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Lights, Camera, Time For Action: Tsitsipas Turns Focus To 2020

  • Posted: Dec 10, 2019

Lights, Camera, Time For Action: Tsitsipas Turns Focus To 2020

Greek speaks exclusively to ATP Uncovered

Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas enjoyed his well-earned post-season vacation. The Greek visited Iceland – a long-time bucket list destination – Cyprus, where also he went last year, and Oman.

Tsitsipas decided on his final trip at the last minute because he was itching for “something exciting, something new, something fresh”.

It was one of the best couple of days that I spent this year, with a few of my friends. We had a lot of fun, and the experience overall was great,” Tsitsipas told ATP Uncovered in an exclusive interview in Dubai.

But the 21-year-old Tsitsipas, who finished the 2019 season at a career-best year-end ATP Ranking of No. 6, was eager to get back to work and start his 2020 pre-season training. Just as there was so much for him to explore in the off-season, there is so much for him to improve in the pre-season.

I was ready for it, I really wanted to start. I really feel like there are things to improve all the time. For me, the pre-season is an exciting part of the year where I get to add things to my game and get to fix a few things that haven’t been working, or maybe I can slightly improve them. It’s three weeks in which I can benefit a lot and learn even more,” he said.

Tsitsipas is coming off his best season yet, winning three ATP Tour titles from six finals, and he brings the best momentum possible into the 2020 pre-season, having won the biggest title of his career at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 in London.

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2019 Most Improved Nominees: Auger-Aliassime, Berrettini, Medvedev, Tsitsipas

Tsitsipas beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals and Dominic Thiem for the title. The 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals champion was strengthened by overwhelming support from his Greek fans at The O2.

That benefitted me a lot, gave me such a boost and brought my game to such high energy levels. You cannot ask for anything better. It was a great, great week with good fan support, a good team around me,” Tsitsipas said. “I left London with a trophy, which was just, I couldn’t really believe what just happened.”

All of his fans, not just the ones with white and blue flags, boosted Tsitsipas throughout the season, especially during his down moments. The Greek had opening losses at eight tournaments, including at ATP Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati and at the season’s final two Grand Slams, Wimbledon and the US Open.

But he finished the season strong, making his third Masters 1000 final in Shanghai and winning the title in London.

“I did have a lot of moments this year in which I didn’t feel very confident and I was doubting myself. The fans played an important role in bringing me back to life, my family as well, the other people around me. They knew that I was struggling, I wasn’t hiding this from them. I managed to take my time, think and process and come back stronger. I think we all have the ups and downs, and it’s normal to reflect on them and use them as a source of strength,” Tsitsipas said.

Watch: Tsitsipas’ Journey From Milan To London

The 21-year-old takes his relationship with his fans seriously, knowing how much support he has derived from them. He finds ways to connect with them directly. For instance, during the off-season, Tsitsipas has produced two travel vlogs for his YouTube channel.

“I love to interact with my fans. They bring so much to me. They motivate me, they inspire me to be, not just a better tennis player, but also a better human being,” he said.

“I think the relationship with my fans has to always be the best because they bring so much to the table. They help me so much with my career. For me, it’s key to maintain a good relationship with them and to connect with them in levels where they feel they know you as a friend.”

Tsitsipas will rely on his fans again in 2020 as he seeks more Sunday smiles during his fourth full season on the ATP Tour. Tsitsipas will be aiming for his first ATP Masters 1000 title and his first Grand Slam championship in the new year.

His season will begin with full-fledged Greek support Down Under. Tsitsipas will lead Greece at the inaugural ATP Cup, to be held 3-12 January in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth. Greece will compete in Brisbane against Germany, Canada and Australia in Group F.

It’s going to be a very strong start of the season. We’ll have many difficult things to face at the ATP Cup, so it won’t be easy for us. And we’re going to have to bring the best out and work as a unit and work as a team,” he said. “I know we’re playing individually, but what makes it exciting is playing as a team and sticking together and playing for one cause.”

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Best of 2019: First-Time Winners Part 1

  • Posted: Dec 10, 2019

Best of 2019: First-Time Winners Part 1

ATP Tour Season In Review: First-Time Winners

Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPTour.com pays tribute to the first-time winners of the 2019 season. In part one of our two-part series, we look at the year’s first eight first-time winners. This season, with 15 first-time champions, produced the most first-time winners since 1999, when 16 men claimed their first tour-level title.

Alex de Minaur – Sydney [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Alex de Minaur broke into the spotlight in Australia in 2018, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane and his first ATP Tour championship match in Sydney. This year, he lifted his maiden trophy in his home country, defeating veteran Andreas Seppi 7-5, 7-6(5) to triumph at the Sydney International.

“It’s surreal. I couldn’t think of a better place to get my first win,” said De Minaur. “It’s been tough, because I have played a couple of finals and things haven’t gone my way. To finally be able to take that step further and get my first win, it’s something that’s really special in front of friends and family and on the courts I grew up [on]. [These are] definitely memories that are going to last forever.”

The first first-time winner of the season also ended up being the youngest, emerging victorious at his home event when he was 19. De Minaur became the youngest Sydney champion since his mentor Lleyton Hewitt lifted the trophy in 2001. He was also the first Aussie to win the event since Bernard Tomic in 2013.

De Minaur won three ATP Tour titles in 2019, also triumphing in Atlanta and Zhuhai.

De Minaur

Tennys Sandgren – Auckland [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Tennys Sandgren departed the ASB Classic in 2018 with two tour-level wins for his career. This season, Sandgren left Auckland with his first ATP Tour trophy after defeating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-2.

“I’m a little bit at a loss for words, honestly. A lot of work, a lot of training and a lot of sacrifice goes into even making a final and to get a win, I’m kind of speechless,” Sandgren said on court. “Just grateful that I can be out here, play and compete.”

Norrie had beaten the American in three consecutive ATP Challenger Tour events in September and October of 2017. But Sandgren found some of the tennis that helped him to the 2018 Australian Open quarter-finals to dismiss Norrie in 79 minutes.

Sandgren

Juan Ignacio Londero – Cordoba [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Juan Ignacio Londero began the Cordoba Open without a tour-level victory. Not only did he reach the final without dropping a set, but he rallied from a set down to defeat Guido Pella in the championship match 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, completing a dream run.

“It is an incredible feeling, for sure, and I did not expect to win the tournament. I came hoping to win one, two matches, even though I felt I was on a very good level. I knew I was training well, winning practice sets,” Londero said. “It’s really something that I will never forget.

Londero was not a one-tournament wonder, either, winning 22 tour-level matches this season and finishing inside the Top 50 of the year-end ATP Rankings.

Londero is in disbelief after winning his first ATP Tour title

Reilly Opelka – New York [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Reilly Opelka began the New York Open as World No. 89. He came from a set down in three of his first four matches to reach his first tour-level final, and clinched his maiden ATP Tour title with a 6-1, 6-7(7), 7-6(7) win against Brayden Schnur, also a first-time finalist.

Then 21, Opelka saved six match points in the second-set tie-break of his semi-final against John Isner, with the Americans setting a new ATP Tour record for most combined aces in a three-set match with 81. Opelka struck 43 and Isner hit 38.

But Opelka didn’t stop there, overcoming a second-set hiccup in the final against Schnur to convert his sixth championship point.

“This Best of 2019: First-Time Winners Part 1 is definitely what I’m most proud of,” said Opelka. “I was tough mentally, especially losing a lot of first sets this week, and my first serve really helped me out. I was able to play clutch in those big moments.”

Opelka Wins 2019 <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/tournaments/new-york/424/overview'>New York Open</a>

Laslo Djere – Rio de Janeiro [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Laslo Djere began his run at the Rio Open presented by Claro with a straight-sets win against top seed and 2017 titlist Dominic Thiem, his first victory against an opponent inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings. And the Serbian finished his week with his first ATP Tour title, defeating fellow first-time finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 7-5 to lift the trophy.

It was an emotional triumph for Djere, whose mother had passed away seven years earlier, and his father died two months before the tournament. His victory speech on court after the match went viral, gaining support on social media from countless players, including Novak Djokovic.

“It’s been the week of my dreams. So many things have been achieved here. I’m really happy, excited and emotional now. I’m happy I could push through this match because it was very tough mentally and physically.”

Djere Wins Rio 2019

Radu Albot – Delray Beach [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Radu Albot overcame the rain, three championship points against him and a tricky opponent in the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com final to win his first ATP Tour title, defeating British qualifier Daniel Evans 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7). Albot was the first Moldovan to lift a tour-level trophy.

“It feels unbelievable. You work so much. You work your whole life, your whole career, and at the end you win a tournament,” Albot said. “This is just a great feeling. I think it’s difficult to put into words.”

Albot had made only two previous ATP Tour semi-finals, winning four games apiece. But the Moldovan used his Delray Beach success as a springboard to a breakthrough season, reaching a career-high World No. 39 and earning just short of $1 million in prize money.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/radu-albot/a829/overview'>Radu Albot</a> lifts his first ATP Tour trophy.

Guido Pella – Sao Paulo [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Guido Pella led by a set and a break in the Cordoba Open final, before Londero found his form and raced back for the first title of his career. But the Argentine lefty did not let the disappointment consume him, bouncing back at the Brasil Open with a 7-5, 6-3 win against Cristian Garin to lift his first ATP Tour trophy.

“Today was my day,” Pella said. “After five finals, it was time that I won the match. I didn’t know what to say, what to think. It was a very emotional moment for me. I’m not used to crying a lot and today was unbelievable.”

Pella had lost his first four finals, with all five of his championship matches coming on clay. Pella finished the season tied for third with Rafael Nadal with 21 clay-court wins.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/guido-pella/pc11/overview'>Guido Pella</a>

Cristian Garin – Houston [First-Time Winner Spotlight] 
Like Pella, Garin was undeterred after losing a final. The Chilean lifted his first trophy at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston, defeating Casper Ruud 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 for the title.

“It was a really intense match today. I think what I did well was to keep playing my game throughout the match,” said Garin. “Of course, now I want more, so I have to keep working hard and improving every day.”

Garin almost didn’t make it past the second round, saving five match points against Jeremy Chardy. He would later win his second ATP Tour title in Munich, also on clay.

Christian Garin holds the trophy in Houston.

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2019 Most Improved Nominees: Auger-Aliassime, Berrettini, Medvedev, Tsitsipas

  • Posted: Dec 10, 2019

2019 Most Improved Nominees: Auger-Aliassime, Berrettini, Medvedev, Tsitsipas

Nominees reached a significantly higher ATP Ranking by year’s end

The Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards goes to the player who reached a significantly higher ATP Ranking by year’s end and who demonstrated an increasingly improved level of performance through the season. This year’s nominees are Felix Auger-Aliassime, Matteo Berrettini, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced later this month.

Player 2018 Year-End 2019 Year-End Career-High (Date) 
Felix Auger-Aliassime No. 109 No. 21 (+88) No. 17 (October 14) 
Matteo Berrettini  No. 54  No. 8 (+46) No. 8 (November 4)
Daniil Medvedev No. 16 No. 5 (+11) No. 4 (September 9)
Stefanos Tsitsipas No. 15 No. 6 (+9) No. 5 (August 5)

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Felix Auger-Aliassime has been making headlines since he was 14, when he became the first player born in the 2000s to earn a position in the ATP Rankings. In 2017, at 17 years, 1 month and 5 days old, he became the fourth-youngest player to crack the Top 200 of the ATP Rankings. In 2019, the Canadian kept making strides – in fact, achieving a career-high ATP Ranking 13 times during the season. From No. 108 at the start of the year, the 18-year-old peaked at No. 17 in October and became the youngest player ranked in the Top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999.

Auger-Aliassime started his season by playing qualifying matches, but a breakthrough run in February at the Rio Open presented by Claro – where he became the youngest ATP 500 finalist in history (l. to Djere) – lifted him more than 40 spots into the Top 60. The following month, as a qualifier, he became the third-youngest ATP Masters 1000 semi-finalist at the Miami Open presented by Itau, a result that pushed up into the Top 50 at No. 33 in the ATP Rankings.

The Canadian reached another clay-court final in Lyon (l. to Paire) and again in his first grass-court tournament in Stuttgart (l. to Berrettini), making him the youngest three-time ATP Tour finalist since Rafael Nadal in 2004-05. By the US Open, Auger-Aliassime – who shares a birthday with Roger Federer – had earned his place in the Top 20. Though he qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, he had to cut his season short in mid-October due to injury, but he still finished the year at No. 21. 

“It’s been a solid year!” he posted on Instagram. “Truly blessed and thankful to be nominated among these other great players of our sport 🙏🏽 Much love to all of you fans for supporting me throughout the past 11 months♥️ #ATPAwards”

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/felix-auger-aliassime/ag37/overview'>Felix Auger-Aliassime</a>

Matteo Berrettini
Even Matteo Berrettini didn’t aspire to finish his season at the Nitto ATP Finals. “Being here wasn’t a goal at the beginning of the year. Also before the US Open, I didn’t expect that. I wasn’t thinking about that,” he said. “I knew that I was playing good in springtime, like [during the] clay season. It’s just crazy that it happened.”

In 2018, Berrettini’s first full year on the ATP Tour, he compiled a 19-19 record, reached a high of No. 52 and won the Gstaad title. In 2019, the 23-year-old Italian finished with 43 match wins, a career-high No. 8 ATP Ranking and two more titles.

Berrettini started making his move in April, when he reached back-to-back clay-court finals in Budapest (d. Krajinovic) and Munich (l. to Garin) to break into the Top 50. He continued his climb, rising into the Top 20 with a strong grass-court campaign that included the Stuttgart title, the Halle semi-finals and Wimbledon Round of 16 (l. to Federer).

While the Italian was limited to one tournament in the lead to the US Open, he made the most of his appearance in Flushing Meadows, where he reached his first Grand Slam semi-final. With players battling for a place in the top eight in the ATP Race To London, Berrettini advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. A semi-final run at the Erste Bank Open lifted him into the Top 10, and Berrettini went on to clinch the final qualification spot at the Nitto ATP Finals during the Rolex Paris Masters. “I’m really proud of myself… It’s been an unbelievable season,” he said.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/matteo-berrettini/bk40/overview'>Matteo Berrettini</a>

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev enjoyed a solid campaign in 2018, winning his first three tour-level titles – including the ATP 500 in Tokyo (d. Nishikori) – and reaching No. 16 in the ATP Rankings by year’s end. “It’s hard to explain because when I was No. 15, I was good already. Then I wanted to get into the Top 10, which is never easy. I just want to see how far I can go… I know that to be high up in the [ATP Rankings], you have to do a significant effort, but I’m trying to do my best,” he said.

Medvedev’s best helped him achieve an ATP Tour-leading 59 match wins, 46 hard-court wins and nine final appearances in 2019, in addition to a career-high No. 4 ATP Ranking. He opened the season with a runner-up finish at the Brisbane International, followed by the Sofia Open title, a semi-final run at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Tsitsipas, Djokovic) and a final appearance in Barcelona (l. to Thiem).

Medvedev broke into the Top 10 following Wimbledon, and proceeded to take things to another level. For a three-month stretch, from the end of July through mid-October, the 23-year-old Russian went on a 29-3 tear with six straight finals. After runner-up finishes at the Citi Open (d. Kyrgios) and the Coupe Rogers (l. to Nadal), Medvedev claimed back-to-back Masters 1000 titles at the Western & Southern Open and Rolex Shanghai Masters. In between those triumphs, he impressed at Flushing Meadows as he rallied from two sets down against Nadal in the US Open final before falling in four hours and 51 minutes. He also celebrated his home country title at the St. Petersburg Open.

“My goal is still the same: to be better every day with each training, each tournament [and] to win tournaments,” said Medvedev, who qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. “It’s been working well so far. It’s a source of real pleasure.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Only one player to date has won Most Improved Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons: Novak Djokovic in 2006-07. Stefanos Tsitsipas has a chance of becoming the second after going from Next Gen ATP Finals champion in 2018 to Nitto ATP Finals champion in 2019.

The 21-year-old Greek finished the season in the best possible way, and he also opened 2019 with a statement win. At the Australian Open, he knocked out World No. 3 Roger Federer – ATPTour.com’s top upset at a major this season – en route to becoming the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist since Djokovic in 2007. Tsitsipas followed with a pair of ATP 250 titles in Marseille and Estoril and was runner-up at three other tournaments. He ousted No. 2 Rafael Nadal to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Djokovic), and was a finalist at the ATP 500s in Dubai (l. to Federer) and Beijing (l. to Thiem). He additionally recorded his first win over a No. 1 player when he defeated Djokovic in the Rolex Shanghai Masters quarter-finals.

Tsitsipas, who reached a career-high of No. 5 in early August, put together a debut to remember in November at the season finale, where he recorded straight-sets wins over Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Federer before prevailing against Dominic Thiem 6-7(6), 6-2, 7-6(4) in the final.

“I feel like my game is getting better over time…I’m competing against one of the best players in the world, and the amount of effort and the amount of work I put every day deserves to have an outcome like this,” he said following his triumph. 

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