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Leading Poland, Hurkacz Trying To Motivate His Country's Youth

  • Posted: Dec 06, 2019

Leading Poland, Hurkacz Trying To Motivate His Country’s Youth

2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier is the Polish No. 1

One of the final six teams to qualify for the inaugural ATP Cup was Poland, led by Hubert Hurkacz. The 22-year-old was just inside the Top 400 in the ATP Rankings two years ago. But now, he is his country’s top-ranked player at World No. 37.

Hurkacz will lead the Polish charge against Argentina, Austria and Croatia in Group E play, to be held in Sydney. The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier speaks to ATPTour.com about the pro from Poland who he got to spend time with at a young age, what it means to represent his country, and more.

What are some of your early memories playing tennis in your country?
I remember being on the court hitting some balls. I was very young and I had a bigger racquet. I loved competing. Playing all those matches and tournaments was a lot of fun for me.

What was it like to have your mom as a role model, since she was a junior tennis champion in Poland?
Yeah, of course. I looked up to her. I knew that she was good, so [I thought] I could also be quite good.

Which Polish players did you look up to growing up?
When I was older there was a friend of mine, Michal Przysiezny, who was in the Top 100. When I was 14, 15, I used to do fitness with him, which was nice. I was asking him some questions. It was good for me to have someone close to me who was very high in the ATP Rankings and that also gave me motivation.

When you first met Michal, how exciting was that for you as you were a junior dreaming of being a professional tennis player?
I looked at it that he’s a really great player. I wanted to become as good or even better than him.

How excited are you to help Poland qualify for the first ATP Cup?
That is unbelievable for us to qualify and we can play in this event. That is really nice.

What’s the coolest part about the event?
I think it’s a great timing at the beginning of the year. It’s played in Australia, so before the Australian Open we are able to play for our countries and we compete against each other, so that’s a fun part.

What do you like about being on a team?
It’s very nice because all the people you are around give you support, so it’s a little different than most of the time when you’re alone with your coaches, with your teams, but you don’t have that extra support from players.

Poland has another singles player who was in the Top 100 this year in Kamil Majchrzak, a doubles star in Lukasz Kubot. Do you spend a lot of time with the other Polish players on the road?
When we have a chance, when we play the same events, we spend some time together. It’s always fun to speak some Polish and know there are some other players from my country.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/hubert-hurkacz/hb71/overview'>Hubert Hurkacz</a> is the 14th first-time champion on the ATP Tour this year.

Is there a shot from another Polish player you’d want to add to your game and why?
Kubot has a great return. He hits it full power, clean and he gets a lot of advantages when he plays it so well.

What do you love about Poland?
It’s a great country. I love being there and the atmosphere. I grew up there, it brings me memories and my mind is always relaxed being there.

When you’re on the road, what reminds you of home?
Tough to say. Travelling, I am thinking about the tournaments and matches and all the stuff around. Speaking to my friends really is what reminds me of Poland.

How important is it to you to inspire Polish children?
That would be amazing. I hope in the future I’ll do some bigger results and inspire a lot of children to play tennis because it’s a really fun sport and I really enjoy it.

Travelling and seeing all these places and being at the great events and winning trophies in the future, that’s something really special. It’s a great way to live your life, so you can do something good after your career as well.

How much do you want to be a role model for them?
It’s tough to think that way. Obviously if I do good things then I hope they take something from those good things.

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Top Five ATP Match Comebacks Of 2019

  • Posted: Dec 06, 2019

Top Five ATP Match Comebacks Of 2019

Nadal, Bautista Agut feature among top Houdini acts of the year

Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the top five comebacks in ATP matches in 2019.

5. Andreas Seppi d. Zhizhen Zhang, Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships, Second Round (Match Stats)
Fans in Zhuhai had quickly rallied around Zhang. The rising Chinese player won his first ATP Challenger Tour title that month in Jinan, then scored his first Top 100 victory in two years with an opening-round win over Dominik Koepfer.

Zhang led Seppi 6/2 in the third-set tie-break, but the Italian refused to give up. He produced the shot of the tournament at 6/4, ending a 28-shot rally with a one-handed backhand passing shot on the run. Seppi converted his second match point to complete an astonishing 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(8) victory in two hours and 44 minutes.

The 35-year-old lost in the quarter-finals to Roberto Bautista Agut, but went on to score his first Top 10 win of the year against Karen Khachanov for a semi-final finish at the VTB Kremlin Cup. Zhang picked up another tour-level win the following week at the China Open and concluded his season with an ATP Challenger Tour title in Shenzhen, finishing at a career-high No. 139 in the ATP Rankings.

4. Roberto Bautista Agut d. Novak Djokovic, Miami Open presented by Itau, Fourth Round (Match Stats)
Bautista Agut opened the season by rallying from a set and a break down to defeat Djokovic en route to taking the title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open (d. Berdych). But the World No. 1 still arrived for their match in Miami as the on-paper favourite and held a 7-2 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry. Djokovic also had plenty of success in Miami to draw on as a six-time champion.

Just like their Doha clash, Bautista Agut trailed by a set and a break as Djokovic raced to a 6-1, 1-0 lead. The Spaniard worked his way into the match, breaking back in the next game and winning eight of the last 11 points in the set to force a decider.

Bautista Agut continued his outstanding form in return games during the final set. He broke twice and won 11 of 21 points on Djokovic’s serve to score a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 upset after two hours and 29 minutes. 

“I played more aggressive. I tried to miss fewer balls, to be really concentrated on the beginning of the point with my serve, with my return. At the end, it worked well,” Bautista Agut said after the match.

Bautista Agut fell to defending champion John Isner in the quarter-finals, but used his momentum from Miami to produce his best season on Tour. He reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and finished the year with a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 9.

Watch Highlights: Bautista Agut Upsets Djokovic In Miami

3. Fabio Fognini d. Andrey Rublev, Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, First Round (Match Stats)
Fognini arrived in Monte-Carlo desperate for matches after producing a 4-8 record to begin the year. It appeared that the slump would continue after Rublev charged to a 6-4, 4-1 lead in their Day 1 clash.

Rublev racked up five break points for a 5-1 advantage, but Fognini erased them all as the Russian’s nerves took over. Fognini went on a three-game run at 4-5 to level the match, then scored the lone break of the decider at 1-1 to prevail 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and 30 minutes.

The comeback sparked the best week of Fognini’s career. He took out Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric and Rafael Nadal before defeating Dusan Lajovic for his first ATP Masters 1000 crown. Two months later, the 32-year-old made his debut inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings.

Despite the loss, Rublev went on to produce stellar results in the second half of the year. He prevailed on home soil in Moscow (d. Mannarino), upset Dominic Thiem en route to a runner-up finish at the Hamburg European Open (l. to Basilashvili) and shocked Roger Federer for his first Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Western & Southern Open. 

Read More: Fognini Reflects On Winning Monte-Carlo

2. Lorenzo Sonego d. Federico Delbonis, Generali Open Kitzbühel, First Round (Match Stats)
Sonego isn’t new to producing come from behind victories. He saved a championship point against Miomir Kecmanovic to win his maiden ATP Tour crown this June at the Turkish Airlines Open Antalya. But the 24-year-old Italian took the art of the comeback to new heights in Kitzbühel against Delbonis.

Sonego fought back from 0-4 to take the opening set in a tie-break, but he was just getting started. Delbonis held four match points with Sonego serving at 4-5 in the final set, but the Italian erased all of them. Another four match points came and went with Sonego serving at 5-6 and their epic clash fittingly went to a final-set tie-break.

Delbonis was unable to recover mentally after squandering eight match points. Sonego charged through the tie-break to prevail 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-6(4) after three hours and 36 minutes, more than double the length he needed to win their maiden FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting that February at the Brasil Open. The seventh seed won seven fewer points than Delbonis, but emerged victorious in large part due to saving all eight break points he faced in the deciding set. 

The Italian went on to reach the semi-finals and finished the year at No. 52 in the ATP Rankings, climbing more than 60 spots from the beginning of the season.

Read More: 5 Things To Know About Sonego

1. Rafael Nadal d. Daniil Medvedev, Nitto ATP Finals, Round Robin (Match Stats)

Nadal arrived in London with two objectives: clinching the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking and lifting his maiden title at the season-ending championships. After dropping his first match of the week to Alexander Zverev, the Spaniard’s clash with Medvedev was a must-win encounter if he wished to advance out of Group Andre Agassi.

The Russian raised his level in the final set and sprinted to a 4-0 lead. With Nadal serving at 1-5, 30/40, it appeared that Medvedev would pick up his first win at the season finale and 60th tour-level victory of the year. But, as Nadal has demonstrated countless times, he can’t be counted out.

Nadal bravely erased the match point with a delicate drop shot and eventually held serve. With the finish line in sight, Medvedev’s normally reliable shots betrayed him. From match point down, Nadal won 15 of the next 19 points to even the set at 5-5. 

Their battle eventually moved to a tie-break and Nadal struck in the final moments. With the Spaniard serving at 5/4, Medvedev coughed up a pair of baseline errors to give Nadal a 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4) win after two hours and 47 minutes.

”I’ve been super lucky,” Nadal said. “Sorry for Daniil. It’s a tough loss. He was playing much better than me in the third set. It’s one of these days, one out of 1,000, where you win.”

Although Nadal didn’t advance out of round-robin action, he concluded his season by finishing as year-end No. 1 for the fifth time.

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Caroline Wozniacki announces she will retire after Australian Open

  • Posted: Dec 06, 2019

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki has announced she will retire after the Australian Open in January.

The 29-year-old is currently ranked 37th in the world and last competed in the China Open in October.

Wozniacki, who enrolled at Harvard Business School in September, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2018.

However, the Dane says her retirement has “nothing to do with my health and this isn’t a goodbye”.

In a lengthy post on Instagram, the 2018 Australian Open champion says she plans to focus on her life away from tennis, including plans to start a family with her New York Knicks player husband David Lee.

Wozniacki’s career includes 30 WTA singles titles, reaching world number one in 2010, a WTA Finals victory and competing in three Olympics.

“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done. In recent months, I’ve realised that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court,” she wrote.

“I’ve played professionally since I was 15 years old and in that time I’ve experienced an amazing first chapter of my life… [and] I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court.”

“Getting married to David was one of those goals and starting a family with him while continuing to travel the world and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis are all passions of mine moving forward.”

Signing off her statement, Wozniacki said: “I want to thank with all my heart, the fans, my friends, my sponsors, my team, especially my father as my coach, my husband, and my family for decades of support… without all of you I could have never have done this.”

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Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Caroline Wozniacki’s greatest moment came at the Australian Open of 2018.

It had appeared up until then as if she would be remembered as one of the very best of her era, but as a player without the X-factor to win a Grand Slam title.

That changed on a thrilling but horribly oppressive night on Rod Laver Arena. And it was all the more remarkable considering her ranking had fallen outside the top 70 just 18 months previously.

Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints and can cause extreme fatigue. It appeared to hold Wozniacki back this season as her ranking slipped from three to 37.

So now seems a perfect time to bow out, and to start the family she has often spoken of.

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Djokovic's Influence On Serbian Tennis To Be On Display At ATP Cup

  • Posted: Dec 05, 2019

Djokovic’s Influence On Serbian Tennis To Be On Display At ATP Cup

World No. 2 has inspired countless to pursue their ATP Tour dreams

Novak Djokovic earned his first ATP Rankings points in July 2003. At the time, there were only two Serbians – Janko Tipsarevic (No. 147) and Boris Pashanski (No. 254) – in the Top 300 of the ATP Rankings.

But 17 years later, after Djokovic’s 77 tour-level titles, including 16 Grand Slams and 34 ATP Masters 1000s, it’s clear the effect Serbia’s top sportsman has had on his home country.

Serbia has five players inside the Top 60 of the ATP Rankings, behind only France (eight) and tied for second with Spain and the USA. Djokovic, at No. 2 in the ATP Rankings, leads the country and is the oldest among his compatriots in the Top 60.

The players who rose with Djokovic – Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki – have retired or fallen in the ATP Rankings. But Djokovic, at 32, remains in his prime and is leading the Next Generation of Serbian talent.

At next month’s ATP Cup, the Serbian team will be a blend of experience and youth as Djokovic will compete with Troicki (33 years old), Nikola Cacic (28), Nikola Milojevic (24) and Dusan Lajovic (29).

I think it’s great for Serbian tennis,” Djokovic said of Lajovic’s 2019 play, which included his maiden title at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. “I think it’s important that other players from Serbia are also doing really well in big tournaments. That inspires obviously many more younger tennis players to dream big.”

Serbians In The Top 60 Of 2018 Year-End ATP Rankings

Ranking

Player

Age

2

Novak Djokovic

32

34

Dusan Lajovic

29

38

Laslo Djere

24

40

Filip Krajinovic

27

59

Miomir Kecmanovic

20

Young Serbian players had plenty of inspiring moments to choose from in 2019. Djokovic won two Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, Wimbledon) and two Masters 1000 titles (Madrid, Paris). He finished just behind Rafael Nadal at No. 2 in the year-end ATP Rankings, his eighth Top 2 year-end finish.

Djokovic also played a contributing role in the other high moments. In February, Laslo Djere upset Dominic Thiem at the Rio Open presented by Claro and went onto win his maiden title at the ATP 500 event (d. Auger-Aliassime).

Djere said of Djokovic’s influence: “We know each other and always say a few words when we see each other at tournaments… He sent me a message when I reached the Top 100 [of the ATP Rankings] and called me to play doubles with him at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, when I was nowhere close to the Top 100. He’s a great guy and an inspiration to all of us.”

In March, #NextGenATP Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, then 19, became the first lucky loser to reach the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals in Indian Wells since the Masters 1000 series began in 1990. Kecmanovic was the last Serbian standing at an event Djokovic has dominated.

Kecmanovic finished his season at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, becoming the first Serbian to compete at the event, which debuted in 2017.

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Under Pressure, Milan-Bound Kecmanovic Already Plays Like Top 30 Player

For Kecmanovic, Djokovic has been the encouraging voice in his corner when things haven’t always gone as planned. “Obviously sometimes you don’t feel like doing anything. You feel like not practising or maybe quitting. And to hear him saying, ‘No, you have to keep going. Push through it,’ give some encouraging advice like that, I think that helped me a lot,” Kecmanovic said.

Lajovic, like Djere and Kecmanovic, compiled his best season yet on the ATP Tour. In addition to his title in Umag, the 29-year-old beat Thiem and Russian Daniil Medvedev to make his first Masters 1000 final at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Fognini). At Roland Garros, Lajovic reached his third Round of 32 at a major championship.

He hasn’t surprised me with the level of tennis on clay, because I knew that he has the ability to play at a really high level,” Djokovic said of Lajovic. “But to do it day after day at such a big tournament and to win against big players like Dominic Thiem is phenomenal, and I congratulate him for the great success.”

Filip Krajinovic struggled with expectations in 2018 after his surprise run to the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters final (l. to Sock). But the Serbian reached two more ATP Tour finals in 2019 – Budapest, Stockholm – and finished the season at No. 40 in the year-end ATP Rankings, only six off his 2017 year-end spot. He, like his peers, feels fortunate to have Djokovic representing Serbia.

He’s amazing, one of the best ever. So it’s a pleasure, and we are so proud to have him. And, of course, he gives us advice. He went through all [these situations] like we are now. So we are very pleased and happy that we have Novak,” Krajinovic said.

Milojevic, who will compete alongside Djokovic at the ATP Cup, said Djokovic’s influence extends to every Serbian with a racquet.

Milojevic, Djokovic

“Since he became No. 1 and has done all these amazing things, things got better for the players back home. In terms of improving conditions to practise in Serbia and having a lot more courts to play on, we owe it all to him,” Milojevic told ATPTour.com.

But none of them know the secret to why Serbia has risen to the top of the tennis world. Or perhaps there is no secret at all: Just follow Djokovic’s example.

It’s amazing that a small country like Serbia has so many good players,” Krajinovic said. “I don’t think there is any difference [between other countries]. We [are] just a small country, and we have a lot of very good sportsmen. And I think we do everything like other countries, I think. We [are] just strong and we work a lot. That’s it.”

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The Biggest Grand Slam Upsets Of 2019

  • Posted: Dec 05, 2019

The Biggest Grand Slam Upsets Of 2019

ATP Tour Season In Review: Biggest Grand Slam Match Upsets

Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPTour.com looks at the five biggest Grand Slam match upset in 2019.

5) Pierre-Hugues Herbert d. Daniil Medvedev, Roland Garros First Round, Paris, France, 27 May 2019 (Match Stats)
Daniil Medvedev had won eight of his first 10 matches on European clay this year, but two straight opening-round exits leading into Roland Garros meant the Russian, who later in the season would rip through the North American hard-court swing, was vulnerable for an upset. Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who’d turned his back on doubles in favour of singles competition after completing the career doubles Grand Slam with Nicolas Mahut at the Australian Open in January, was primed for the biggest win of his career on the second day in Paris.

Riding on the crest of a wave and buoyed by his French supporters, 28-year-old Herbert recovered from two-sets-to-love down and broke Medvedev in the penultimate game en route to his seventh tour-level victory against a player in the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings (7-24 lifetime). Falling to the ground in celebration, Herbert rightly savoured his 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 12 seed Medvedev in three hours and 54 minutes on Court 14.

“It was one of the best, for sure,” said Herbert. “Maybe, emotion-wise, maybe the best, yes. The atmosphere was incredible… The crowd was incredible, [a] very precious help. I used the crowd. They pushed me in difficult moments. When you’re two sets down, it’s very difficult. It’s in part thanks to the crowd that I was able to win today.” Herbert lost 6-2, 6-2, 5-7, 6-7(6), 11-9 in the second round to fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire. 

Tsitsipas, Fabbiano

4) Thomas Fabbiano d. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Wimbledon First Round, London, England, 1 July 2019 (Match Stats)
Stefanos Tsitsipas needed just over 90 minutes to beat Thomas Fabbiano in the 2018 Wimbledon third round, but what a difference a year makes. Fabbiano, who’d never won a set against a Top 20 opponent, sprung a stunning upset on day one at the All England Club, when the Italian showed no fear in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3 win over sixth seed Tsitsipas in three hours and 22 minutes.

Tsitsipas, who let slip two match points at 6/7 and 7/8 in the fourth-set tie-break, looked set to rally in the decider on No. 2 Court, but instead of getting down on himself, Fabbiano remained calm, saving three break points in his first service game of the fifth set. Then from 2-3 down, the World No. 89 won the final four games of the match, breaking Tsitsipas’ serve twice, to move to 4-0 in fifth-set matches.

Greek Tsitsipas was scathing of his own performance, admitting, “People expected things from me. I didn’t deliver. When you get so much support, so much energy, so much positivity from everyone, and just ruin everything by yourself, it’s devastating… Last year his forehand was not the same. He improved a lot on his forehand. It’s very uncomfortable. You basically have to guess where he’s going to play. Last year was kind of easy, the easiest victory I had in Wimbledon. I played unbelievable in that match. Somehow, I didn’t manage to get even close to that level that I played last year. I just saw a more improved, more solid player than he was last year.” 

3) Grigor Dimitrov d. Roger Federer, US Open Quarter-finals, New York City, United States, 4 September 2019 (Match Stats) 

Grigor Dimitrov arrived at the US Open mired in one of the deepest slumps of his career, losing seven of his eight matches leading into the season’s final major. But the World No. 78 started to find his groove at Flushing Meadows and broke a seven-match losing streak against Roger Federer by coming back from two sets to one down to shock the five-time former champion  3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for a place in the semi-finals.

“I think the past six, seven months have been pretty rough for me,” said Dimitrov, who’d won just two of 18 sets in previous matches against Federer. “But I had somebody to lean on, my friends, my family. I kept on believing again in the work, the rehab I had to put behind my shoulder, the exercise, the practice, fixing up the racquet a little bit. There were so many things I had to adjust in such a small but big period of time. Next thing you know, you’re almost [at the] end of the year, you have a result like that. It’s pretty special to me.” With victory in three hours and 45 minutes, Dimitrov became the lowest-ranked Grand Slam semi-finalist since Rainer Schuettler did so as World No. 94 at Wimbledon 11 years ago.

Federer started brightly to take a 3-0 lead, but Dimitrov made his key breakthrough when he broke for 4-2 in the second set. Federer broke twice in the third set to capture the momentum, but like in the second set, he was unable to get off to a quick start in the fourth, and that proved costly. After Dimitrov forced a decider, Federer left the court for a medical timeout as the Bulgarian did push-ups on his bench to stay warm. Dimitrov raced to a double break and 4-0 lead in the fifth set as Federer continued to make unforced errors, struggling to find a surge of energy. And finally, after holding to love, Dimitrov put his hands on his head and let out a massive roar after securing the win.

Pella

2) Guido Pella d. Milos Raonic, Wimbledon Fourth Round, London, England, 8 July 2019 (Match Stats)
On mown lawns, Milos Raonic’s senses always heighten and, this season, memories of a right knee injury that saw him miss the entire spring European clay-court swing, began to subside as he entered the Wimbledon fourth round with a 10-2 record on grass. The draw was opening up after Guido Pella beat the 2018 finalist and fourth seed Kevin Anderson in the third round, and fans pondered whether Raonic may make another deep run, as he did to the 2016 final. But Pella, who’d also upset former finalist Marin Cilic in the 2017 second round, had other ideas on No. 3 Court.

Through two sets, No. 15 seed Raonic didn’t face a break point and served for the match at 5-3 in the fourth set against Pella, who at the time was tied with Rafael Nadal with a tour-leading 21 clay-court match wins in 2019. But No. 26 seed Pella started to find his range with deep returns against the net-rushing Canadian and pulled away in the fourth set tie-break prior to Raonic erasing three match points while serving in the fifth set – 4-5, Ad Out; 5-6, 15/40. Pella eventually broke through for a 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3), 8-6 victory when the Canadian sliced a backhand volley into the net to end the three-hour and 42-minute encounter.

“When I lost the third match point I wanted to cry,” said Pella, who’d never before advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam championship. “He was serving so good in those points that I couldn’t do anything. But I think I kept playing, kept fighting for every ball.”

It was the first time that Raonic had lost a match after winning the first two sets. The Canadian, who hit 80 winners, including 33 aces, and won 74 of 110 points at the net, said, “I wasn’t efficient and wasn’t able to play the way I needed to. He started getting in more points and I had to find a way to create like I did early on in the match.” 

Tsitsipas

1) Stefanos Tsitsipas d. Roger Federer, Australian Open Fourth Round, Melbourne, Australia, 20 January 2019 (Match Stats)
Tsitsipas declared himself “the happiest man on earth right now” after executing a rock-solid defence in beating six-time champion Federer, winner of the past two Australian Open titles, 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5) over three hours and 45 minutes.

Serving at 6-7(11), 4-5, Tsitsipas saved four set points and won the final four points of the second-set tie-break to even the match. The Greek, who’d won the Next Gen ATP Finals crown just two months earlier, had to bide his time before netting his first break points in the third set after two hours and 54 minutes of play. Once Tsitsipas received a quick massage of the thighs, to relieve cramp, after five games of the fourth set, he found his groove and while Federer forced a tie-break at 5/5, Tsitsipas struck a forehand winner en route to the best day of his career (to date).

“I have massive regrets tonight… I felt like I had to win the second set,” said Federer, who failed to convert any of his 12 break point opportunities. “I don’t care how I do it, but I had to do it.”

Tsitsipas, who struck 20 aces en route to becoming the youngest Australian Open quarter-finalist since Nick Kyrgios in 2015, admitted, “It was a very emotional moment. It was a beginning of something really big. I felt joy. I felt happiness. I felt a huge relief going out of my shoulders. That moment is definitely something that I will never, ever, ever forget. This match point is going to stay, I’m pretty much sure, forever, for the rest of my life.”

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No. 1 Rafael Nadal Keeps Getting Better

  • Posted: Dec 05, 2019

No. 1 Rafael Nadal Keeps Getting Better

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers shows how the Spaniard’s serve keeps improving

He is No. 1, and the scary part is that he is still improving.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Rafael Nadal’s serving side of the equation this season uncovered that he averaged serving more aces per match in 2019 than any year of his illustrious career.

Nadal averaged serving 4.5 aces per match this season, which was well up from his 2018 average of 2.6, and significantly higher than his previous best of 3.8 back in 2010.

Nadal has served 3,449 aces in his career, with 271 (12.7%) coming this season. He served only 122 aces last season. A snapshot of where those aces were directed in 2019 can be seen from the 105 aces he served this year at ATP Masters 1000 events and the Nitto ATP Finals.

Deuce Court Aces (54)
Wide = 39 (72%)
T = 15 (28%)

Ad Court Aces (51)
Wide = 21 (41%)
T = 30 (59%)

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Nadal served almost the same amount of aces in the Deuce court and Ad court (54 to 51), with 74 per cent struck against right-handed opponents, and 26 per cent against left-handed opponents.

Aces To The Forehand (70)
vs. lefty = 14
vs. righty = 56

Aces To The Backhand (35)
vs. lefty = 13
vs. righty = 22

The biggest disparity in ace location came against right-handed opponents in the Deuce court, where he served 33 out wide to the forehand and just nine down the T to the backhand. Overall, Nadal served two out of three (66.7%) aces to his opponent’s forehand wing, going against the grain of his primary first-serve location, which is to the backhand return.

The other two members of the “Big Three” had solid serve metrics in 2019 as well, with Roger Federer averaging 7.6 aces per match and Novak Djokovic at 5.7.

Big Three: Career-Best Season Aces Per Match
Roger Federer = 9.3 (2017 & 2009)
Novak Djokovic = 6.5 (2004)
Rafael Nadal = 4.5 (2019)

Nadal finished in first place on the ATP Stats Return LEADERBOARD, powered by Infosys NIA Data, with a 170.8 rating. The beefed-up ace metrics helped him elevate to sixth place on the ATP Stats Serve LEADERBOARD, powered by Infosys NIA Data, with a 292.7 rating.

Nadal has only 1,560 ATP Rankings points to defend in 2020 until the clay-court season kicks off in April, representing just 15 per cent of his yearly total in the first quarter. Catch him if you can…

Big Three: Average Aces Per Match Per Season

Year

Novak

Rafa

Roger

2019

5.7

4.5

7.6

2018

5.2

2.6

8.9

2017

4.1

3.6

9.3

2016

3.8

2.2

8.8

2015

5.4

2.8

8.3

2014

6.2

3.1

8.0

2013

6.3

2.7

6.4

2012

5.9

3.3

8.3

2011

4.6

3.4

6.9

2010

4.2

3.8

8.4

2009

5.3

2.9

9.3

2008

6.2

3.1

8.7

2007

6.2

2.8

8.0

2006

5.5

3.5

6.9

2005

4.9

2.5

7.1

2004

6.5

1.3

7.6

2003

1.5

7.8

2002

0.5

6.6

2001

8.0

2000

7.1

1999

5.0

1998

4.8

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Bryan Brothers, Jack Nicklaus Help Raise $1.2 Million For Charity During 'Fore Love'

  • Posted: Dec 05, 2019

Bryan Brothers, Jack Nicklaus Help Raise $1.2 Million For Charity During ‘Fore Love’

Tennis and golf legends lend their time for charitable event

Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan and golf legend Jack Nicklaus hosted the third annual “Fore Love” event on Monday and Tuesday in North Palm Beach and Jupiter, Florida, raising $1.2 million for the Bryan Bros. Foundation and the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation.

The Bryans met Jack and Barbara Nicklaus nine years ago through a mutual friend and share a passion for philanthropy. The first Fore Love tournament took place in 2017 and the event has raised $3.4 million for children’s charities.

“Mike and I are are proud to have had another successful year with our Fore Love Tournament,” said Bob. “We owe so much to Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, the incredible lineup of golf and tennis pros,  and the generous support of our donors. We had a great couple days competing at the Bear’s Club and Jack’s pristine grass courts. We are beyond grateful for the friendship of the Nicklaus family and the NCHCF. The proceeds from these events have and will continue to positively impact the lives of many children.”

Bryans Fore Love 2019

The Fore Love tournament combined a golf pro-am on Monday and tennis pro-am on Tuesday. Current ATP Tour players who joined the Bryans for the tennis pro-am included Kevin Anderson, Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul and Stefan Kozlov. Former World No. 1 Jim Courier supported the cause alongside former Top 10 players Guillermo Canas, Gaston Gaudio and Juan Monaco. WTA players Caroline Wozniacki, Sofia Kenin, Monica Puig and Coco Gauff also participated in the event. 

“Anytime we’re able to give back as athletes, we’re lucky. There’s a culture in both golf and tennis where everyone helps each other for events like this. It’s a fabulous culture,” Courier said. “This is a busy time of the year for everyone, getting ready for the new year, but there’s nothing more important than giving back and doing good. We’re all doing that here… Why not say yes to that?”

Tennis Fore Love 2019Nicklaus, along with PGA players Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Donald Berger, took part in the golf pro-am.

“It doesn’t happen without people like you and without the athletes coming to give their time and be part of what we do,” Nicklaus said to those in attendance. “In golf, charity was there, but we never thought much about it while we were playing. All of a sudden, most tournaments became for charity… Tennis is following a very similar course.”

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The Bryan Bros. Foundation is dedicated to helping children across the country gain the skills and support they need to succeed in life. Through tennis, music, and the arts, the foundation promotes values such as hard work and perseverance to reach goals. 

The Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation was founded in 2004 to support pediatric facilities nationwide. In 2015, the Miami Children’s Health System was renamed the Nicklaus Children’s Health System to honour their continued commitment to pediatric health care.

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Challenger Season In Review: 20 Storylines In 2019

  • Posted: Dec 04, 2019

Challenger Season In Review: 20 Storylines In 2019

ATPChallengerTour.com reflects on the players and tournaments that shaped the Challenger circuit this year…

Sinner’s Statement Season
It was a breakthrough unlike any other. The incredible ascent of Jannik Sinner is arguably one of the biggest storylines on the ATP Challenger Tour in recent history.

From competing in Tunisia and Kazakhstan on the ITF circuit in January to lifting the trophy at the Next Gen ATP Finals in November, Sinner’s rapid rise was as awe-inspiring as it was shocking. In just the fourth Challenger appearance of his fledgling career, the Italian lifted the trophy on home soil in Bergamo in February. He was outside the Top 500 at the time and only 17 years of age.

Having chosen to forego a lengthy junior career in order to grit his teeth on the professional circuit, the decision paid dividends. It allowed Sinner to accelerate his maturation and development and that was evident throughout his 2019 campaign.

Sinner’s victory in Bergamo not only made him the youngest winner of the year, but the youngest Italian champion ever. Then, his second triumph on the hard courts of Lexington put him in elite company as one of just 11 players aged 17 & under to win multiple titles. That list includes the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro and recently Felix Auger-Aliassime. And Sinner was not done there. His campaign would come full circle with a season-ending triumph on home soil in Ortisei, becoming the second-youngest player to win three titles in a calendar year.

Amidst all the achievements and milestones, it was his rise up the ATP Rankings that stands out most. From a year-end position of No. 763 in 2018 to a Top 100 breakthrough to conclude his 2019 season, the Italian soared a total of 685 spots. To establish your game against world-class competition at such a young age, and have the level of sustained success that Sinner did, is purely remarkable. He would finish with a 28-7 record and was one of just four players with a win percentage of .800 or higher.

Tallahassee

Nordic NextGen Revolution
The Nordic renaissance is kicking into high gear on the pro circuit. Never before have the northernmost European nations of Norway, Sweden and Finland enjoyed simultaneous success like they are today.

In recent years it has been top Norwegian Casper Ruud leading the charge. And in 2019, Mikael Ymer and Emil Ruusuvuori carried the #NextGenATP mantle for the Nordic nations.

The soaring Swede and the flying Finn were two of the dominant forces on the ATP Challenger Tour this year, with both featuring atop the titles leaderboard alongside James Duckworth and Ricardas Berankis. Ymer’s four crowns guided him to a debut appearance at the Next Gen ATP Finals, while 20-year-old Ruusuvuori became the youngest to win as many titles in a season since Hyeon Chung in 2015.

Ymer, who cracked the Top 100 in late September, also finished in fifth among win-loss percentage leaders, posting a 39-10 (.796) record. His dominant finish to the season included back-to-back indoor titles in Orleans and Mouilleron-le-Captif and a first Top 40 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Ruusuvuori, meanwhile, will be one to watch in 2020 as he continues his Top 100 push. Up to a career-high No. 124 in the ATP Rankings, he rose nearly 300 spots since the start of the year, when he was competing full-time on the ITF circuit. In fact, it wasn’t until April that he played his first Challenger this season. And it didn’t take long for him to start a ruthless run of 36 wins, capped with a title on home soil in Helsinki.

The Duck’s Domination
No one enjoyed more success on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2019 than James Duckworth. One year after Jordan Thompson led the tour in victories and trophies, it was his countryman who achieved the feat to conclude the season.

In the penultimate week of the season, Duckworth capped his campaign with a 49th match win and fourth title, prevailing in Pune. After undergoing a litany of surgeries in recent years, including foot, shoulder and elbow operations, the Aussie is finally back inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time since 2017.

Not only did Duckworth lead the tour with those 49 wins and four pieces of silverware, his rise of 145 spots in the ATP Rankings made him one of the biggest movers to the Top 100. The 27-year-old put in the work, reaching finals and winning titles throughout the world, from Bangkok to Las Vegas and Pune and Playford. The victory in Pune assured him of direct entry into the 2020 Australian Open.

40+ Match Wins & 3+ Titles In 2019

Player Match Wins Titles
James Duckworth
49 4
Andrej Martin 47 3
Gianluca Mager 43 3

You Always Remember Your First
A total of 32 players entered the winners’ circle for the first time this year. They ranged from 17-year-old Sinner to his 27-year-old countryman Lorenzo Giustino and also included #NextGenATP prospects Ruusuvuori, Ymer, Thiago Seyboth Wild, J.J. Wolf, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Yosuke Watanuki. The 19-year-old Seyboth Wild became the youngest winner from Brazil since 2012, while Ruusuvuori was the first from Finland since 2013.

Dominik Koepfer benefitted greatly from his maiden title on the lawns of Ilkley, earning a Wimbledon wild card and then streaking to the Round of 16 at the US Open. Soonwoo Kwon and Kamil Majchrzak also cracked the Top 100 soon after clinching their first titles, with Kwon also reaching the quarter-finals at the ATP Tour stop in Los Cabos and Majchrzak storming to the third round at the US Open.

Emilio Gomez and Federico Coria won back-to-back titles on the clay of Tallahassee and Savannah in April. Gomez is the son of former World No. 4 Andres Gomez, while Coria is the brother of former World No. 3 Guillermo Coria.

In a unique twist, Lucas Pouille won his first Challenger title just months after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals. Seeking confidence and momentum, he returned to the circuit in Bordeaux and became the first player to win his maiden Challenger title after his first ATP Tour crown since Kei Nishikori and Sergiy Stakhovsky both did it in 2008.

The Italian Onslaught
The red, white and green flag flew proudly on many occasions in 2019, as Italy continued to rack up the titles. The European nation led the ATP Challenger Tour with 15 titles from 10 different players this year. Sinner and Gianluca Mager both lifted three trophies, with Stefano Travaglia capturing a pair of crowns. We all know of Sinner’s surge, but Mager and Travaglia also impressed with a combined 80 match wins.

The Arizona Tennis Classic in Phoenix provided two especially memorable moments for Italians. Salvatore Caruso earned the upset of the year with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over World No. 21 David Goffin, while Matteo Berrettini kicked off his journey to the Nitto ATP Finals with a title at the inaugural Challenger. Berrettini became just the fourth player to win a Challenger title en route to qualifying for the season finale since 1995.

Meanwhile, Lorenzo Sonego successfully defended his title on home soil in Genova, leading to a year-end position of No. 52 in the ATP Rankings. He is one of just five players to win on both the ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour this year, having also claimed his maiden tour-level crown in Antalya.

On The Comeback Trail: Tsonga, Pospsil & Chung
Working your way back from injury in Challengers can be a difficult process, even for the most established stars on the ATP Tour.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga admitted that “playing in Challenger tournaments helped me find the reasons why I was playing tennis again”. The charismatic Frenchman was forced to find his game after undergoing left knee surgery, entering the season outside the Top 250. A perennial Top 20 player for his entire career, he found himself in uncharted territory, competing in his first Challenger since 2007. He lifted the trophy on home soil in Cassis, en route to a 230-spot jump in the ATP Rankings to  year-end World No. 29.

Fellow former Top 30 stars Vasek Pospisil and Hyeon Chung are also on the comeback trail after lifting trophies in their returns from injury. Pospisil won 16 of 18 matches to close the season, including back-to-back titles in Las Vegas and Charlottesville. He is one year removed from undergoing back surgery to repair a herniated disc. And Chung was forced to the sidelines for six months early in the 2019 season, but returned with a vengeance. The Korean reeled off 13 of 14 matches including a title in Chengdu in his first tournament back.

Tsonga: Challengers Helped Me Find The Reasons I Was Playing Tennis

Challenger Grads Step Up On ATP Tour
After breaking through on the Challenger circuit in 2018, many players did not waste any time in making strides on the ATP Tour. Juan Ignacio Londero, Reilly Opelka, Christian Garin and Hubert Hurkacz all won their maiden titles after dominating on the ATP Challenger Tour a year ago. Felix Auger-Aliassime took the leap as well, peaking at No. 17 in the ATP Rankings. And fellow #NextGenATP stars Miomir Kecmanovic and Casper Ruud both reached their first finals in Antalya and Houston, respectively.

Who will be among this year’s graduates as the calendar flips to 2020?

Moving On Up: Challenger Stars Make Seamless Transition

Feel-Good Story Of The Year: Christopher O’Connell
Since 2014, O’Connell has been battling on the ITF circuit and ATP Challenger Tour to realize his dreams. Many years griding outside the Top 200 can take its toll on any player. Just last year, the Aussie took up a second job cleaning boats just to fund his career. But perseverance pays off and that is certainly applicable for O’Connell.

From not having an ATP Ranking to open the 2019 season to sitting at a career-high No. 120 to conclude his campaign, the Sydney native made the most of his opportunities this year. After reaching nine finals on the ITF circuit from March to July, he took the next step and lifted his first Challenger trophy on the clay of Cordenons. And he was not done there, advancing to three more finals and adding another trophy in Fairfield. There, he earned his first Top 100 win in three years, upsetting Steve Johnson in the championship match.

The Unstoppable Tommy Paul
Of all players with at least 30 matches played in 2019, no one had fewer losses than Paul. The American dominated from start to finish, carrying the momentum from his maiden title in Charlottesville to conclude the 2018 season. This year, he posted a staggering 30-5 record and finished in second place among win percentage leaders (.857), only behind Ricardas Berankis (.889).

Behind a mature approach and more determined attitude, the 22-year-old stepped up under pressure. A first clay-court title in Sarasota was followed by victories in New Haven and Tiburon. It was in New Haven that Paul cracked the Top 100 for the first time, eventually peaking at No. 81 in the ATP Rankings.

Giron Saves Six Championship Points In Houston
On the penultimate Sunday of the season, Marcos Giron turned in arguably the most improbable comeback of the year. The American rallied from 1/6 down in the deciding tie-break to stun Ivo Karlovic for the Houston title. He saved SIX match points in the process, including two on the Karlovic serve.

Giron concluded his campaign exactly how it started, having opened the 2019 season with a maiden title in Orlando. The 26-year-old is just shy of the Top 100, jumping to No. 102 in the ATP Rankings.

A Debut For The Ages: 15-Year-Old Carlos Alcaraz
The month of April was one for the kids on the ATP Challenger Tour. In back-to-back weeks, Carlos Alcaraz became the first player born in the year 2003 to win a match (in Alicante) and Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti became the first born in 2002 to win a match (in Sophia Antipolis).

In fact, at the ripe age of 15, Alcaraz became the fourth-youngest match winner since 2000. Only Felix Auger-Aliassime, Rafael Nadal and Nikolai Soloviev were younger when they won their maiden match. And the fact that Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner was the Spaniard’s first victim makes the occasion even more special.

Alcaraz would go on to reach the third round in Murcia the following week, securing his first Top 200 win, and added a quarter-final finish in Sevilla in September.

Varillas Puts Peru On The Map
Tennis in South America is on the rise. The continent is steadily making progress on the professional scene, with Nicolas Jarry and Cristian Garin bringing Chile back into the spotlight and Hugo Dellien putting Bolivia on the map. In October, it was Peru’s turn to enter the fray.

Juan Pablo Varillas secured his nation’s first Challenger crown in 11 years with his maiden title on the clay of Campinas. And one week later, he would notch a second title in Santo Domingo, soaring to No. 142 in the ATP Rankings.

Zhang Makes History For China
In 2016, Wu Di lifted China’s first ATP Challenger Tour trophy. One year later, Wu Yibing became its first teenage titlist. And last month, Zhang Zhizhen joined his countrymen in securing a slice of history, claiming the first ever all-Chinese final.

It was a second title for the Shanghai native nicknamed ‘ZZZ’, having also prevailed in Jinan earlier this year. He is up to a career-high No. 139 in the ATP Rankings – the highest ranking ever earned by a Chinese player.

Purcell & Saville Dominate Doubles Circuit
Playford, Launceston, Zhangjiagang, Anning, Seoul, Binghamton and Traralgon. Seven titles, three continents, one impressive team.

Max Purcell and Luke Saville dominated the doubles circuit in 2019, securing seven trophies and a whopping 41 match wins together. The Aussie pair also appeared in three ATP Tour events together, earning their first match victory on the circuit in Antalya.

20 Years On, Roger Reflects
Two significant 20-year anniversaries arrived in 2019. In April, we reflected on the first Challenger title of former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero – in Napoli 1999. And in October, it was Roger Federer’s turn, celebrating 20 years since his lone trophy lift in Brest, France.

Federer’s first professional title was a critical moment in his fledgling career. He dropped one set en route to the Brest crown, defeating Max Mirnyi 7-6(4), 6-3 in the championship.

Victor Bids Farewell
It was one of the more emotional scenes to transpire on a tennis court, as Victor Estrella Burgos said goodbye in Santo Domingo. They came in droves for the final act in the career of their legend. For five years, the Santo Domingo Open – the biggest ATP Challenger Tour event in Latin America – has been one big party at Club La Bocha. And for this edition, the home faithful packed the club to support their native son.

On Monday, they danced, sang and cheered in full throat, as the 2017 champion earned the final match victory of his career. And on Tuesday, they danced some more, screamed even louder and cried as Estrella bade farewell with a defeat to Thiago Monteiro. The tears flowed in the stands and on the court, as the 39-year-old sent a backhand into the net and promptly crouched to the green clay.

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Heilbronn, Puerto Vallarta, Vancouver Honoured
It was a party from start to finish, as three tournaments received their 2018 Tournament of the Year awards. The NECKARCUP in Heilbronn, Germany, the Puerto Vallarta Open in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the Odlum Brown VanOpen in Vancouver, Canada were all honoured in front of the home fans.

The trio of tournaments held special ceremonies as the ATP presented them with their respective trophies. They were fitting tributes for the three events voted highest by the players.

‘Murray Trophy’ Makes Debut
It was a special season for the Murray brothers on the ATP Challenger Tour. In late August, Andy Murray appeared in his first Challenger since 2005. In search of more matches and confidence in his comeback from hip surgery, the former World No. 1 competed in Mallorca, Spain.

One month later, the circuit welcomed the ‘Murray Trophy’ for the first time as Challenger tennis returned to Glasgow, Scotland. Jamie Murray was instrumental in making the dream a reality, not only competing in the doubles, but also taking a hands-on approach in the organisation of the event. His passion and commitment to growing the game and making the tournament a success was evident throughout the week.

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Chardy Leads New Era In Pau
Jeremy Chardy kicked off a new era in his hometown of Pau, France. While many former ATP stars have assumed the role of Challenger tournament director over the years, none are still competing on the pro circuit. That is, until Chardy undertook the task of starting a tournament in his hometown.

The Terega Open celebrated its inaugural edition in February, as the World No. 51 oversaw the development, management and organisation of the event. With years of knowledge and experience from competing on the professional circuit, Chardy was well-equipped to meet the needs of the players, while giving back to his hometown and the surrounding region.

Four Tournaments Celebrate 20th Anniversaries
The Challengers in Barletta, Italy; Tallahassee, USA; Fergana, Uzbekistan and Bratislava, Slovakia all celebrated 20 years on the circuit. The tournaments have demonstrated steadfast commitment to growing the game at the Challenger level since the 1990s.

Tallahassee

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Why Murray, Rublev, Tsonga & Wawrinka Are The 2019 Comeback Nominees

  • Posted: Dec 04, 2019

Why Murray, Rublev, Tsonga & Wawrinka Are The 2019 Comeback Nominees

Nominees re-established themselves on the ATP Tour following injury layoffs

The Comeback Player of the Year award in the 2019 ATP Awards goes to the player who has overcome injury in re-establishing himself as one of the top players on the ATP Tour. This year’s nominees are Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced later this month.

Player Career-High
Before Comeback 
Lowest Ranking
In 2019
Highest Ranking
In 2019 (difference)
Andy Murray No. 1  No. 503 No. 125 (+378)
Andrey Rublev  No. 31  No. 115  No. 22 (+93)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  No. 5  No. 239  No. 29 (+210)
Stan Wawrinka  No. 3  No. 68  No. 16 (+52)

Andy Murray
The former World No. 1 had missed the second half of the 2017 season and been limited to six tournaments in 2018 due to chronic hip problems. By the Australian Open, an emotional Andy Murray admitted he wasn’t sure whether he could continue on. 

“I’ve been in a lot of pain for probably about 20 months now… I told [my team] I can’t keep doing this. That I needed to have an end point because I was just playing with no idea of when the pain was going to stop,” said Murray. He hoped to make it through to Wimbledon, but said following a memorable fight-back against Roberto Bautista Agut in Melbourne, “If today was my last match, look, it was a brilliant way to finish.”

Two weeks later, Murray underwent hip resurfacing surgery. Five months following the procedure, which he called “brilliant, completely life-changing for me”, he was back in tour-level action and teamed up with Feliciano Lopez to clinch the doubles title at The Queen’s Club. He made another step forward in his comeback as he made his singles return in August at the Western & Southern Open (l. to Gasquet), and continued to gain confidence by winning matches at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Mallorca and at each of his three stops during the Asian swing, including a quarter-final run at the China Open (l. to Thiem).

To cap off his 2019 ATP Tour campaign, he triumphed over Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 at the European Open in Antwerp to win his first singles title since 2017 in Dubai. “It means a lot. The past few years have been extremely difficult… I think it was a great match,” Murray said on court after his victory. “I didn’t expect to be in this position at all, so I’m very happy.”

Andrey Rublev
The future seemed bright for Andrey Rublev in early 2018. He began the season by reaching the Doha final (l. to Monfils) and reached a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 31 by February. Two months later though, he was at home, spending three hours a day at a clinic doing magnetotherapy for a lower back stress fracture, eating lunch and sitting on the sofa.

When he returned to action, he reached the semi-finals at the Citi Open and later at the Next Gen ATP Finals, but he still felt lost. “I felt like I wasn’t there,” he said. “I was feeling like I was in the past when I was playing well before the injury. To recover this mental part of being here in this moment took me a couple of months.”

By January 2019, Rublev had dropped outside of the Top 100. He began making his way back up the ATP Rankings during the March Masters, when he reached the third round as a qualifier in both Indian Wells and Miami, but his best tennis came in the second half of the year. He upset World No. 4 Dominic Thiem en route to the ATP 500 final at the Hamburg European Open (l. to Basilashvili), and then earned the biggest win of his young career a month later at the Western & Southern Open, knocking out seven-time champion Roger Federer in straight sets to reach the Masters 1000 quarter-final.

Back inside the Top 50, Rublev continued his climb with quarter-final runs in Winston-Salem and St. Petersburg and a fourth-round showing at the US Open, where he opened with another win over a Top 10 player, Stefanos Tsitsipas. On his 22nd birthday, the Russian celebrated with his hometown title at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The next day, he rose to a career-high World No. 22. “I’m at a loss. I can’t find the right words for what it means to me to win here,” he said.

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Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Former World No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had fallen to No. 262 by November 2018, his lowest ATP Ranking in 12 years. He had managed to play in only two tournaments early in the 2018 season after struggling with various injuries and ultimately underwent left knee surgery in April. Upon his return in September, he managed to win just one of his six matches, but on a more promising note, five of those clashes went to a deciding set.

In 2019, Tsonga proved he was still a contender in the opening week of the season. He reached the semi-finals at the Brisbane International (l. to Medvedev), including wins over Australians Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex de Minaur. In February, he returned to the winners’ circle for the first time in 15 months as he defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert in an all-French final at the Open Sud de France. “It was an amazing moment for me to win here in Montpellier… I have made many efforts to come back [here], so for me it is a good reward and I hope I will be able to continue playing at this level,” he said.

Tsonga also benefitted from his return to the ATP Challenger Tour for the first time since 2007. “Playing in Challenger tournaments helped me find the reasons why I was playing tennis again,” said the Frenchman, whose quarter-final run in May at Bordeaux helped lift him back into the Top 100. “The conditions are always more difficult. There’s always a battle.”

In September, the 34-year-old won 13 straight matches, including titles at the Cassis Challenger and at the Moselle Open in Metz, before his streak came to an end in the semi-finals of the Orleans Challenger. He continued to shine on home soil, reaching the quarter-finals at the Rolex Paris Masters (l. to Nadal), securing his return to the Top 30 and another 30+ win season.

Stan Wawrinka
After undergoing two surgeries in August 2017 to treat a knee cartilage injury, Stan Wawrinka managed to climb from No. 263 to No. 66 in the ATP Rankings last season. But the former World No. 3 knew there was more to come, saying repeatedly that he believed he would eventually find his best tennis.

His patience and optimism were rewarded in 2019. The 34-year-old Swiss reached two ATP Tour finals, two Grand Slam quarter-finals and finished the season back inside the Top 20, at No. 16 in the ATP Rankings.

Wawrinka ended a 20-month final drought in February at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam (l. to Monfils), where he reached his first championship match since Roland Garros in 2017. “This is a big relief for me,” said Wawrinka. “It’s my first final since the surgery, so to show I can still play at this level against the top players is very important for me.” In October, he again played for an ATP Tour title, only to come up short against fellow Comeback Player of the Year nominee Murray in Antwerp.

He compiled a 4-6 record against Top 10 players in 2018, including a victory over then-No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to the US Open quarter-finals. At Roland Garros, he defeated No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the last eight. Wawrinka also celebrated a big milestone at the clay-court major, becoming just the ninth active player to record 500 match wins. “I’m not done yet,” he told ATPTour.com. “Let’s keep working hard and start the road to 600!”

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