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Dutch Duo Surge To Umag Doubles Title

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

Dutch Duo Surge To Umag Doubles Title

Robin Haase and Matwe Middelkoop earn their third team title of 2018 in Umag

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.

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Emotional Stich Inducted Into Hall Of Fame

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

Emotional Stich Inducted Into Hall Of Fame

Former World No. 2 cements his status in tennis lore

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.”


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.”

You May Also Like: Stich Never Dreamt Of Newport Induction, But Etches Name In Tennis History

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 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.”


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.”

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Cecchinato To Face Pella For Umag Crown

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

Cecchinato To Face Pella For Umag Crown

The Umag championship will have an Italian-Argentine flair

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.

You May Also Like: Cecchinato Continues Dramatic Rise, Mover Of Week

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, 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.

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From Lucky Loser To Champion: Ulises Blanch's Breakthrough

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

From Lucky Loser To Champion: Ulises Blanch’s Breakthrough

Get to know the 20-year-old American who is making strides on the ATP Challenger Tour

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.”


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.”


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.”


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 

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Bryan Holds Strong Form; Marach/Pavic Lead The Pack

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

Bryan Holds Strong Form; Marach/Pavic Lead The Pack looks back on an exciting second quarter of 2018

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.

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Fognini Edges Verdasco To Reach Båstad Final

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

Fognini Edges Verdasco To Reach Båstad Final

Italian to meet Laaksonen or Gasquet in championship match

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 defeated the Spanish left-hander for the first time in four FedEx ATP Head2Head clay-court encounters (overall 3-4) 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 into 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).

Fognini, who improves to 30-14 this season, will meet Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen or Frenchman Richard Gasquet for the title. Fognini trails Gasquet 1-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and is yet to meet Laaksonen at tour-level.

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.

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Paes Reflects On Newport Singles Title 20 Years On

  • Posted: Jul 21, 2018

Paes Reflects On Newport Singles Title 20 Years On

The Indian’s victory in Rhode Island was his lone singles title

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 “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.”

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