Tennis News

From around the world

Meet Two #NextGenATP Poised For US Open Breakthroughs

  • Posted: Aug 26, 2018

Meet Two #NextGenATP Poised For US Open Breakthroughs

Lloyd Harris and Ugo Humbert are ready to translate Challenger success to the Grand Slam stage

It happens every year. The cream rises to the top during the North American hard-court summer and future stars are introduced on one of tennis’ biggest stages: the US Open.

In 2017, Denis Shapovalov continued his ATP Rankings ascent at Flushing Meadows, storming through qualifying to reach the main draw. The Canadian found himself peaking at the perfect time after lifting his second ATP Challenger Tour trophy just weeks earlier. And one year later, Shapovalov has cemented himself in the Top 30 of the ATP Rankings, with the teen also up to third in the ATP Race To Milan.

This year, two budding #NextGenATP stars have been taking the circuit by storm in July and August and are poised to follow the same path. If you aren’t familiar with Lloyd Harris and Ugo Humbert, here’s your introduction to two of the hottest players on the planet.

The battle to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals will reach a critical phase in New York, with the entire Top 14 in the ATP Race To Milan competing in the main draw. Five of those budding stars emerged from this week’s qualifying competition, including Harris and Humbert, who will be making their Grand Slam debuts under the bright lights.

ATP Race To Milan Standings

To say that the 21-year-old South African and 20-year-old Frenchman have been dominating the competition in recent weeks is no hyperbole. Consider this: Harris and Humbert have combined for 26 wins from 31 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour since transitioning to hard in mid-July. That includes a total of five finals and maiden titles for both.

And like Shapovalov a year ago, their success has translated to the US Open, combining to drop just one set in storming through qualifying at Flushing Meadows. 

Lloyd Harris lifts his first Challenger trophy in Lexington, Kentucky

“It’s massive,” Harris told “In the juniors, I did the best here. I have good memories and I’ve enjoyed playing on the hard courts. So far, it’s a great experience. I’m very excited to compete in my first main draw.”

Like his countryman Kevin Anderson, at 6’5″ Harris is an imposing presence on the court with a rocket forehand, blistering serve and deceptive agility. It has been many years since his native South Africa had a youth movement to pin their hopes on, and now the Cape Town native is looking to become a household name.

Harris was a ruthless force at the Challenger stops in Lexington and Aptos earlier this month, reeling off a stunning 18 sets in a row en route to back-to-back finals. He would lift his first trophy at the $75,000 event in Lexington, vaulting to a career-high No. 145 in the ATP Rankings. 

“I’ve been playing really good tennis this summer and I’m looking forward to continue that and build on it. This couldn’t have come at a better time. As soon as I stepped on the hard courts, I’ve been playing well. It bolsters your confidence for sure. You feel you can beat anybody and play well on any given day. It helps with all my shots. Maybe my body is a little more tired than I want it to be, but I’m still feeling strong and I’m playing as good as ever.”

You May Also Like: Five Things To Know About France’s #NextGenATP Ugo Humbert

Humbert, meanwhile, has been just as dominant. Having posted a 5-8 record in his Challenger career prior to July, his remarkable rise included three finals in three weeks, including his maiden title in Segovia, Spain. The 20-year-old crashed onto the scene with that sublime stretch, rising more than 100 spots in the ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 139.

“Those finals gave me a lot of confidence,” Humbert added. “I played well for three weeks in a row in Gatineau, Granby and then winning my first title in Segovia. Without that, I am not sure I could have done this in New York. Playing more matches and winning them helps my confidence a lot.”

Ugo Humbert celebrates his maiden Challenger title in Segovia, Spain

Next up: the Frenchman’s tour-level debut at the US Open. He defeated Pedja Krstin, Brandon Nakashima and fellow #NextGenATP Marc Polmans to qualify.

“It’s just beautiful, because it’s my first Grand Slam main draw. It feels incredible and I’d like to see how I do in best-of-five matches, because I’ve never played that before. It’s important for me. I’ve been trying to come to the net with my game and just be aggressive. Taking the ball early is important.”

Both kick off their Grand Slam careers on Monday, with Harris first on Court 12 against Gilles Simon and Humbert second on Court 8 against fellow qualifier Collin Altamirano. The spotlight beckons for two of the surging stars of summer.

Source link

With Bag Of Tricks, Rafa Ready To Defend US Open Title

  • Posted: Aug 26, 2018

With Bag Of Tricks, Rafa Ready To Defend US Open Title

Coach Roig confident Nadal is well-rested and ready to compete for fourth trophy

There is always room for improvement. It is an approach that has defined Rafael Nadal throughout his distinguished career, and it’s a sentiment the World No. 1 has not been shy about proclaiming when given the opportunity.

Francisco Roig, coach of Nadal, also feels there is always room for his charge to improve. Roig, along with fellow coach Carlos Moya, will be courtside at the US Open when Nadal attempts to capture his fourth title at Flushing Meadows.

It might be difficult to poke holes in Nadal’s game and find an extra level following the Spaniard’s title run at the Rogers Cup, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, earlier this month. But such is the case, and Team Nadal made that clear by agreeing to skip the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati to rest up and fine-tune even the most minor details to guarantee that when Nadal steps on to the court at this year’s US Open, he is ready for anything that might come his way.

“After Toronto, we spent a few days working with Rafa on a physical level. Despite the fact he won the event, we felt Rafa’s body wasn’t operating at its best,” Roig told from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

You May Also Like: Defending Champ Nadal Sizes Up US Open Competition

During his Masters 1000-winning week in Toronto, Nadal defeated Benoit Paire, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Karen Khachanov and, ultimately, Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim his fifth title of the season and 33rd Masters 1000 crown overall. Currently, he is 40-3 in 2018, putting him at the top of the ATP Race To London with a 2,140-point lead over second-placed Roger Federer. 

“We had some time to go through things when we arrived [last Sunday] in New York and Rafa was already in good shape,” Roig said. “It’s a shame the US Open doesn’t start this Sunday, because Rafa has found his form.”

On Saturday, Nadal squeezed in last-minute preparations by taking to the court against Argentine Guido Pella in a practice session under the watchful eyes of his coaches. The 32-year-old begins his 2018 US Open campaign against countryman David Ferrer on Monday night.

“Rafa is moving very well, he’s transitioning from the back of the court to the front very well, he’s changing directions very well, he’s well-rested, his serve is clicking… Overall, all I can say is he’s doing everything very well,” Roig said.

Roig’s reasons for liking his pupil’s chances extend beyond how Nadal looked on the practice court, his No. 1 ranking, or the five titles he has won this season. According to Roig, it’s an intangible, indefinable quality Nadal possesses that allows him to lift his game and win championships with whatever tools he possesses at that moment. As Roig likes to say, Nadal has a deep bag of tricks.

“Rafa has the ability to win with what he has,” Roig said. “He can pull something out from that bag and change things around the way other players can’t.”

Just how deep is that bag going into the final Grand Slam championship of the year?

“The bag is quite full, but another matter is knowing when to use what,” Roig said. “On top of that, every match is different; [there are] different tricks for different match-ups. If he only has a few things at his dispense going into a particular match, he will manage what he has with 100 per cent efficiency. When it comes to managing those things, Rafa is better than anyone; he plays with what he has accordingly.

“At the moment, he is in a position to come out firing; he is in a position to charge on to the court aggressively with everything at his disposal. We all know what Rafa is capable of. He is the defending champion and he learned from his performances in 2017. He didn’t have the best start last year and it nearly cost him early on. Sometimes, he is on his bicycle from the get-go; I think that’s the way he’s feeling going into the event this year.”

Although it’s way too early to look beyond the first round, it’s also hard to hide the fact that the 17-time Grand Slam champion is in a solid position to contend for his fourth US Open crown. But he isn’t without stiff competition. Five-time titlist Roger Federer and Career Golden Masters winner Novak Djokovic are also serious prospects to lift their second major trophy this year.

Roig isn’t surprised by Djokovic’s resurgence. He knew Nadal’s long-time rival was bound to bounce back in a forceful manner eventually and that when he did, he’d pick up from where he left off.

“I had no doubt that Djokovic was going to come back, because he is too good not to do so,” Roig said. “He was playing at such a high level for so many years and it is very difficult to maintain that level of consistency for so long. He had that dip for a little bit but he is proving all his doubters wrong and all I know is that I was never one of those to doubt he would be back.”

Another of Nadal’s main rivals will also be in action at the US Open. Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, will be back in Flushing Meadows after missing the 2017 event due to a hip injury. That means the ‘Big Four’ of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray will meet in the same tournament for the first time since Wimbledon 2017.

“Of the ‘Big Four’, maybe it’s Murray who has fallen a step behind,” Roig said. “But falling a step behind means nothing; I don’t know how he’s playing right this moment. If he’s recovered physically, he’s obviously a threat to Rafa’s With Bag Of Tricks, Rafa Ready To Defend US Open Title defence. A match between Rafa and Murray is always 50-50.”

In 2018, for the sixth time in history (also 2005-08 and 2010), Nadal and Federer will be the top seeds at the US Open. Federer topped the list of seeds from 2005-2007, while top seed Nadal also  led the seeding chart in 2008 and 2010. Roig tips his hat to both the longevity and raw ability of both players.

“Rafa and Roger are two phenomena,” Roig said. “They have each made comebacks, they have dodged pitfalls, their rivalry goes back years, they both push each other and, honestly, each is pulling for the other. I can honestly say that if one wasn’t playing, the other might have retired by now as well.”

All that said, Team Nadal still has its sights firmly set on the US Open crown. With little time to spare before Nadal steps on the court to kick off his 2018 US Open campaign, his team is confident that his bag of tricks is fully packed, and that their charge is in great shape to lift a fourth trophy in New York.

Source link

After Zverev Upset, Improved Haase Ready For US Open Run

  • Posted: Aug 26, 2018

After Zverev Upset, Improved Haase Ready For US Open Run

The Dutchman has changed his game and his mindset

Robin Haase, in one of the biggest wins of his career earlier this month, was a picture of calm. The Dutchman fell behind 1-4 against third seed Alexander Zverev at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

But Haase, in a scene he would have struggled to replicate a few years ago, concentrated on taking deep breaths to regain his focus. He pushed the first set to 5-7 before coming back to gain the second Top 5 win of his 14-year career 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 and advance to the third round of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the first time.

This part of the ATP World Tour calendar – the North American hard-court swing – has already treated Haase well, and for the second year in a row. Last year, he reached his first Masters 1000 semi-final at the Rogers Cup in Montreal (l. to Federer), and he made the quarter-finals in Toronto earlier this month (l. to Khachanov).

Watch Highlights: Haase Upsets Zverev In Cincy

“I think I’ve been playing better tennis overall this year than I have last year. The game is improving every single time,” Haase told

The Dutchman, at 31, is playing perhaps the best tennis of his career, and he’ll look to extend that run this week at his ninth US Open. In each of his eight previous visits to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Haase has never made it past the second round.

He’s partnered with a new coach, and together, they’re finding ways to move past old obstacles and bring out Haase’s most authentic and best level. The Dutchman, free of injuries after knee surgeries a decade ago, is showing a new appreciation for his lifelong sport.


Two and a half years ago, Haase was looking for a new coach, and Raymond Knaap was one of a number of people he contacted. “Can you help me out for just one or two weeks?” he’d ask, trying to find a coach, but also a travel companion.

Holland is hardly a tennis hotbed, and for Haase, throughout his 14-year career, that has often meant weeks on the road with only his team – a physio or coach – and no friends from his home country. For all players, a coach is an expert who can help with a topspin forehand but also a companion who can debate whether to order the chicken parmesan or the sirloin for dinner.

“You see your coach more than any other person in the world,” Haase said.

He and Knaap have spent hours discussing Haase’s on-court mentality. For instance, Knaap said, Haase used to have a vision of a “perfect set”. The players would hold serve, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, build to a break and the person who would break would win the set.

But, of course, sets rarely follow such a neat path. Often sets go as Haase’s first set went against Zverev: Break, break, hold, break, hold, hold, break, hold, hold, hold, hold, break.


Haase didn’t used to think that way, though, and his vision of an ideal set caused unnecessary angst.

“If you think one break is the decider for the set, even if it’s 1-all, and you’re at 30-all, you actually think that the next point could be the deciding point of the match. Because this one break could be the set. Him thinking like that was getting him really tired already early in the matches and early in the sets,” Knaap said.

Now, though, Haase views 30/30 for what it is – another point to fight for – and plays relaxed.

Knaap was excited when he started working with Haase. But he also wondered: How much would Haase, then 29, be willing to change to improve?

“That is the one thing that has been great with Robin: He is always looking for little things to improve, not only in his game, but also in the way that he treats his body, in the matters that we use,” Knaap said. “He’s had two really good years so far.”



Haase’s best Grand Slam showings came in 2011 when he reached the third round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. That was just a few years after he endured two surgeries on his right knee (July 2008, May 2009).

But Haase plays pain free now and has found an unusual way to recover from matches. Forget the ice bath – “Every time I ice something it gets worse” – Haase sits down, then takes a shower and after 40, 45 minutes, he can walk again.

Immediately after matches, however, his arthritis makes walking arduous. The Dutchman limps down stairs, stepping down one at a time, then one at a time.

The 31-year-old still has plenty he’d like to accomplish, including making the third round and further at a Grand Slam. But if that doesn’t come in Flushing Meadows, or even years from now, Haase said he can still take pride in what he’s achieved.

“I’m hoping that I have an even better career,” Haase said, “But if something would happen and I would have to stop right now, I can look back at wonderful matches, wonderful tournaments and a good career.”

Source link

Konta 'in a better mental and emotional space'

  • Posted: Aug 26, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Johanna Konta says she has learned from her experience of “burning out” as she tries to climb back up the rankings with a strong run at the US Open.

The British number one, 27, suffered a dip in form after her run to the Wimbledon semi-finals last year.

Konta has dropped to 46th in the world, leading to a tough draw against French sixth seed Caroline Garcia in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

“I’m in a better mental and emotional space,” she told BBC Sport.

  • US Open preview: Four Britons ready for opening day
  • ‘I’ll tough it out if I need to’ – Murray on playing at the US Open, Instagram and Slovenian bees

Konta was ranked seventh going into last year’s US Open and had an outside chance of becoming the world number one.

However, she suffered a surprise first-round defeat by unseeded Serb Aleksandra Krunic – the second of five straight losses at the end of 2017.

That came after a fantastic start to the year – during which she had won WTA titles in Sydney and Miami before reaching the last four at Wimbledon semi-finals – that enabled her to climb to a career-high ranking of fourth.

“That sticky period at the end of last year was a good opportunity for a lot of self-discovery,” she said.

“I feel I definitely understood myself more and what is important to me and what areas of my work and life I need to take care of.

“I’d also like to think it has made me wiser – and if I’m ever approaching that situation again of feeling burned out then I could recognise it sooner and be able to act in an appropriate way.”

Konta arrives in New York on the back of some impressive victories against former Grand Slam champions Serena Williams, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka.

However, she is still recovering from a virus that forced her to pull out of the Connecticut Open last week.

“I took each victory as another positive boost that I’m doing the right things and heading in the right direction,” she said.

“Sooner or later my opportunity will come to string more of those matches together. That’s what I’m looking for.

“I’m looking to be at the back end of every tournament I play – but you don’t cruise in any first or second-round matches.”

On her recent illness, she added: “I’m doing much better now. I’m still a bit bunged up, but that should clear up with time.

“I’m definitely at the back end of whatever nasty virus I had.”

Source link