open semi-finalist Hyeon Chung returns as a wild card following a 10-week injury hiatus. In Melbourne, Chung became the first Grand Slam semi-finalist from South Korea. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion is seeking his first tour-level final appearance.

8) Big Foe on the Come Up: After going 9-31 at tour-level as a teenager, Frances Tiafoe is 20-10 since turning 20 on 20 January. Tiafoe became the youngest American champion on the ATP World Tour since 2002 when he won the Delray Beach title in February. He backed that up by reaching the Estoril final in May.

9) Back from the Brink: No. 7 seed Jeremy Chardy fell to No. 100 in the ATP Rankings on 5 March — his lowest ranking since 2012. The Frenchman is 17-9 over the past four months, reaching his first tour-level final since 2009 at ’s-Hertogenbosch and breaking back into the Top 50 on 25 June.

10) Sudden Star: From No. 208 in the ATP Rankings on 1 January to No. 68 on 16 July, #NextGenATP Aussie Alex de Minaur has set a new career-high ranking 13 times this season. The 19-year-old reached the Brisbane semi-finals and Sydney final in January. He has played in three ATP Challenger Tour finals since April.

10 THINGS TO WATCH IN GSTAAD 
1) Fognini on Fire: After falling in qualifying at 2007 Gstaad, Fognini returned to the Swiss Alps a decade later and won the title. This season, the No. 1 Italian added his sixth ATP World Tour title at Sao Paulo, his 300th tour-level match win at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Rome and his seventh trophy on Sunday in Bastad. Fognini also advanced to the fourth round at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, as well as the third round at Wimbledon.

2) Lopez d. Federer: The left-handed Feliciano Lopez is 0-13 against fellow 36-year-old and 2004 Gstaad champion Roger Federer. But at Wimbledon, Lopez broke Federer’s record by playing in his 66th straight Grand Slam main draw. The Spaniard is making his 12th appearance in Gstaad, where he won 2016 title and reached the 2006 final.

3) Bautista Agut is Back: Roberto Bautista Agut returns after suffering a hip injury in the Halle semi-finals on 23 June and withdrawing from Wimbledon. One of the ATP World Tour’s most consistent players, Bautista Agut earned 40-plus wins and enjoyed Top 25 finishes in the ATP Rankings in each of the past four years.

4) Big-Match Borna: Making his Swiss Open debut is 21-year-old Borna Coric. The Croat has already earned two wins each over World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and former No. 1 Andy Murray, three wins over No. 3 Alexander Zverev and a Halle championship victory over then-No. 1 Federer.

5) Felix In Action: #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 17, earned his second tour-level win last week in Umag before losing to defending champion Andrey Rublev in three sets. Auger-Aliassime opens his campaign against Argentine Guido Andreozzi. 

6) Champions’ Club: Fognini (Sao Paulo), Bautista Agut (Dubai) and Coric (Halle) are among six competitors in Gstaad who have won an ATP World Tour championship this season. The others are Roberto Carballes Baena (Quito), Taro Daniel (Istanbul) and Joao Sousa (Estoril).

7) Comeback Continues: Andrey Rublev continues his comeback this week in Gstaad. The 20-year-old Russian missed more than three months due to a lower-back injury before returning on 19 July as the defending Umag champion. Rublev was the runner-up at the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals.

8) Altitude Specialist: Robin Haase has won two singles titles at high altitude in Kitzbuhel, and the Dutchman has enjoyed great success in Gstaad as well. He is making his sixth straight appearance in the tournament, reaching the final in 2013 and 2016, as well as the semi-finals in 2014 and 2017.

9) Happy Anniversary: On 20 July, Federico Delbonis celebrated the five-year anniversary of his win over then-No. 5 Federer in the Hamburg semi-finals. The Argentine owns a 9-4 record at the event.

10) World Tour: American Austin Krajicek and Indian Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan are among the doubles teams in Gstaad. Krajicek and Nedunchezhiyan arrive on the Swiss clay after playing on grass at Newport and on hard courts at the Winnetka ATP Challenger Tour event over the past two weeks.

10 THINGS TO WATCH IN HAMBURG
1) Dominant Thiem: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is 50-2 on clay since April 2017 with both of his losses on the surface coming against Thiem, at 2017 Rome and 2018 Madrid, respectively. For his career, Thiem is 109-36 at tour-level with eight titles on clay (.752) and 98-84 with two titles elsewhere (.538).

2) Big Strides: No. 2 seed Diego Schwartzman has achieved a new career-high ATP Ranking 17 times since 2017 began, peaking at No. 11 on 11 June 2018. The Roland Garros quarter-finalist is the highest-ranked player to stand 5’7” or shorter since 5’6” Harold Solomon was No. 10 on 27 July 1981. Schwartzman did not drop a set en route to the Rio de Janeiro title in February.

3) On the Surface: Like Schwartzman, No. 3 seed Pablo Carreno Busta is playing his 10th clay-court tournament of 2018. But the Spaniard has had no problem on other surfaces, as his first two titles, maiden Grand Slam semi-final and only two ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-finals all came on hard courts.

4) Turning Point: No. 4 seed Damir Dzumhur ended 2017 on a 24-7 run, highlighted by his first two ATP World Tour titles at St. Petersburg and Moscow. Dzumhur went on to win the third championship of his career in Antalya on 30 June.

5) No Place Like Home: Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany has earned 30-plus wins and enjoyed Top 50 finishes in the ATP Rankings in each of the past 11 seasons. The key to Kohlschreiber’s success has come at home. The two-time Hamburg semi-finalist is 121-64 in Germany (.654) and 320-275 elsewhere (.538).

6) Molleker's Push: Seventeen-year-old Rudolf Molleker earned his first ATP World Tour victory in Stuttgart earlier this year, beating countryman Jan-Lennard Struff. The German, a wild card this week in Hamburg, will face Spanish veteran David Ferrer in the first round.

7) Sicilian Sensation: Marco Cecchinato broke through at Roland Garros to become Italy’s first Grand Slam semi-finalist in 40 years. The Budapest champion trailed Marius Copil by two sets in the first round before upsetting Carreno Busta, David Goffin and 2016 champion Novak Djokovic.

8) Back to the Breakthrough: Richard Gasquet bids for the biggest title of his career this week. The Frenchman reached his first of three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals as an 18-year-old at 2005 Hamburg. Gasquet returns for the first time since Hamburg became an ATP World Tour 500-level event in 2009.

9) Tale of Two Mayers: Two rarities occurred at once when a pair of players ranked outside of the Top 100 and with the same last name reached the 2017 Hamburg final. Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, a 138th-ranked lucky loser, beat 101st-ranked Florian Mayer of Germany for his second Hamburg title. Both Mayers are back, with Florian set to make his final tournament appearance.

10) Dream Team: The greatest Austrian players of the 21st century will join forces for just the second time in Hamburg. Thiem and former World No. 8 Jurgen Melzer received a wild card in doubles. They lost their only previous match as a team in Metz two years ago.

Erlich Notches 20th Title, Teams With Sitak For Newport Crown
Sun, 22 Jul 2018 02:38:00 Z

Jonathan Erlich and Artem Sitak were an unstoppable force on Saturday, taking the doubles title at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open in just 53 minutes.

The Israeli-Kiwi duo prevailed 6-1, 6-2 over fourth seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela to complete a ruthless campaign on the grass of Newport. They dropped just one set all week, including victory over Lleyton Hewitt and Jordan Thompson, before defeating a trio of seeded opponents. 

Competing together for just the second time, Erlich and Sitak notched their first team title. They previously teamed up at the 2015 US Open, falling in the first round. But this time, 41-year-old Erlich and 32-year-old Sitak found their rhythm from the first ball. The Israeli scored his 20th tour-level title and first on grass since 2011, while the Kiwi celebrated his fourth crown.

"We just played each other at Wimbledon (Sitak/Sharan d. Erlich/Matkowski in five sets) and I thought he played really well there," said Sitak. "I knew we could go all the way this week. We just focused point after point. It's great to have his experience and he played all the big points just like the big boss he is. He made everything and I'm really happy the way we played today."

Erlich's 20th title carries added significance, considering his first also came in Newport. He teamed up with countryman Harel Levy for the 2000 crown in his ATP World Tour debut.

"I can't believe it was 18 years ago," said Erlich. "I'm proud of myself that I'm still going and I played great this week. I have great chemistry with Artem and great energy together. I'm glad we connected quickly here and from the first match we played solid together. We helped each other to play the best. That's why I have a young guy like him."

The champions split $30,190 in prize money and earn 250 ATP Doubles Rankings points, while runners-up Arevalo and Reyes-Varela take home $15,870 and 150 points. It was the first ATP World Tour doubles final for both players.

Did You Know?
Erlich's 20 titles have come with six different partners. He has one each with Sitak, Levy, Novak Djokovic, Colin Fleming and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, with the majority of his success coming with compatriot Andy Ram (15 titles together).

ATP Firsts: Ramkumar Ramanathan
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 23:09:00 Z

Ramkumar Ramanathan made national history on Saturday, becoming the first Indian to reach an ATP World Tour final since Somdev Devvarman at Johannesburg in 2011 when he defeated American Tim Smyczek to advance to the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open championship match. Ramanathan can become the first Indian titlist at tour-level since Leander Paes in Newport 20 years ago.

Ramanathan spoke to ATPWorldTour.com about various 'firsts' throughout his career, from his first prize money splurge to the first autograph he ever asked for.

First pinch-me moment on the ATP World Tour
When I beat Somdev [Devvarman] in 2014 in Chennai. I qualified and there was like a one per cent chance I would play him and I played him and beat him 6-4 in the third set. I didn’t imagine that I was going to beat him that day, but I was just focused on giving my best. I was really nervous and that’s where it all started. I was really happy and from that day on, it’s been going upward, so I’m happy for that.

First coach and most important lesson she taught me
My first coach was Thyagarajan Chandrasekaran. He’s from Chennai. I used to play at an academy there for a few years. He really focused on my forehand, I remember. We used to go at 2 o’clock and he’d feed balls to me. That’s where it all started and he always kept saying, ‘You have the game, just keep believing’.

First time I was recognised
In Chennai sometimes. Once I won that match against Somdev, I slowly started getting recognised and also when I beat Dominic Thiem, so it was good to have that win, too.

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First time I travelled abroad
When I was 11, to Nick Bollettieri’s academy. I was sent by our federation on that trip, it was sponsored. It was a good trip for 140 days and we all had some fun with Mr. Nick Bollettieri. I still remember he gave a lesson for the group. It was great exposure for us and for me, it was unbelievable, because it’s not easy to train at any academy, so it was a good feeling.

First concert I visited
I went to a couple in Barcelona, but the first was Enrique Iglesias.

First prize money purchase
When I broke the Top 150 [in the ATP Rankings], I told myself I was going to get the Beats headphones. I always liked those.

Bhupathi Ramanathan
First autograph I asked for
Mahesh Bhupathi when I was really, really young, when I was seven or eight. I still have that photo. When I made the quarter-finals of the Chennai Open in 2016, they actually put that photo on the big screen of me getting something signed by Mahesh. I still have it on my phone.

First time I flew first class
Not yet.

First pet
A dog.

20 Years On, Ramanathan Eyes Singles Title For India
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 22:34:00 Z

Ramkumar Ramanathan is one win from ATP World Tour glory.

The 23-year-old from India continued his stunning run at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open, blasting into the final with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Tim Smyczek on Saturday. Ramanathan has dropped just one set all week on the grass of Newport, reaching his first title match in impressive fashion.

At No. 161 in the ATP Rankings, not only is the Chennai native the third-lowest ranked player to reach a tour-level final this year, but also the first player from his country to do so in seven years on the singles circuit. The last Indian to advance to a championship match on the ATP World Tour was Somdev Devvarman in Johannesburg in 2011 (l. to Anderson).

"I was serving well and I just hung in there," said Ramanathan. "I didn't have the greatest first set on return, but I found a groove. He's a really tricky opponent, especially on these courts. I'm pretty happy to get through."

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Ramanathan will face home hope Steve Johnson in Sunday's final, as he looks to etch his place in the history books. Victory would see him become the first player from India to lift a singles trophy since mentor and idol Leander Paes exactly 20 years ago in Newport in 1998. 

Ramanathan, who is projected to rise at least 40 spots in the ATP Rankings, would make his Top 100 debut in the ATP Rankings with a title.

2018 ATP World Tour Finalists Outside The Top 100

Player ATP Ranking Tournament
Pablo Andujar No. 355 Marrakech (won title)
Alex de Minaur No. 167
Sydney (runner-up)
Ramkumar Ramanathan No. 161 Newport (???)
Mirza Basic No. 129 Sofia (won title)
Taro Daniel No. 114 Istanbul (won title)
Roberto Carballes Baena  No. 107 Quito (won title)

India's newest star will face a tall order on Sunday against Johnson, as he seeks his second Top 50 win. Johnson has breezed through the draw in Newport, not dropping more than three games in a set all week. 

Routine victories over Christian Harrison, Dudi Sela and Marcel Granollers put the American into his fifth ATP World Tour final and second on grass. On Saturday, he defeated Granollers 6-3, 6-3 in just 70 minutes to secure his spot in the title match. He was dominant on serve throughout the encounter, relinquishing just seven of 44 service points.

"I just tried to take what the court gave me," said Johnson. "I actually had a chance to be even more aggressive in the second set with those break points, but I'm really happy with how I served and I managed to get a second break to close out the match. Hopefully I get more of the same tomorrow. Especially out here, you never know what's going to happen one point to the next. I'm very happy to run down a few balls and hit some good passing shots.

Johnson

"This is going to be my fifth final, so I feel more comfortable with each one. You have to take it like any other match. I'll try to take some chances on his serve."

Johnson, who successfully defended his title on the clay of Houston earlier this year, previously lifted a grass-court trophy in Nottingham in 2016. He is bidding to become just the second player to reign on multiple surfaces thus far in 2018, joining only Roger Federer. Federer has won on the hard courts of the Australian Open and in Rotterdam and on grass in Stuttgart.

Did You Know?
Ramanathan will be just the second player from India that Johnson has faced in his tour-level career. The first came in his ATP World Tour debut match in Los Angeles in 2010, falling to Somdev Devvarman.

Dutch Duo Surges To Umag Doubles Title
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 21:43:00 Z

Robin Haase saw his quest for a sixth ATP World Tour singles final come to a close on Saturday in Umag. But, three hours later, the 31-year-old would not falter in his bid for the doubles title.

Teaming with countryman Matwe Middelkoop, the Dutch duo streaked to the crown at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. They completed a perfect run to the title, not dropping a set all week to secure their third victory as a team this year.

"Obviously when you win a tournament, the feelings are always the best," said Middelkoop. "It's my first time here and I've heard stories that it's really nice. I think that it's overwhelming. Really nice hotel, many people coming. I couldn't believe that it was packed on a Monday and Tuesday. Also, the area feels like a vacation, but professional at the same time. It's the best of both worlds and a pleasure to come here. I'll be back."

Haase and Middelkoop ousted Czech tandem Jiri Vesely and Roman Jebavy 6-4, 6-4 in just 62 minutes. The second seeds are undefeated in ATP World Tour doubles finals in 2018, having also triumphed on the outdoor hard courts of Pune in January and indoor hard courts of Sofia a month later.

Haase, who fell in three sets to Guido Pella earlier in the day in the singles semi-finals, added a fifth individual doubles title. Middelkoop, meanwhile, is now a seven-time titlist.

"It was a great week, but I'm disappointed in today's singles," Haase added. "I played too passive. In the third set, it's about who gets the first initiative. He did that and it's the way it is. In the doubles, I wasn't mentally ready to compete, but Matwe had the positive energy and we got into the match. It was a deserved victory. I've been sick all week, which was tiring for me, but it's the way it is."

The Dutchmen, who also defeated Jebavy and Vesely en route to the Pune title, split €27,170 in prize money and 250 ATP Doubles Rankings points. Moreover, they move into the Top 20 in the ATP Doubles Race To London.

Did You Know?
Middelkoop has competed in six ATP World Tour doubles finals with four different partners this year. He also finished runner-up with Andres Molteni in Budapest, with Roman Jebavy in Lyon and with Sander Arends in Antalya.

Emotional Stich Inducted Into Hall Of Fame
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 21:18:00 Z

Perhaps Michael Stich’s crowning achievement in tennis came in 1991 at Wimbledon. The German faced top-seeded Stefan Edberg in the semi-finals and did not break serve, but pulled through to reach his first Grand Slam final. There, he would defeat compatriot Boris Becker, the second seed, to triumph at The Championships.

That evening at the traditional champions’ dinner, the son of 1924 and 1926 Wimbledon titlist Jean Borotra asked Stich if he could introduce him to his father.

“Jean Borotra got up and looked at me and said, ‘Who are you’?”

Twenty-seven years later, Stich can say he is an inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“I was not mad at him. It was okay,” Stich told the crowd in Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday. “But it’s just those special moments, occasions that I remember more than match results or scores I have achieved… It’s not so much about obviously the special result or a special score that I’ve achieved, it’s about the overall view on this sport.”

Stich

Mark Lewis, Stich’s coach of six years, introduced his charge on a perfectly sunny day. And while he didn’t discuss that particular moment, he vividly remembered what the German said earlier in the day, right before taking to Centre Court at SW19 for his championship match against Becker.

“He had this steely look in his eyes, and he said, ‘There’s no way I’m going to lose this match’,” Lewis said. “Of course, he didn’t. Michael is a man true to his word.”

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But for a moment, after Lewis called Stich to the stage on Bill Talbert Stadium Court, the German was at a loss for words, appearing to hold back tears as he stood over the lectern.

“I was asked to hand in the paper with the written speech, everybody was getting nervous. I said, ‘I don’t have a paper’,” Stich later said. “That’s just what happens, I’ll improvise, best time I had on court as well. I wanted to suck in all the atmosphere and the experience I have coming here. It’s been a lot.”

Stich

Stich is simply a man who loves tennis. He retired following a five-set loss in the 1997 Wimbledon semi-finals, and would not touch a racquet for five years after that in order to see what else the world had to offer. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t miss the game.

“The thing I missed most were the players, the guys that I used to travel around with the whole year,” Stich said. “There are ones I didn't like obviously as well. But I missed those guys. I missed having them around, being part of that group of players that make that sport so great. That's why I'm so thankful to be inducted this year and having the opportunity to be part of this again in a different way, but in a very special way, also with all the different generations that are part of the Hall of Fame.”

Stich competed against some of the best players in the history of the sport. Notably, he held a 5-4 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against 64-time tour-level titlist Pete Sampras, and a 7-5 advantage against former World No. 1 Jim Courier, who sat just feet behind the German as he spoke on Saturday afternoon.

How was he able to find such success? As Stich said, in many cases, going with the flow and improvising during a match helped him stay relaxed and keep the game simple.

“I thought Michael could win every match he played, but I guess there was the odd occasion when he knew I was a little worried that he may lose to a lesser-ranked player. I don’t know how he knew, but he did,” Lewis said. “When he detected that in me, he’d say something like, ‘Don’t worry, coach, it’s not that complicated. Just a big kick serve to the backhand, easy volley, game over’. That’s just what he would do, and he’d win.”

Stich

Over the course of his nearly decade-long career, Stich finished six consecutive seasons inside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings, tallied 385 match wins and lifted 18 tour-level titles, including two campaigns during which he triumphed on four different surfaces (1991, 1993).

That’s not a bad haul of accomplishments for a boy who began playing tennis by hitting against a wall at the age of six — which he maintains was his toughest opponent — because he had no choice but to go to the tennis club as his two older brothers went to play the game.

Now, he is a member of an elite group made up of the legends of the sport. And Stich understands that with that distinction comes responsibility.

“I think this sport will be great over the next decades to come,” Stich said. “I promise I’ll do my best to be part of this and to help this and make this happen.”

Cecchinato To Face Pella For Umag Crown
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 20:20:00 Z

Marco Cecchinato's breakthrough 2018 campaign is far from over. In a season that has seen the 25-year-old achieve a bevy of milestones and signature moments, Cecchinato has taken it to the next level.

The Italian reached his second ATP World Tour final of the year on Saturday, surging past qualifier Marco Trungelliti 6-2, 6-1 in just 66 minutes at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. He saved four of five break points faced, while converting four break chances of his own. Trungelliti started strong, breaking immediately to open the match, but Cecchinato would right the ship, reeling off 12 of the next 14 games to run away with the encounter.

"I'm putting in the hard work and that's the key to this run," said Cecchinato. "Tomorrow I'm playing against a very good player in Guido Pella. I need to play very good tennis to win again."

Cecchinato, who lifted his first tour-level trophy in Budapest in April and stunned the tennis world with a run to the Roland Garros semi-finals, will next face Guido Pella for the Umag title. It will be their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter and third at all levels, with Cecchinato prevailing at the 2015 ATP Challenger Tour Finals and Pella exacting revenge at the Heilbronn Challenger in 2017.

A winner over John Millman in the final of the Gazprom Hungarian Open, Cecchinato has seen his position in the ATP Rankings soar from outside the Top 100 at the start of the year to a current career-high of No. 27. The Palermo native is projected to rise at least two spots this week as he closes in on the Top 20.

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On Sunday, the third-seeded Italian will face unseeded Argentine Pella with the trophy at stake. The 28-year-old earned his third three-set victory of the week with a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 triumph over Robin Haase in the first semi-final.

"I think I played a very good match overall," said Pella. "In the second set, I was nervous. I struggled with the level of his game and tried to push a little bit, but I couldn't do it. After I lost the second, I started to play well again and was very aggressive in the third. That was the key."

Pella

Pella, who rallied from a set down to defeat both Taro Daniel in the first round and Aljaz Bedene in the second round, is vying for his maiden ATP World Tour crown. It is the third straight year he has reached a title match, having finished runner-up to Pablo Cuevas in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and to Alexander Zverev in Munich in 2017.

While Cecchinato is the third Italian to reach the Umag final in the past three years, joining 2016 winner Fabio Fognini and last year's finalist Paolo Lorenzi, Pella is the first from his country to advance to the championship since Guillermo Canas and Guillermo Coria went back-to-back in 2004-05.

Did You Know?
Cecchinato and Trungelliti previously met in the second round of Roland Garros, with the Italian prevailing en route to the semi-finals. It was a dramatic tournament for both players, with Trungelliti driving from Barcelona to Paris to sign in as a lucky loser.

From Lucky Loser To Champion: Ulises Blanch's Breakthrough
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 18:43:00 Z

It was a pristine Sunday afternoon in Perugia, Italy. Beautiful, but scorching hot.

The searing sun and overwhelming humidity set the 119-year-old Tennis Club Perugia ablaze, as qualifying neared its conclusion at the Internazionali di Tennis Citta' di Perugia, an ATP Challenger Tour event. Summers in central Italy are notoriously hot, but Ulises Blanch did not expect conditions like this.

"It was brutal. I was playing really well in that last match of qualifying and I won the first set, but my legs started getting tight. I looked at my coach and made a face. I knew I was cramping. A game or two later, it started getting much worse. At the end of the second set, I was very close to full body cramping. There was no point in continuing."

Sweat cascaded down the 20-year-old American's brow. It streamed from his pores like an open faucet. Blanch was losing fluids at a rapid rate. One set stood between him and a first ATP Challenger Tour main draw appearance, but his muscles refused to cooperate. 

A former junior No. 2, Blanch needed to win two matches in one day to qualify. In the morning, he had survived a two-hour and 14-minute marathon against Andrea Pellegrino, storming back from a 5-2 third-set deficit and saving a pair of match points. Physically and emotionally spent, Blanch would have only two hours to recover for his final round match. It wasn't enough.

He faced Spain's Pol Toledo Bague for a spot in the main draw, and after splitting sets, his body waved the white flag. But despite calling it quits, all was not lost. Hours later, Blaz Kavcic would withdraw with a right leg injury, opening the door for Blanch to enter the big show as a lucky loser.

"It was brutal, but it's pretty crazy how lucky I was," Blanch added. "Fitness wise, I still have a lot of room to improve."

Blanch's story would not end there. One of the most improbable and stunning runs to a title would ensue on the clay of Perugia. Behind a hyper-aggressive and free-swinging gameplan, the American blasted his way to his maiden ATP Challenger Tour crown without dropping a set. 

Blanch would upset former World No. 9 Nicolas Almagro in the first round, followed by convincing wins over Spaniards Carlos Taberner and Bernabe Zapata Miralles and seventh seed Attila Balazs. A 7-5, 6-2 victory over in-form home favourite Gianluigi Quinzi saw him lift the trophy.

How did Blanch go from enduring full body cramps to capturing his maiden title? Even the 20-year-old has no explanation.

"I'm speechless. I have no words. It's different from anything I've ever felt. It's the biggest title I've ever won. To win it in my first main draw was unbelievable. I was just trying to enjoy it. There are no words to describe it.

"The ability to stay emotionally in place from the first ball to the last was pretty important for me. I was able to give myself a chance and just play my game, instead of being worried about other factors and beating myself. It got easier as the tournament went on and after I won a few rounds, I got better and better."

Blanch is the first player to win a Challenger title on debut since Casper Ruud in Sevilla, Spain, in 2016. He is also the first lucky loser champion on the circuit in 18 months, and just the second player to win a title while sitting outside the Top 500 of the ATP Rankings this year. 

After previously falling in eight qualifying attempts at the Challenger level, it was well worth the wait for the surging American. In just one week, the then World No. 508 catapulted 200 spots, soaring to a career-high No. 308.

Blanch suddenly finds himself thrust among the burgeoning #NextGenATP American contingent, led by Top 100 star Frances Tiafoe. He is one of three to lift a trophy this year, joining Taylor Fritz (Newport Beach) and Reilly Opelka (Bordeaux).

"The biggest goal for me was trying to perform well in bigger tournaments. I felt like I could, but I wasn't able to give myself those chances. It was a dream for me to play this well and perform like I did. To do it in a tournament this big and to do it all week was unbelievable."

Blanch

Ulises' Unique Journey: From The Americas To Asia And Back

Players traveling the world on both the ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour find themselves immersed in different cultures throughout the year. But for Blanch, it was a part of life long before he fell in love with tennis.

Born in Puerto Rico to Spanish parents, Blanch and his three siblings were embedded in many cultures at a very young age. Blanch's father Ernesto worked for Coca-Cola, a job that saw the family live in China, India and for eight years in Thailand, where Ulises first picked up a racquet. At the age of 13, they moved to Argentina. Much like countryman Jared Donaldson, who developed his game on the clay of the South American country, Blanch took his talents to the next level there.

Despite his diverse multi-cultural background, Blanch says he has American blood in his veins. Having also lived in Seattle for a short period, he is currently based at the USTA's National Campus in Florida. His father always encouraged him to make the U.S. a part of his identity and he would attend American schools throughout the world.

"I started playing tennis in Thailand when I was five," added Blanch. "I was playing soccer all day and my dad wanted me to try other things, like swimming and tennis. For the first 2-3 years I didn't like tennis at all, until I started playing better. I was usually hitting with older kids and coaches in Thailand, so I really improved when I went to Argentina. It was a completely different story there."

Blanch

Ulises' unique name comes from Greek mythology. It is the Spanish form of the name Ulysses, which derives from the legendary Greek king who is the hero of Homer's famous poem 'the Odyssey'. The character is known for learning to adapt to different situations he faces, an important trait that Ulises' father wanted to instill in his son.

His two brothers are also named after influential figures - Dali and Darwin - while his sister Crystal's name refers to being crystal and transparent in life.

Lendl's Influence
It's what every aspiring pro dreams of. The chance to learn and cultivate their skills under the tutelage of a former World No. 1. For Blanch, that dream became a reality the instant he entered the gates of the USTA's training centre in Florida.

Blanch, who has been coached by Argentina's Rodrigo Alvarez for the past four years, had the opportunity to trade forehands and backhands with Ivan Lendl. Lendl, a player development consultant at the USTA, has been a mentor for the young American. The former No. 1 knows potential when he sees it.

"There are no words to describe his impact," said Blanch. "I remember the first day I got to the USTA, I hit with him. My first session there was with Ivan. Every time I step on court with him, it's unbelievable. I don't know what to say. He's helped me with shot selection the most. He says that the weapons are there, but he mainly teaches me how to play and when to play each shot."

Blanch's sudden success might have come as a surprise to many, but the 20-year-old was already making strides years before his dream week in Perugia. An auspicious junior career saw him rise to No. 2 in the world in May 2016 after reaching the quarter-finals at the prestigious Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr Championships. Two months later, he found himself in the Wimbledon semi-finals, before falling to Alex de Minaur.

"When I was younger, we didn't really know much about tennis back then and he would tell me to hit the ball as hard as I can. Hit the forehand as hard as you can and the serve as hard as you can. Until we moved to Argentina, that was my gameplan. But the timing of striking the ball was developed there. When I started learning how to play matches and hit my shots, but the impact of how I played when I was younger stayed with me. When I'm playing like I did last week, it feels great. I play well on all surfaces. I played a lot on clay in Argentina, I enjoyed the grass as a junior (2016 Wimbledon semis) and on hard courts, I can adapt pretty well too. I actually don't have a favourite surface."

Blanch

Looking Ahead
As Blanch looks to continue developing his game and rising the ATP Rankings, he understands that there is plenty of work left to be done. While securing his first Challenger crown was a significant step in his maturation, it is the first of many milestones to the top.

"I feel like the biggest difference [between juniors, Futures and Challengers] is the mental aspect. These guys can all play, but mentally there's a big difference. I can play well all week, but the second my focus drops, these guys are always there and they're ready to eat you alive as soon as you drop one percent. That's the life at this level."

With his career still in its infancy, the American is not setting any immediate ranking goals. Instead, he is looking to take it one step at a time and focus on what he can control between the lines. On the doorstep of a Top 300 breakthrough, Blanch is hoping his success in Perugia will propel him to even greater heights.

"The biggest goal for me is to keep on improving and to give myself a chance to play my tennis and play within myself. I was just more concerned about that than anything. We all thought that as soon as I could do that, I could start playing better. Here I am now."

ATP Challenger Tour 

Bryan Holds Strong Form; Marach/Pavic Lead The Pack
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 16:48:00 Z

At the conclusion of the second quarter of the 2018 ATP World Tour season, there have been plenty of talking points on the doubles court with the top prizes being shared among a variety of teams. But one man, Mike Bryan, started and finished the quarter strong. Partnering brother Bob Bryan, the recently crowned World No. 1 captured the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters title in April before enjoying success, alongside countryman Jack Sock, at Wimbledon in July.

Bryan Continues Success After Brother's Injury
After clinching their 115th tour-level title as a duo at the Miami Open presented by Itau, the Bryan brothers made a seamless transition onto the European clay. The American twins overcame first-quarter frontrunners Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic to secure the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and looked in top form as they progressed to the Mutua Madrid Open final.

Unfortunately, their winning streak came to an end in the Spanish capital as Bob Bryan was forced to retire from the championship match with a right hip injury. From there, Mike Bryan struggled for form. The 40-year-old won just one tour-level match in his next three events leading into Wimbledon, before finding his best level once again alongside Sock.

From the Round of 16 at The All England Club, the American duo survived three five-set battles in four matches to lift the title in dramatic fashion. Mike's first Grand Slam victory without his twin brother also confirmed his return to World No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings on 16 July. The 40-year-old American is the oldest No. 1 in doubles history. Despite Bob's injury, the brothers remain in second position in the ATP Doubles Race to London on 4.355 points.

Marach/Pavic Still Lead the Way
After falling to the Bryans at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Marach and Pavic suffered back-to-back quarter-final losses in Barcelona and Rome. But the Austrian-Croatian duo rediscovered their form at the right time, capturing their fourth tour-level title of the season at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open before a run to their third Grand Slam final in 11 months at Roland Garros.

Searching for their second Grand Slam trophy of the season, Marach and Pavic were unable to repeat their Australian Open heroics, losing in straight sets to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut. Their grass-court campaign started promisingly, with a semi-final run at the Fever-Tree Championships. But, despite leading by two sets in their first-round match at Wimbledon, Marach and Pavic were stunned by Federico Delbonis and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela in five sets. The pairing remain atop the ATP Doubles Race to London with 5,930 points.

Familiar Faces Rise in the ATP Doubles Race to London
Three teams made strong moves up the ATP Doubles Race to London standings throughout the second quarter.

Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya soared to fourth place after an impressive clay-court stretch. Mektic and Peya captured two titles, in Marrakech and Madrid, from three tour-level finals on the red dirt.

Herbert and Mahut reached fifth position after clinching their third Grand Slam as a duo at Roland Garros. The Frenchmen beat Mektic and Peya in the semi-finals before an upset win over second-seeded Marach and Pavic in the final.

After a consistent European clay season, Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus entered peak form on grass. The Open 13 Provence titlists reached their second and third tour-level finals as a team, falling to Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor at the Libema Open before a five-set loss to Bryan and Sock at Wimbledon.

Brits Join Winners' Circle
There were seven first-time winners in the second quarter, with four British stars lifting their first tour-level trophies on the doubles court.

Kyle Edmund and Cameron Norrie combined to win the Millennium Estoril Open and were soon joined by Luke Bambridge and Jonny O'Mara, who emerged victorious at the Nature Valley International.

There were also maiden tour-level doubles crowns for Nick Kyrgios (w/Sock) in Lyon, Tim Puetz (w/Petzschner) in Stuttgart and Marcelo Demoliner (w/Gonzalez) in Antalya. After falling short in his six tour-level doubles final appearances, Demoliner lifted his first ATP World Tour trophy in his seventh championship match.

Smyczek, De Minaur Discuss Their Hall Of Fame Item
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 15:29:00 Z
Watch as Tim Smyczek, Alex de Minaur and fellow Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open stars reveal which personal item they believe would be worthy of a place in the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum if they were to be inducted. Video courtesy of the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open.
Johnson Takes Fans Behind The Scenes At International Tennis Hall Of Fame
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 15:13:00 Z
American Steve Johnson takes fans on a tour of the museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island during his campaign at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open. Video courtesy of the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open.
Fognini Edges Verdasco To Reach Båstad Final
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 14:00:00 Z

Fabio Fognini reached his second tour-level final of the season, beating Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 at the SkiStar Swedish Open on Saturday.

The Brasil Open champion, who will meet Richard Gasquet in Sunday's final, defeated the Spanish left-hander for the first time in four FedEx ATP Head2Head clay-court encounters (Verdasco leads overall 4-3) after two hours and 17 minutes, winning 76 per cent of second-serve return points en route to victory. Earlier this year, Fognini and Verdasco met at the same stage at the Rio Open presented by Claro, with Verdasco triumphing in straight sets.

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Fognini got off to a quick start, breaking Verdasco in three consecutive return games to take control of the semi-final encounter. But Verdasco, after making an early breakthrough in the second set, forced a decider with a third break of serve in the ninth game.

The 31-year-old Fognini twice led by a break in the third set, and despite surrendering his advantage on both occasions, eventually claimed victory. Fognini capitalised on forehand errors, either side of an aggressive foray to the net, to deny Verdasco a third opportunity to lift the trophy. The 34-year-old reached the championship match in 2013 (l. to Berlocq) and 2016 (l. to Ramos-Vinolas).

"Beating Fernando is really difficult. He is a great champion," said Fognini. "Today was a tough match, I started really well... and then after losing the first game of the second set, it was 40-0 on my serve, he was playing more confidently... At the end, I think it is a lottery."

Fognini, who owns a 30-14 record this season, will attempt to defeat Gasquet for the second time in four FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

Gasquet booked his place in his third tour-level final this season, cruising past Henri Laaksonen 6-2, 6-3. The fourth seed won 80 per cent of first-serve points and converted four of nine break-point chances to reach the championship match after 72 minutes.

"[Fabio] is a great player. Especially on a clay court, he is one of the best," said Gasquet. "He has had a good season and I know how tough he is, but... I'm feeling better and better."

The World No. 29, who improved to 15-15 in tour-level finals by lifting his third grass-court title at the Libema Open in June, recovered from an early break down in the second set to deny lucky loser Laaksonen a place in his first tour-level final. The Swiss 26-year-old was appearing in his second tour-level semi-final after falling to David Goffin at the final-four stage of the 2017 Shenzhen Open.

"It was a good match. I started well," said Gasquet. "I played a great first set. The second set was more difficult, but I just tried to fight. It was very important for me to break him at 4-3 and it was tough to close the match but I did it."

Double Delight For Fognini
Partnering Simone Bolelli, Fognini returned later in the day to reach the final of the doubles event. The Italian duo, who won the 2015 Australian Open, defeated top seeds Max Mirnyi and Philipp Oswald 6-3, 4-6, 10-4.

The three-time tour-level titlists progressed to the championship match after 86 minutes, winning 77 per cent of first-serve points. Bolelli and Fognini will face second-seeded Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos in the final. Peralta and Zeballos secured their place in the final on Friday, beating Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner 6-3, 6-2.

Did You Know?
En route to his sixth tour-level crown at the Brasil Open in February, Fabio Fognini ended Pablo Cuevas' 15-match win streak at the Sao Paulo-based event.

Paes Reflects On Newport Singles Title 20 Years On
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 04:49:00 Z

Leander Paes is well known for his efforts on the doubles court, reaching No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings, claiming 54 tour-level titles including eight Grand Slam triumphs, and becoming the first tennis player to compete at seven Olympic Games.

But it’s easy to forget that Paes was successful on the singles court as well, winning 101 tour-level matches in his career. Twenty years ago this week, the Indian star captured his lone singles title on the ATP World Tour in Newport, Rhode Island at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“It’s one of the Top 5 career highlights that I have right next to my Olympic medal, right next to all the Grand Slams that I've won,” Paes told ATPWorldTour.com. “Winning Newport at the Hall of Fame got my tennis racquet that I won with in the Hall of Fame, got my shoes that I played with that day and the shirt that I played with in the Hall of Fame and when I do have kids and when I do have grandkids I can always bring them back here and show them a bit of the body of work that papa and grandpa has done.”

Paes had always found some of his best singles success at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1996, at the age of 25, he reached his first ATP World Tour semi-final on the Rhode Island grass, beating 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash in the first round. Two weeks later, he won the bronze medal in singles at the Olympics, proving his ability in the discipline.

“That was just humongous back home,” Paes said. “So when I came back here two years later and won the singles event here at the Hall of Fame, I remember it was a pretty big deal back in India.”

Looking back at it, the 1998 Newport field was stacked with talent — a 17-year-old Lleyton Hewitt, 18-year-old James Blake and 22-year-old Rainer Schuettler stick out. The second seed was doubles legend Mark Woodforde, who had been in the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings just two years earlier. Two future No. 1 players in the ATP Doubles Rankings, Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor, were also competing in singles.

But Paes was a man on a mission. He remembers playing on Court 2 in the first round against David Dilucia, getting pushed deep in a third set against the American. He says he hit a diving backhand drop shot winner to help get him through that match, and the rest was history.

“It was huge [for me],” Paes said. “I think that the Newport win in many ways gave me a sense of belief, gave me a sense of confidence and a sense that my hard work was paying off.”

At the time, Paes was on the fence between pushing on in both singles and doubles, or focusing solely on doubles, which he would do following the 1998 season. He had already owned 10 tour-level doubles trophies alongside Mahesh Bhupathi when he arrived at the International Tennis Hall of Fame that July.

“I was on the threshold of winning doubles Grand Slams,” Paes said. “I had to balance both. And I knew having won my singles medal in the Olympics in 1996, I had a lot of singles in me.”

But Paes has only made two singles quarter-finals on the ATP World Tour since his triumph in Newport, beating then-World No. 2 Pete Sampras just weeks later in New Haven to earn perhaps the biggest singles victory of his career. He’d then make the quarter-finals at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open for the fourth consecutive year in 1999.

“I feel like a lot of my singles results like beating [Pete] Sampras, that got overshadowed a bit. Beating [Roger] Federer too, when he was coming up. Just a lot of the singles gets overshadowed a little bit, including winning the singles here, because of the mammoth doubles career I’ve had,” Paes said. "I can’t believe that the singles win was 20 years ago. That’s a long time. I would’ve never imagined that I’d still be playing tennis.”

But the 45-year-old is still plugging away on the ATP World Tour. He partnered American Jamie Cerretani to beat Nature Valley International champions Luke Bambridge and Jonny O’Mara in the first round in Newport this year before bowing out in the quarter-finals.

And while Paes is happy to reflect on the memories of his triumph 20 years ago, he’s not done pushing for success. His focus is set solely on what’s ahead.

“I’m a happy guy. I stay in the moment. I focus on things that I have in hand. I don’t think I’ve really sat back over the last 29 years and really looked at my career and said ‘I’ve done that’,” Paes said. “I’m always striving to do something new. I’m always trying to push the body and the mind to different boundaries. That’s the reason that I still play now.”

Brown, Begemann Enjoy Day At The Beach In Scheveningen
Sat, 21 Jul 2018 03:51:00 Z
Watch as doubles top seeds Dustin Brown and Andre Begemann relax on the beach during a day off at The Hague Open, an ATP Challenger Tour event. Video courtesy of The Hague Open.
Haase Ousts Defending Champ Rublev
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 20:48:00 Z

Robin Haase ousted defending champion Andrey Rublev 6-3, 7-6(6) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag on Friday to reach his second tour-level semi-final of the season.

The sixth seed won 81 per cent of first-serve points and saved six of the seven break points he faced to defeat the #NextGenATP Russian, who was competing in his first event since April due to a lower-back stress fracture. Haase, the World No. 38, is pursuing his first ATP World Tour title since the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel six years ago. The Dutch No. 1’s only other triumph came at the same tournament in 2011.

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Next, the 31-year-old will face Argentine Guido Pella, who beat Serbian Dusan Lajovic 7-6(3), 7-5 in one hour, 41 minutes. Pella is fresh off of a third-round appearance at Wimbledon, where he came from two sets down to defeat Marin Cilic.

In the other semi-final, qualifier Marco Trungelliti defeated Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-4 in one hour, 13 minutes to make his maiden tour-level semi-final. Before arriving in Croatia, the Argentine had never advanced to the quarter-finals at an ATP World Tour event.

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Trungelliti will face the winner Italian Marco Cecchinato, who ousted Serbian Laslo Djere 6-4, 6-1 in one hour, 22 minutes. This year's Gazprom Hungarian Open winner and Roland Garros semi-finalist is into his fourth tour-level semi-final of the season. Entering the 2018 season, he had just four tour-level match wins.

Johnson Closing On Second Title Of 2018
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 19:34:00 Z

American Steve Johnson moved closer to capturing his fourth title on Friday, defeating Israeli Dudi Sela 6-2, 6-3 in 58 minutes to reach the semi-finals at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open.

"It feels good," Johnson said. "You come here to Newport, you come to an event, you expect to at least give yourself a chance at being here at the end of the week. Now we're here, and I'm just going to keep putting my best foot forward."

In April, Johnson retained his trophy at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, his third victory at tour-level. The third seed’s first triumph came two years ago on the grass in Nottingham.

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Johnson will face Marcel Granollers in the semi-final, after the Spaniard upset top seed Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-1 in 61 minutes. Entering the week, the 32-year-old had just a 10-18 tour-level record on grass. But he won 52 per cent of return points against the Frenchman to move into his first ATP World Tour singles semi-final since 2015 in Zagreb.

The American has won both of the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, with their most recent match coming at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open. But he isn't putting much stock into those victories, both on hard courts. 

"That's not going to play into effect here," Johnson said. "He's a great tennis player. He's won 500s, he's no slouch. He's a Grand Slam doubles champion. So he knows how to come in and be aggressive. He's a tough competitor and I know he's going to come out tomorrow guns blazing and I'm going to try to do the same."

Stich Never Dreamt Of Newport Induction, But Etches Name In Tennis History
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 17:50:00 Z

German Michael Stich was walking through the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island on Friday for the first time, wearing a constant smile across his face. On Saturday, he will become an inductee, joining an elite group made up of the greatest players in tennis history.

As he toured the museum with family and friends, the former World No. 2 came across a young boy, who was also looking through all of the historical artifacts. The boy was playing a trivia game, and didn’t know the answer to the question he was asked.

“Never give up,” Stich told him.

That’s something that the 18-time tour-level titlist never did. When the German was that boy’s age, he never dreamt of making it this far. In fact, Stich’s first sport was football, not tennis, which he began playing at the age of six. Gaining induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame never appeared in his wildest dreams. But he worked hard to build a successful career that spanned nearly a decade.

Stich

“I never thought about it. I think when I started playing and understanding that I could become a good player and when I turned professional, then I had a list in my head of what I wanted to achieve,” Stich told ATPWorldTour.com. “But to be here, and to have that as a goal, really was never something I could have imagined.”

Stich wanted to play well in Germany, lift a Grand Slam trophy in singles and doubles, and help Germany triumph in the Davis Cup. Mission accomplished.

The German famously ousted top seed Stefan Edberg in the 1991 semi-finals at The Championships without breaking serve, and then defeated his compatriot, second-seeded Boris Becker, to claim victory at Wimbledon. He’d go on to win the doubles title at SW19 the following year with John McEnroe, and aid Germany to Davis Cup glory in 1993. Stich also owns an Olympic gold medal, and plenty more.

Stich was a runner-up at the US Open in 1994 and Roland Garros in 1996. He tallied a 385-176 record, which according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone ranks 35th all-time in terms of winning percentage (68.6 per cent).

The museum has a showcase with loans from Stich and fellow Class of 2018 inductee Helena Sukova, featuring the German’s 1991 Wimbledon singles trophy, his 1992 Olympic Men’s Doubles gold medal, the Deutsche Bundesverdienstkreuz — Germany’s highest honor for service to the nation — and more. So what was it like to see some of his most valuable possessions on display alongside some of the most notable artifacts in tennis history?

“The first thing I thought when I saw it was like, ‘Damn, I’m missing some more Grand Slam trophies. Should have been some more’,” Stich joked. “But when you walk by and you see John [McEnroe] donating a trophy from the Wimbledon doubles, if I would have had five [trophies], I would donate one as well. I just have one.”

Stich

That makes this moment even more special for Stich.

“The whole setup is just great, the history of the building, the history of the place itself and to be part of that history is remarkable,” Stich said. “I’m very grateful for that, but you’re just a tiny piece of the puzzle.”

In a way, there was an air of uncertainty about the trip. Stich had never been to Newport. But when he got a call from International Tennis Hall of Fame Chief Executive Officer Todd Martin notifying him of his induction, the excitement began to build.

“I thought of it as a little bit of an adventure trip,” Stich said. “I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t know the place. That’s why it’s so great to come here, and also the atmosphere in Newport in general when you just walk through the streets, it has a lot of similarity for me with Wimbledon with the tradition and with the feeling and with the sense of the history and the tradition. There are very few places in the world that have that and preserve that and that’s great.”

The first room visitors see in the museum is the Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery. And Stich’s plaque calls him, ‘one of the sport’s most stylish players, a free-flowing shot-maker who excelled on all surfaces’. 

Stich

“I realised when I looked at my pictures on that wall in the room that we have, that they only showed my backhand, so maybe they’ll just remember my backhand,” Stich joked. “For me, that’s actually not so important. I think what’s important for me is when people come up to me and say I enjoyed watching you play tennis in general, the way I played tennis, maybe the style, maybe playing quite fluently.”

Of course, Stich is happy to have won the titles he did and accomplish many of his goals. But in the end, he’s not as concerned about the mementos. Instead, he wants people to remember enjoying him play.

“As long as I gave joy to the people from time to time, then that’s what makes me happy,” Stich said. “I don’t want them to remember me for certain wins or trophies that I won. I want them to remember the Wimbledon final because of the final, because of the match, not for the fact that at the end I lifted a trophy.”

Djokovic Reveals Mental, Physical Struggles In Open Letter
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 14:46:00 Z

Novak Djokovic has posted an open letter on his official website detailing the mental and physical issues he has had to overcome to win a fourth Wimbledon title at The Championships on Sunday.

The Serbian, who returned to the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on Monday with his 13th Grand Slam championships crown, revealed the doubts he had about returning to his peak performance days after suffering a six-month injury layoff last year.

“In 2017, the injury of my right elbow was so severe that I was forced to be out from the Tour for six months. Injury was one of the issues, the other big one was any motivation. I didn’t have problems to practice and to enjoy the tennis court but I had mental hurdles when I had to compete.

“One day I will share more in depth what kind of challenges I had to face and how I felt.

“For the past two years, I wasn’t patient with my tennis expectations. I wasn’t wise in strategising. And I certainly wasn’t clearly hearing my body telling me that there is something serious happening with my elbow. I was trying to find solutions somewhere else and solution was always inside of me.

“After many changes made with training, racket, team members, I didn’t know if I would be able to get back on the desired level of tennis. Actually, one part of me always believes in my own qualities and capabilities. But there was a lot of doubtful moments where course of action could have gone different ways.”

Djokovic, family, son Stefan

Djokovic, who beat World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals at Wimbledon, overcame Kevin Anderson in the final and afterwards witnessed his son, Stefan, come into the players box on Centre Court to celebrate the victory. He also paid tribute to his wife, Jelena, and children, in the open letter.

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"The feeling of having my son in my wife’s arms at the trophy ceremony in the Players box was the most wonderful sensation I have had at any tournament that I have ever won in my career.

"When I became a father, one of my biggest dreams was to have my children present at the stands while I am playing. Let alone winning trophies. That dream came true several days ago. Everyone keeps on asking me to describe the feeling. I have said it is unforgettable, special, fulfilling, wonderful, joyful. But most of all, it is Magical! When I thought that moment could not get any better, he shouted “Daddy, Daddy!” That’s when I completely melted. Overwhelmed with emotions. Happy and joyful beyond belief. I am so GRATEFUL to have experienced that."

Read The Full Open Letter On Djokovic’s Official Website

Q2 Review: Moving Time For Nadal, Djokovic
Fri, 20 Jul 2018 14:46:00 Z

After six months of the 2018 ATP World Tour season, there’s already a plethora of storylines to track. Here are the top five stories of the second quarter.

Nadal Proves His No. 1 Status
Rafael Nadal swept through the European clay swing once more, dealing with the pressure and weight of expectation so well to compile a 32-2 match record - including the 900th match win of his career - in the second quarter of the year.

While his red dirt dominance is nothing new, the Spaniard strengthened his lead at the top of the ATP Race To London, for one of eight spots at the Nitto ATP Finals in November, with four clay-court titles — historic 11th crowns at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Nishikori), the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Tsitsipas) and Roland Garros (d. Thiem), in addition to an eighth trophy at the Internazionali d’Italia (d. Zverev). In beating Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 at Wimbledon, Nadal won a match for the ages to advance to semi-finals for the first time since 2011.

As World No. 1 for 40 of the past 46 weeks (since 21 August 2017), Nadal has withstood Roger Federer’s three brief stints in the top spot this year, and will enter the North American hard-court swing defending 2,270 points, including 2,000 points at the US Open. How the 32-year-old fares at the Western & Southern Open, the Rogers Cup and in New York City will go a long way in clarifying whether he will finish at year-end No. 1 for a fifth time (2008, '10, '13, '17).

The Resurgence Of Djokovic
As Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka continue to find their way back from long-term injuries, the rehabilitation and resurgence of Novak Djokovic in recent months, initially on European clay and then on London’s grass, after a right elbow injury, is heart-warming.

Having missed six months of 2017, and forced to undergo surgery after the Australian Open (l. to Chung in the fourth round) in January, the Serbian protected his elbow with a new service technique and went 6-6 in his first six tournaments. Yet, the 31-year-old’s confidence began to resurface in reaching the Internazionali BNL d'Italia (l. to Nadal in the semi-finals), then at Roland Garros, where he advanced to the quarter-finals (l. to Cecchinato).

It wasn’t until he contested the Fever-Tree Championships final (l. to Cilic) that Djokovic began to serve and return with greater potency. With low expectations coming into The Championships at Wimbledon, particularly because of a lack of big-match play, Djokovic moved through the draw, relatively unheralded for a former champion, to beat Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set in the semi-finals and then Kevin Anderson in the final. It was his 13th Grand Slam championship crown (fourth all-time in the singles list) and first since May 2016 in Paris.

From No. 22 in ATP Rankings on 21 May — his lowest position since No. 22 on 2 October 2006 — Djokovic has put together a 19-3 match record in his past four tournaments and was restored to the Top 10 at No. 10 on 16 July.

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Anderson Isner

Anderson, Isner Enjoying Career Years
Anderson and John Isner, both at career-high ATP Rankings, are highlighting how off-court work can reap dividends between the tramlines in 2018. As evidenced in Anderson’s 26-24 fifth set win over Isner in the Wimbledon semi-finals, which lasted six hours and 36 minutes — the second-longest match in major championship history.

Anderson, 32, has backed up strong early-season form over the past three months to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final — and first on a clay-court — at the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Thiem), the Roland Garros fourth round for the fourth time (also 2013-14 and 2017) and his second Grand Slam championship final at Wimbledon (d. Djokovic). Currently at a career-high No. 5 in the ATP Rankings, the South African will now work with coach Brad Stine towards adding to his four ATP World Tour crowns and a first Nitto ATP Finals qualification, following a near miss in 2015.

Isner, 33, who lifted his first Masters 1000 crown at the Miami Open presented by Itau (d. Zverev) on 1 April, went 8-6 on the spring clay swing and came into Wimbledon with low expectations, having reached the third round (on three occasions) in nine visits. But, under the guidance of David Macpherson, Rene Moller and Justin Gimelstob, the American adopted aggressive returns and a serve-and-volley game, to beat 2016 runner-up Raonic in the quarter-finals en route to a breakthrough run at a major. He now sits at a career-high No. 8.

ATP Race To London Taking Shape
Six of the Top 10 in the ATP Race To London on 2 April 2018, remain among the contenders for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November. While Nadal and Federer lead the charge for a place at the season finale, 10 different nations are represented in the Top 10 (as of 16 July 2018).

Djokovic has been the biggest riser over the past three months, jumping from 85th position (200 points) to fifth place (3,335) points in the current standings, while Nadal has moved from 39th (360) to first (5,760) and Kei Nishikori has soared from 74th (235) to 10th (1,610). Federer, who missed the clay swing, added 910 points from three grass-court tournaments.

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2018 ATP RACE TO LONDON FIRST, SECOND QUARTER COMPARISON

Player Points 16 July Points 2 April (Position) Points (Position) Difference
1) Rafael Nadal (ESP) 5,760 360 (39) +5,400 (+38)
2) Roger Federer (SUI) 4,020 3,1110 (1) +910 (-1)
3) Alexander Zverev (GER) 3,585 925 (7) +2,660 (+4)
4) Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 3,380 2,120 (2) +1,260 (-2)
5) Novak Djokovic (SRB) 3,335 200 (85) +3,135 (+80)
6) Dominic Thiem (AUT) 2,995 745 (13) +2,250 (+7)
7) Marin Cilic (CRO) 2,915 1,470 (3) +1,445 (-4)
8) Kevin Anderson (RSA) 2,820 1,070 (5) +1,750 (-3)
9) John Isner (USA) 2,220 1,040 (6) +1,180 (-3)
10) Kei Nishikori (JPN) 1,610 235 (74) +1,375 (+64)

Twelve months ago, following the conclusion of The Championships in 2017, Nadal, Federer, Dominic Thiem, Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Zverev, Djokovic, Murray, Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych made up the Top 10 in the ATP Race To London. Seven of that elite group secured enough points to qualify for the prestigious season finale (Wawrinka did not compete due to injury).

Zverev, Tsitsipas, Shapovalov Among 2018 #NextGenATP Leaders
Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov are the pick of the #NextGenATP so far this season. Tsitsipas and Shapovalov, both 19, trail Zverev in the ATP Race To Milan for a berth at the 21-and-under Next Gen ATP Finals in November.

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World No. 3 Zverev put together a 21-4 record on the red dirt, including a 13-match winning streak that included back-to-back ATP World Tour crowns at the BMW Open by FWU (d. Kohlschreiber) and the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem). His run ended at the hands of Nadal in a three-set Rome final, shortly prior to Roland Garros, where the 21-year-old reached his first major championship quarter-final (l. to Thiem).

Tsitsipas did not drop a set en route to his first ATP World Tour final in Barcelona (l. to Nadal), earning the biggest win of his career over No. 7-ranked Thiem in the quarter-finals. He was the first Greek to reach a tour-level final since Kalogeropoulos at Des Moines in 1973, and the first man from his country to advance to the fourth-round at Wimbledon (l. to Isner). He also beat Anderson en route to the Millennium Estoril Open semi-finals (l to Sousa).

Over the past three months, Shapovalov became the youngest quarter-finalist and semi-finalist ever in Madrid (d. Raonic in 3R, l. to A. Zverev) and peaked at World No. 23 on 11 June. He is the youngest player in the Top 25 since then-No. 19 Gasquet on 25 July 2005 and has been Canada’s No. 1 since 21 May after reaching the Rome third round (l. to Nadal).

Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, Australia’s Alex de Minaur, Spain’s Jaume Munar and Russia’s Andrey Rublev also feature among the Top 8 in the battle for a Milan spot.


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