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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 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=''>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, 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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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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