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Read & Watch: 5 Things To Know About Rublev, Who Qualified For Milan

  • Posted: Oct 24, 2018

Read & Watch: 5 Things To Know About Rublev, Who Qualified For Milan

Russian was the top seed in 2017

It was a title match that got away from Andrey Rublev, but now the Russian has qualified to make a second run at the Next Gen ATP Finals crown.

The 21-year-old Moscow native has qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, joining Alexander Zverev of Germany, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, Aussie Alex de Minaur and Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz as players to have qualified for the 21-and-under event, to be held 6-10 November at the Fiera Milano. (Zverev will not play in Milan because of his Nitto ATP Finals qualification.)

Eight players will compete next month, with the final spot reserved for the winner of an all-Italian qualifying tournament to finish on 4 November. Rublev fell in last year’s Milan final to Hyeon Chung of South Korea. Here are five things to know about the fiery Russian:

1. He Played In A ‘One Direction’ Tribute Band
Rip forehands, record singles – Rublev does a bit of everything. Years ago, he and childhood friends Ivan Juravlev, Slava Naumkin and Vlad Naumkin formed the band “Summer Afternoon”. A few years ago, they released their first music video, a cover of One Direction’s “Steal My Girl”.

You May Also Like: Not Just One Direction For Rublev

But don’t expect Rublev to drop his racquet in favour of a guitar anytime soon. He said in September 2015: “For sure in the future I would like to release some music… But tennis comes first and we’ll see what happens later. The band will do more music, but I don’t know if I’m going to be part of it or not. Right now, tennis is the most important thing for me.”

Watch: “Summer Afternoon” Covers “Steal My Girl”

2. It’s His Second Time In Milan
Last year Rublev was one of the leaders of the #NextGenATP group. The Russian not only qualified for the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals; he was the tournament’s top seed and was dominating the final until Chung reversed momentum.

“I understand that I have to change, and I agree. I will try to do my best,” said Rublev, after losing despite leading by a set and 3-1. “I think even if you compare me in the beginning of the year, still I’m much better. Mentally I’m much better. I’m controlling better my emotions. But still, there is long way to go. If I want to compete with good players, it’s not enough.”

3. He Made History In Umag
Rublev was done. He had lost his final match in qualifying at the 2017 Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag and was thinking about his next tournament. But then Borna Coric withdrew, Rublev became a lucky loser, and the Russian enjoyed one of the best weeks of his career.

Read & Watch: Rublev Beats Lorenzi For Maiden Title In Umag

Rublev beat third seed and defending champion Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals and home favourite Ivan Dodig in the semi-finals before knocking out Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi in the title match. Rublev became the seventh lucky loser to win an ATP World Tour title and the first since Rajeev Ram at Newport in 2009.

Watch Highlights: Rublev Wins Maiden Title In Umag

4. He Gets His Fight From His Dad
Rublev is an emotional player on the court, shouting and pumping himself up throughout the match. He gets that tenacity from his father, who was a boxer in Moscow.

Watch: At Home With Rublev In Moscow

5. In New York, He Was The Youngest Since…
Last year,
during his second US Open, Rublev upset two Top 15 players – No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 14 David Goffin, who would later compete in the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals title match – en route to the quarter-finals, where he fell to No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Rublev became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001.

The main thing now is to try to keep working harder and harder, to improve, because I still have a lot of things to improve,” Rublev said after losing to Nadal. “This match told me how far I am and how much I need to improve, so now it is time to try to be better and become stronger.”

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The Rare Stat That Nadal, Isner Have In Common

  • Posted: Oct 24, 2018

The Rare Stat That Nadal, Isner Have In Common

Spaniard & American are only players to feature in both Top 10 lists for service points won on hard and clay

A hidden dynamic of clay court versus hard court tennis is perfectly illustrated with points won behind second serves. You would naturally think that serving on a hard court would be preferred for both first and second serves, but it’s simply not the case.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of points won behind first and second serves on both hard and clay courts last season surprisingly reveals a higher win percentage behind second serves on clay.

The data set includes the leading 20 players in the First and Second Serve Points Won categories on both clay and hard in the 2017 season.

2017 First Serves: Leading 20 Players Average Points Won

Surface Percentage
Hard court 78.0%
Clay court 75.1%

It’s clear to see that first-serve performance was superior on hard over clay, but that flips when we examine second serves.

2017 Second Serves: Leading 20 Players Average Points Won

Surface Percentage
Hard court 53.9%
Clay court 55.3%

An analysis of World No. 1, Rafael Nadal confirms the advantage clay has over hard when the point starts with a second serve. In 2017, Nadal led the ATP World Tour in winning second serve points on both hard and clay courts, with his performance on clay being superior to hard.

2017: Nadal Second Serve Points Won

Surface Percentage
No. 1 on hard court 60.3% (706/1171 in 49 matches)
No. 1 on clay court 64.1% (307/479 in 25 matches)

This dynamic was also true for one of the biggest servers on the ATP World Tour; John Isner. The 6’10” American won 56.1 per cent (510/909) of second-serve points on hard courts, but that rose to 58.3 per cent (187/321) on clay. Isner was the only other player besides Nadal that featured in the Top 10 in winning second-serve points on both clay and hard.

One reason to explain this dynamic is that raw power is sought after behind first serves, and the ball slows down less at impact on a hard court than a clay court. But power is not the main ingredient of second serves. The focus switches to what the ball does when it reacts with the court, with the granules of clay “grabbing” a ball better and producing a higher kick off clay than hard.

It turns out that a heavy kick second serve is rewarded more on clay than we ever thought.

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Stephens beats Bertens in WTA Finals to leave group wide open

  • Posted: Oct 24, 2018

Sloane Stephens beat Kiki Bertens at the WTA Finals, in a result that spared US Open champion Naomi Osaka early elimination.

The American, 25, won six of the last seven games to claim the match 7-6 (7-4) 2-6 6-3.

The victory means all four players in the Red Group can still qualify or be eliminated going into the final games.

Osaka has lost both her round-robin matches, but can progress if she wins and the other result goes her way.

In Friday’s final round of fixtures, Osaka plays Bertens while Stephens faces Angelique Kerber, who beat Osaka earlier on Wednesday and has one win from two.

Stephens and Bertens, 26, traded breaks throughout in a match which saw momentum change regularly.

Fifth seed Stephens won the first-set tie-break, before Bertens broke three times in the second set to win it in 36 minutes.

The third set continued the trend as the Dutchwoman won the first two games before Stephens took the match away from her. The 25-year-old now has two wins from two in the group stage, while Bertens has one.

  • WTA Finals: Everything you need to know

Earlier on Wednesday, Kerber beat Osaka 6-4 5-7 6-4 in a match that included 11 breaks of serve.

Germany’s Kerber, 30, won the first set and was a break up at 5-4 in the second, but the Japanese fought back to level the match. Kerber then won the final set to clinch the match, which lasted 2 hours and 31 minutes.

There is a similar situation in the White Group, in which Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova can all still qualify after two matches.

The WTA Finals feature the top eight players this year, split into two groups of four. The top two from each group progress to the semi-finals, with the final on Sunday.

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Vienna Open: Kyle Edmund beats Diego Schwartzman and is through to the second round

  • Posted: Oct 24, 2018

British number one Kyle Edmund is through to the second round of the Vienna Open after beating Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

The 23-year-old, now ranked 14th in the world, won his first ATP Tour title on Sunday at the European Open.

A late break of serve saw Edmund take the first set in 32 minutes.

But he faced a tougher challenge in the second, finally breaking the world number 17 in the tie-break to win in one hour and 23 minutes.

It was his 11th victory from his last 13 matches. He will face Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, ranked 30th in the world, in the next round.

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From Challengers To London? Nishikori Recounts Unexpected 2018

  • Posted: Oct 24, 2018

From Challengers To London? Nishikori Recounts Unexpected 2018

28-year-old is in 10th position in the ATP Race To London

Ten months ago, Kei Nishikori couldn’t have imagined he’d be where he is today. The Japanese right-hander started his year in late January in Newport Beach at an ATP Challenger Tour event. And he lost, to No. 238 Dennis Novikov of the U.S., 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

But now, Nishikori, who beat #NextGenATP American Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday to start his Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna, could end his season among the top eight players in the world at the Nitto ATP Finals.

“It wasn’t easy to imagine but now, the last couple of months especially, I’ve been playing really well and have a lot of confidence. I’m happy to be back at this level,” Nishikori told

The 28-year-old is currently in 10th position in the ATP Race To London, with just three spots remaining at the season-ending tournament, to be held 11-18 November at The O2 in London.

Nishikori has 3,000 Race points, 65 behind ninth-placed John Isner (3,065), who, at age 33, is trying to make his London debut. Isner also advanced on Tuesday in Vienna, saving two match points to beat Brit Cameron Norrie.

You May Also Like: Read & Watch: London Contenders Nishikori, Isner Advance In Vienna

For Nishikori, it has been a relatively quick climb back to the top of the ATP World Tour. He underwent surgery on his right wrist last August and missed the final three months of the season.

In the off-season, he tweaked his service motion so it relied less on his wrist. “I had to try to not use it too much… We discussed it with my coaches, and we changed some things. It’s a better movement, a better swing and I think it’s going well,” he said.

But after his opening loss in Newport Beach, Nishikori won five consecutive matches to take the title at The RBC Tennis Championships of Dallas, also an ATP Challenger Tour event. Two weeks later, he was back in the hunt for ATP World Tour titles, making the semi-finals at the New York Open (l. to eventual titlist Anderson).

By late April, Nishikori was competing for some of the biggest titles in the game. He fell to Rafael Nadal in the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters final.

Watch Highlights: Nishikori Beats Tiafoe In Vienna

Nishikori has played some of his best tennis in the biggest tournaments this year. He made the Rome quarter-finals, his first Wimbledon quarter-final and the semi-finals at the US Open.

“I think I was going slowly at first. I was really struggling to play, and I didn’t feel the rhythm… I didn’t have any confidence so it took a little while to come back to 100 per cent… Now I think I’m back,” Nishikori said.

This week is his first at the ATP World Tour 500-level event in Vienna. But so far, on and off the court, Nishikori has enjoyed his time in the Austrian city. On Monday, he, along with Kevin Anderson, Lucas Pouille and Philipp Kohlschreiber, visited the Vienna State Opera.

“It was beautiful, one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I’ve never seen an opera house before,” Nishikori said.

His mother is a piano teacher, but Nishikori confirmed, the family’s musical talents have not yet extended to singing, although a member of Nishikori’s coaching staff is apparently an excellent singer.

“We don’t sing too much. I think coach Michael [Chang] is very good at singing. I’ve heard before. He’s very good,” Nishikori joked. “I always wanted to come here to visit, and it’s fun to play different tournaments. I’ve heard Vienna is a great city. I’ve seen many great buildings and many beautiful things here in the city. I’ve been liking it.”

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