An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week on the ATP World Tour
The strongest field of the 2018 ATP World Tour season thus far is in Toronto for the Rogers Cup. Twenty-six of the Top 27 players in the ATP Rankings will play, headlined by three-time champion and World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, four-time winner Novak Djokovic, and reigning titlist Alexander Zverev.
10 THINGS TO WATCH IN TORONTO 1) Rafa Rolling: Nadal and Roger Federer exchanged the No. 1 ranking six times in the first six months of 2018. After advancing further than Federer at Wimbledon, Nadal now leads his longtime rival by 2,230 ATP Ranking points. Nadal is making his first appearance in Toronto since 2010, though the Spaniard has played the last seven Rogers Cups in Montreal.
2) Comeback Complete: Djokovic went 6-6 to begin the season following a six-month hiatus due to a right elbow injury. He’s gone 19-3 since then, winning his fourth Wimbledon title. In the semi-finals, Djokovic defeated Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set after five hours and 15 minutes.
3) Mastering 1000s: Zverev captured his third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Mutua Madrid Open in May to join the ‘Big Four’ as the only active players with that many trophies at this level. In his opening match in Montreal last year, Zverev outlasted Richard Gasquet in a 49-shot rally to save a match point, then saved two more match points against the Frenchman. He went on to defeat Federer 6-3, 6-4 for the title.
4) Delpo’s Surge: This time one year ago, Juan Martin del Potro was No. 31 in the ATP Rankings. But the Argentine is arguably in some of the best form of his life, and if Zverev does not capture the Citi Open title on Sunday, Del Potro will climb to a career-best No. 3 on Monday. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ earned his first Masters 1000 triumph earlier this year at the BNP Paribas Open.
5) Remember When: Then-No. 143 Denis Shapovalov defeated Del Potro and Nadal en route to the 2017 Montreal semi-finals. At the age of 18, Shapovalov became the youngest ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-finalist in series history and the lowest-ranked since No. 191 Andrei Pavel in Paris 15 years ago to reach the last four.
6) Good Company: During his run in Montreal, Shapovalov stayed at the home of fellow Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is his doubles partner this year.. #NextGenATP 17-year-old Auger-Aliassime is set for his Rogers Cup main draw singles debut. The five-time Grand Slam junior finalist turns 18 on 8 August.
7) Anderson Returns: After playing for 23 hours and 20 minutes at the All England Club, Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson returns to the ATP World Tour this week. Anderson defeated Federer 13-11 in the fifth set in the quarter-finals and John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set in the semi-finals before falling in the championship match to Djokovic.
8) Wildest Cards: Stan Wawrinka, a three-time Grand Slam champion and former World No. 3, is one of the wild cards in Toronto. The Swiss, who made the semi-finals in Toronto two years ago before losing to Kei Nishikori, is still on the comeback trail from knee surgeries.
9) 30-Love: Former World No. 1 doubles player Daniel Nestor will make his 30th straight Rogers Cup appearance before retiring this fall. The Toronto resident is 45-27 with two titles and 12 partners at his home event. Nestor teams with countryman Vasek Pospisil for the third straight Rogers Cup.
10) Magnificent Matchups: As always, there are plenty of captivating first-round matches to watch. Talented Aussie Nick Kyrgios, the 16th seed, faces Wawrinka in their fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. Former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic faces reigning Next Gen ATP Finals winner Hyeon Chung, 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up David Goffin competes against former World No. 3 Milos Raonic and No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman plays British No. 1 Kyle Edmund.
The “Mexican Double” will have to wait till next year.
Italian Fabio Fognini stunned Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday to win the Abierto de Tenis Mifel presentado por Cinemex in Los Cabos. It’s Fognini’s eighth ATP World Tour title but his first on hard courts. The 31-year-old had previously triumphed only on clay.
But Fognini showed another level against Del Potro and added another accolade to what is quietly becoming one of his best years on tour. He’s won three ATP World Tour titles this season (Sao Paulo, Bastad), a career best, and on Monday, Fognini is projected to rise one spot in the ATP Rankings to No. 14, only one mark off his career-high of No. 13, which he last reached more than four years ago, in April 2014.
You May Also Like: Fabio’s Fabulous Hairdo Proving A Lucky Charm In Los Cabos
Del Potro had won their only prior FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting (2015 Sydney) and was going for his second title in Mexico this year (Acapulco, d. Anderson). He started perfectly, leading 3-0 and having little trouble with Fognini’s attempts to bring him to net with drop shots.
But Fognini settled in, defending from all parts of the court and using his forehand to push Del Potro behind the baseline. The Argentine, after a strong start, lost his way, even on his usually reliable forehand wing. Fognini returned everything in play and took his chances with Del Potro’s second serve, winning 71 per cent of those points (15/21). The Italian won 12 of the final 15 games.
“It was a good week for me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play my best tennis in the final. But Fabio deserved to win. He played a very smart game. He took all the chances to win, and I think he’s a good winner of the tournament. But in many ways I’m looking forward to keep playing better and better in the next tournaments,” Del Potro said.
Fognini will receive 250 ATP Rankings points and $127,635 in prize money; Del Potro will receive 150 ATP Rankings points and $67,220.
Arevalo/Reyes-Varela improved to 1-1 in ATP World Tour finals
The Abierto de Tenis Mifel presentado por Cinemexhas a homegrown tennis champion. Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador and Mexican Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela won the Los Cabos doubles title on Saturday evening, beating #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz and Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-4.
It’s the first time since 1995 that a Mexican has won an ATP World Tour title on home soil. Mexico’s Leonardo Lavalle and Javier Frana of Argentina won the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presented by HSBC when it was still held in Mexico City.
“This is a very special moment for me, at home with the Mexican crowd, hungry to get a title,” Reyes-Varela said. “We’ve been playing for a little over a year now… We’ve had a great year and to have this title and share it with [Arevalo] is super special.”
You May Also Like: De Minaur Saves 4 MPs In All-#NextGenATP Thriller
The third seeds saved all three break points and converted two of their 12 break opportunities against Fritz/Kokkinakis, who were playing in their first tournament together and will receive 150 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split $20,380 in prize money.
Arevalo/Reyes-Varela improved to 6-3 as a team and were playing in their second ATP World Tour final (Newport 2018, l. to Erlich/Sitak). The pairing will receive 250 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split $38,780 in prize money.
“Our first final, it wasn’t that great. I think we were a little bit tight,” Arevalo said. “But today, I think we were more ready – we went for it.”
If #NextGenATP stars Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev, 19 and 20 years old, respectively, will be meeting for years to come, tennis fans around the world have plenty to be excited about.
De Minaur saved four consecutive match points from 2/6 in the second-set tie-break before ousting the Russian 5-7, 7-6(6), 6-4 on Saturday evening to advance to the Citi Open final.
“I’m incredibly proud of myself. I dug deep,” De Minaur. “I just couldn’t see myself going any further. But I kept pushing myself, kept trying every single point and managed to turn that around. That’s probably the best win of my career.”
The Aussie is into his first ATP World Tour 500-level final, after also reaching the championship match in Sydney in January. The teenager will try to clinch his maiden triumph on Sunday against top seed Alexander Zverev.
It has been an incredible climb for De Minaur in 2018, as the 5’11” right-hander began the campaign at No. 208 in the ATP Rankings. With his two-hour, 52-minute victory against Rublev, the Aussie is projected to crack the Top 50 for the first time. If he beats Zverev, he will soar to No. 33. If not, he will still make a 27-spot rise to No. 45. After this week, he has no points to defend until the end of October.
De Minaur showed shades of his mentor former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt throughout the match. For much of the first two sets, Rublev was hammering away at hard-hit forehands, with his slowest shot being his second serve. But the Aussie hung in there with a relentless motor, scratching back ball after ball, biding his time until he could step in and, from time to time, rush the net.
The 19-year-old made especially good use of his backhand down the line in the second half of the match, as the effects of Rublev playing in his second match of the day slowly began to show. And while the Russian broke twice in the decider, it was De Minaur who came out on top, converting his fourth match point when his opponent double faulted.
“I really owe it all the crowd. I’m not from here, but I honestly felt like this was my home crowd,” De Minaur said. “It was amazing. Every single corner I was in, they were in my ear encouraging me and firing me up. I really thank them.”
Ironically, the only Australian to triumph in Washington, D.C. since 1972 (Tony Roche) was Hewitt in 2004. Earning his maiden title in Washington, D.C., would be even more special for De Minaur because of that.
“It would mean a lot. At least I could say I’m on the same page in one tournament with Lleyton,” De Minaur said. “But tomorrow’s going to be a very tough match against a very high-quality opponent and I’m just going to try and recover and leave it all out there again.”
Although Rublev fell just short of reaching his first final at this level, he showed that despite competing in just his third tournament since a three-month hiatus due to a stress fracture in his lower back, his form has not gone away. Rublev was seeking his second ATP World Tour title, after claiming victory last year in Umag as a lucky loser.
Did You Know? De Minaur playing Zverev will be the youngest final on the ATP World Tour since 2007 Indian Wells (Nadal vs. Djokovic) and the youngest final at the Citi Open since 1982 (Lendl vs. Arias).
Roger-Vasselin/Bryan Thriving In First Team Tournament
French-American duo to face Murray/Soares for the title
The top player in the ATP Doubles Rankings, Mike Bryan, might not be playing with twin brother Bob Bryan, who underwent hip surgery earlier this week. He’s not partnering Jack Sock, with whom he triumphed at Wimbledon last month, either.
But Bryan and Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin are enjoying plenty of success at the Citi Open, defeating Americans Denis Kudla and Frances Tiafoe 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday evening to reach the final. Bryan, 40, has added three tour-level trophies to his collection so far in 2018, and he can bring his record total to 120 on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, Kudla/Tiafoe saved two match points in the Match Tie-break to beat Ivan Dodig and Ben McLachlan 6-4, 6-7(4), 12-10. Bryan/Roger-Vasselin advanced to the semi-finals when Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev withdrew due to personal reasons.
In the final, Bryan/Roger-Vasselin will face a stiff test against fourth seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, who ousted Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus 7-5, 7-6(2). It is the fourth final of the season for the Scottish-Brazilian pair, who triumphed in Acapulco while advancing to the championship match at Doha and The Queen’s Club.
Murray and Soares have captured seven tour-level trophies together from 14 finals. After clinching their first straight-sets victory of the week, the team is 25-13 in 2018.
Did You Know? Bryan has played Murray and Soares twice this year with his brother, Bob Bryan, splitting two FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings in Acapulco and Madrid.
Rafa Nadal Open Looks To The Future On ATP Challenger Tour
World No. 1 discusses the launch of a Challenger at his academy in Mallorca
In one month, the Rafa Nadal Open Banc Sabadell will make its debut on the ATP Challenger Tour. With an eye towards the future, the tournament arrives with the hope of becoming a staple on the circuit for years to come.
Last week, the World No. 1 attended a press conference at the Rafa Nadal Academy, where the vision of the tournament was laid out. The pillars of the event, to be held from August 28 to September 2 in Mallorca, were presented as the hard-court tournament looks to become a critical stepping stone in players’ journeys to the ATP World Tour.
“We have been working towards this for many years,” Nadal said. “We are organising different types of events: the Spanish Championships, some Futures and Senior tournaments, but the organisation of a Challenger is one more step towards the growth that we want to take. On a personal level, it is a great satisfaction to see that things are going the way we wanted.”
You May Also Like: Nadal’s Academy To Host Challenger In August
In a season where the Spanish Tennis Federation will organise up to six tournaments on the ATP Challenger Tour, Nadal hopes his event will contribute to this trend of growth and development. He believes the €43,000 event will provide a strong foundation in his country.
“It’s an important step towards the future of our tennis,” Nadal added. “It is true that we have had a generation of very important tennis players, but it is also true that we have been a little stuck for a few years. We have to unite together to get back on track with new successful generations of tennis players. The organisation of Challengers, which have become more numerous in our country, is a very important benefit to the young Spaniards who can play tournaments of the highest level on their path to the Top 100 and beyond.”
This week marks the 15th anniversary of Nadal’s victory on home soil in Segovia. It was his second Challenger crown and served as a catalyst to stardom for the future World No. 1.
“The ‘Challenger’ is an important word because it is the second-biggest tour at the highest level of our sport. Without exception, we have all gone through the Challenger Tour. It is a special level in which you can see witness the growth and maturity of our young players, who probably in a short time we can see on TV at the tour-level. They are the future stars of the sport.
“At the same time, players who come back from injuries can use the Challengers as a very important part of their sporting life. It’s the closest event to the ATP World Tour. My experience when I played Challengers was good. I was lucky to compete for half a year before becoming a professional. They are tournaments that are of a high level and I enjoyed them all.”
The inaugural Rafa Nadal Open Banc Sabadell will begin on August 26.