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Hunting Wins? Find Your Forehand, Thiem Shows

  • Posted: Dec 31, 2020

Want to win more matches? Hit more forehands.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of 38,952 groundstrokes from all completed matches at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells identified match winners possessed a greater thirst to hit forehands from the back of the court over backhands.

Match Winners
Forehands –
57% (10,971)
Backhands – 43% (8,313)

Match Losers
Forehands – 54% (10,663)
Backhands – 46% (9,005)

Forehands –
56% (21,634)
Backhands – 44% (17,318)

The grouping of match winners totalled 57 per cent forehands from the back of the court, while match losers were at 54 per cent. The combined breakdown displayed a significant 12 percentage-point difference, with forehands totalling 56 per cent and backhands at 44 per cent.

You don’t need to look further than tournament champion Dominic Thiem to find a player who tried to upgrade to his forehands at every opportunity. Thiem defeated Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the final, with both players hunting as many forehands as possible to reach the last match on Sunday.

To reach the championship match, Thiem hit 61 per cent of his groundstrokes as forehands, while Federer was not far off at 59 per cent. Both players were above the match winners’ tournament average of 57 per cent forehands from the back of the court.

In the final, Thiem’s ability to find his forehand, and limit Federer’s, was a key factor.

2019 Indian Wells Final

Dominic Thiem
Forehands –
64% (164)
Backhands – 36% (92)

Roger Federer
Forehands – 
51% (131)
Backhands – 49% (124)

Thiem clearly won the battle to use his forehand more, hitting it 64 per cent of the time compared to 51 per cent for Federer. This dynamic was even more of a factor in the deciding third set in which Thiem hit 67 per cent forehands (70 forehands/35 backhands) to Federer’s 51 per cent forehands (54 forehands/52 backhands).

A big reason Thiem was always looking to upgrade to a forehand was the speed at which he hit it. Thiem’s average forehand speed for the match was a lacerating 77 mph, making it by far the biggest baseline weapon on the court. Federer’s average forehand speed of 69 mph actually ended up being exactly the same as Thiem’s average backhand speed. Federer’s average backhand speed was just 63 mph.

Thiem’s Round of 16 match against Ivo Karlovic at that event may have produced one of the most uneven totals between forehands and backhands ever in an ATP Tour match. Thiem defeated Karlovic 6-4, 6-3 in 58 minutes. Only two points from the 93-point total reached a rally length of double digits.

What’s astounding is that Thiem made Karlovic hit more backhands than forehands in the match, while hitting just eight backhands himself in two sets.

Dominic Thiem
Forehands –
91% (58)
Backhands – 9% (8)

Ivo Karlovic
Forehands – 43% (29)
Backhands – 57% (39)

Our sport features a plethora of points with both players dueling it out from the baseline. If you get a chance to turn a backhand into a forehand in your own match, the metrics from the best players in the world fully support it.

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Djokovic, Nadal To Pursue History In 2021

  • Posted: Dec 31, 2020

There are many intriguing storylines to watch for in the 2021 ATP Tour season.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal lead the way as the Top 2 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings and both men will be chasing history in 2021, as they look to add to their extraordinary resumés. The pair was given an early warning for next season at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals by Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev, who both earned victories against the Top 2 stars en route to the championship match.

World No. 3 Thiem and London champion Medvedev lead a growing list of challengers to the dominance of Djokovic and Nadal. That group includes former Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and 2020 Most Improved Player of the Year Andrey Rublev. Before the new season, looks at five of the top storylines to watch:

1) Novak’s Push For History
After becoming only the second man to hold the top spot in the FedEx ATP Rankings for 300 weeks on 21 December, Djokovic will have his sights set on one of the most prestigious records in tennis in the first quarter of the 2021 ATP Tour season. The Serbian is currently nine weeks behind Roger Federer’s record of 310 weeks at the top of the sport.

Djokovic, who leads longtime rival and World No. 2 Nadal by 2,180 points, will pass Federer’s mark if he can maintain his position at the top of the sport until 8 March 2021. It is not the only FedEx ATP Rankings record the Serbian is chasing next year.

In 2020, Djokovic tied his idol Pete Sampras’ record of six year-end World No. 1 finishes. The 33-year-old will be aiming to take sole ownership of that record by completing back-to-back year-end World No. 1 finishes for the third time (also 2011-12, ’14-15).

All-Time Weeks At No. 1 (as of 28 December 2020)

No. 1 Player
Total Weeks
Longest Streak
1) Roger Federer
237 weeks
2) Novak Djokovic
122 weeks
3) Pete Sampras
102 weeks
4) Ivan Lendl
157 weeks
5) Jimmy Connors
160 weeks

2) Does Rafa Have Another Surge In Him?
Rafael Nadal equalled Federer’s record haul of 20 Grand Slam trophies at Roland Garros in 2020 and finished the year with a record 12th Top 2 finish in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The question is, will the Spaniard be able to bounce back to the top spot in 2021? History suggests he is more than capable.

Nadal and Djokovic are the only two men to have immediately recovered the year-end World No. 1 position twice. Nadal finished 2008 and 2010 as World No. 1 and repeated the feat by finishing in the top spot in 2017 and 2019. The 34-year-old, who also finished as No. 1 in 2013, will be aiming to match Djokovic and Sampras’ tally of six year-end No. 1 finishes in 2021.

The 20-time major champion’s hopes of returning to the top position will rest on his ability to continue adding to his impressive Grand Slam and ATP Masters 1000 trophy collections. Nadal will attempt to move clear of Federer with a 21st major title next year and regain the top position in the Masters 1000 trophy leaderboard. Djokovic currently leads 35-time Masters 1000 champion Nadal by one trophy at the level.

3) Can Domi Take the Next Step?
After becoming the first player in six years to win his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2020 US Open, Thiem defeated his main rivals Djokovic and Nadal en route to his second consecutive runner-up finish at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. The Austrian is now within touching distance of a major milestone in 2021.

Thiem currently sits just 725 FedEx ATP Ranking points behind World No. 2 Nadal. The last player outside the Big Four of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray to occupy a Top 2 position was Lleyton Hewitt in July 2005. One of the keys for Thiem to achieve that goal will be his ability to maintain his recent success against his main rivals. Since the start of the 2019 ATP Tour season, Thiem has compiled a 9-3 record against Federer (3-0), Nadal (3-1) and Djokovic (3-2).

4) Can Medvedev Maintain His Momentum?
Daniil Medvedev ended 2020 as the in-form player on the ATP Tour. The Russian claimed back-to-back titles at the Rolex Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals to finish the year on a 10-match winning streak, which included seven Top 10 victories.

If Medvedev can translate his indoor form to outdoor success, he could join Thiem as a challenger to Djokovic and Nadal’s stranglehold on the Top 2 positions in the sport. The World No. 4 has started his season strong in the past. He opened his 2020 campaign with seven wins from nine matches in Australia.

5) Moving To Turin
After 12 editions at The O2 in London, the Nitto ATP Finals moves to Turin from 2021-2025. The biggest singles and doubles stars on the ATP Tour will all be aiming to finish the year by competing at Italy’s largest indoor sporting arena: the Pala Alpitour.

The season finale is moving to a nation where tennis is firmly on the rise. There are currently eight Italian men in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, highlighted by 2019 Nitto ATP Finals qualifier and Top 10 star Matteo Berrettini.

Italy also possesses the youngest player in the Top 100: 19-year-old Jannik Sinner. The World No. 37, who captured his maiden ATP Tour trophy at the Sofia Open in November, has already achieved success at a round-robin event on home soil. In 2019, the San Candido native charged to victory on his tournament debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

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Raonic, Isner & Three Former Titlists Feature At Delray Beach

  • Posted: Dec 31, 2020

Milos Raonic and John Isner headline the Delray Beach Open by field, which includes three former champions: Reilly Opelka (2020), Frances Tiafoe (2018) and Sam Querrey (2017).

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray withdrew from the ATP 250 hard-court tournament. “After much deliberation with my team I’ve decided not to travel to play in Delray Beach,” Murray said in a press release. “Given the increase in COVID rates and the transatlantic flights involved, I want to minimize the risks ahead of the Australian Open. I’m really thankful for the understanding of the tournament and I look forward to playing there soon.”

The Delray Beach Open by is typically played in February, but it is now in the first week of the 2021 ATP Tour season alongside the Antalya Open due to COVID-19. The main draw will be played from 7-13 January 2021.

The ATP Champions Tour legends event, featuring past-main draw champion Tommy Haas and six-time doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan, will be contested between 4-6 January 2021.

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A Year After Memorable Title Run, Opelka Ready For 'Incredible Field' In Delray Beach

  • Posted: Dec 30, 2020

Winning a three-setter to claim an ATP Tour title is an impressive accomplishment. Earning two three-set victories in a day to capture a crown is on another level, and that’s exactly what Reilly Opelka did at last year’s Delray Beach Open by to win his second ATP Tour trophy.

The American will compete in Delray Beach again starting on 7 January as he attempts to retain a tour-level title for the first time. He carries plenty of good memories into the first week of the season at the ATP 250.

“It was great [last year]. It’s a home tournament. I’ve been going to the event [since I was] a little kid, since I think [I was] 11, 12 years old. It was cool to win an event that I used to go watch,” Opelka said. “I beat some really good players, and especially the last day was a really unique scenario that doesn’t happen too often.”

Opelka started Championship Sunday last year by saving a match point in the semi-finals against former World No. 3 Milos Raonic, one of the biggest servers on the ATP Tour. Then the American battled past speedy lefty Yoshihito Nishioka for the title.

“I was tested a lot physically and I beat some really good players. It was just a bizarre scenario,” Opelka said. “[It is] definitely one that I won’t forget, since I obviously won the title, but also just because [I won] two matches in one day and the conditions of it were pretty crazy.”

The 23-year-old is certainly comfortable in Delray Beach. In fact, he resides in the city. At 16, Opelka watched countryman Steve Johnson upset top-seeded Tommy Haas. The next year, he recalls seeing American lefty Donald Young advance to the final. In 2018, Opelka made his tournament debut.

The home favourite believes the 2021 Delray Beach Open by field is an impressive one. It includes Raonic, former World No. 1 Andy Murray, American No. 1 John Isner and more.

“The field’s incredible. They have a lot of really great players,” Opelka said. “You’ve got probably one of the most high-level entry fields that they’ve seen. Isner, [Sam] Querrey, Frances [Tiafoe] has won it. There [are three] past champions, so a lot of guys that like playing there.”

Standing 6’11”, one of Opelka’s biggest priorities is taking care of his body. The right-hander came out of this year’s COVID-19 tournament suspension firing at the Western & Southern Open, defeating Diego Schwartzman and Matteo Berrettini to make his first Masters 1000 quarter-final. But a right knee injury hindered him the rest of the year. 

That’s why since his final tournament of the year in Antwerp, Opelka has focussed on improving physically.

“I really think my body will be great there [in Delray Beach] because I’ve put in a lot of work and I’ve emphasised my body a lot this off-season,” Opelka said. “I want to really prioritise going into the year 100 per cent healthy.”

As far as his knee goes, the American is confident in the work he has put into getting healthy.

“My knee is doing great. We had to take a lot of time off and spend a lot of time working on it, but it was stubborn and I really needed the three months that I had off, which was nice,” Opelka said. “I’m pretty confident in it moving forward. I really hope it holds up. That is the million-dollar question for me, ‘How [is it] going to hold up?’ I’m confident that it will, but you never know.”

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Star Teams Old & New Headline Australian Open Doubles Field

  • Posted: Dec 30, 2020

A slew of veteran teams and a group of new high-profile duos highlight the doubles field for the 2021 Australian Open.

Many of the pairs are familiar, with the likes of 2019 year-end No. 1 team Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah, defending champions Rajeev Ram/Joe Salisbury and 2019 titlists Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut among the top seeds.

But there have been shake-ups among the world’s best teams that will see new duos trying to make their mark in Melbourne next February.

Croatian Mate Pavic, part of the year-end No. 1 team in 2020 with Bruno Soares, will partner countryman Nikola Mektic, who won the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals trophy alongside Wesley Koolhof. Looking for a new partner, Soares found one in a familiar face: Jamie Murray. The duo finished atop the FedEx ATP Doubles Team Rankings in 2016 and won the Australian Open title that year.

Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo amicably split after a successful partnership that lasted more than four years. Kubot will partner Koolhof. Melo will play the Australian Open with Romanian Horia Tecau. But in the longterm, the Brazilian will compete alongside Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer, Tecau’s former longtime partner.

Other new teams to keep an eye on in Australia include Henri Kontinen/Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Raven Klaasen/Ben McLachlan. Kontinen is a two-time Nitto ATP Finals champion (w/John Peers) and Roger-Vasselin made the final at the season finale this year with Jurgen Melzer, who is retiring.

There are plenty of singles stars competing in the Australian Open doubles draw, too. Leading the way is World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman, who will play with fellow Argentine Federico Coria. Canadian Denis Shapovalov will compete at the season’s first major with countryman Vasek Pospisil, who was named Comeback Player of the Year in the 2020 ATP Awards.

The top-ranked Aussie singles player, Alex de Minaur, will play with countryman Matt Reid, and Rolex Paris Masters champions Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz will try to translate their French success to Melbourne Park.

Other pairs to watch for include two-time Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies, 2020 Nitto ATP Finals competitors Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos and 2019 Western & Southern Open winners Ivan Dodig/Filip Polasek.

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ATP Concludes Querrey Investigation

  • Posted: Dec 30, 2020

The ATP has concluded its investigation regarding Sam Querrey, initiated following a breach of COVID-19 protocol at the 2020 St. Petersburg Open.

The investigation reviewed the full circumstances surrounding the incident and concluded Mr. Querrey’s conduct to be contrary to the integrity of the game under the Player Major Offense provision in the ATP Code of Conduct. As a result, the ATP has issued a fine of US$20,000.

Taking into consideration Mr. Querrey’s many years of otherwise good standing with the ATP and other mitigating factors, the fine is suspended and will be lifted subject to Mr. Querrey committing no further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a probationary six-month period. The player has five days to appeal the decision, should he choose to do so.

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Rublev: 'We're Going To Try To Improve & Do Better Next Year'

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2020

Russian Andrey Rublev was voted the Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2020 ATP Awards by his fellow players following an impressive season in which he cracked the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time.

“Thank you so much for all the votes,” Rublev said. “This trophy goes to you for all your support and we’re going to try to improve and do better next year.”

The 23-year-old rose from No. 23 to a career-high No. 8 this year thanks to a scorching-hot campaign in which he led the ATP Tour with five titles. Entering the season, the Russian owned two tour-level trophies.

Rublev exploded onto the courts at the start of the year by winning back-to-back titles at the Adelaide International and the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, becoming the first player since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004 to begin the year with titles in the first two weeks of the season. He continued to impress in the second half of the season by reaching quarter-finals at the US Open and Roland Garros. The two-time Next Gen ATP Finals competitor claimed three ATP 500 trophies with victories at the Hamburg European Open, St. Petersburg Open and Erste Bank Open (Vienna).

The big-hitting righty capped off his best season to date with his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals. He finished with a 41-10 win-loss record on the year, equalling Novak Djokovic (41-5) with the most match wins on Tour in 2020. Ugo Humbert, Diego Schwartzman and Jannik Sinner were also nominated in this category. Rublev’s coach, Fernando Vicente, was named Coach of the Year in the 2020 ATP Awards.

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“Andrey Has Made Me A Better Coach”: Vicente Named 2020 Coach Of The Year

  • Posted: Dec 29, 2020

Former Spanish player Fernando Vicente has been voted Coach of the Year in the 2020 ATP Awards after guiding 23-year-old Andrey Rublev to a career-best breakthrough season.

The Spaniard has been working with Rublev for four years, with a front-row view to the Russian’s highs and lows: from ‘the toughest moment’ following the player’s 2018 spinal stress fracture, to his comeback and meteoric rise in 2020. Their hard work was rewarded as Rublev tore through the competition this year, winning a Tour-leading five titles and lifting his FedEx ATP Ranking to a career-high No. 8.

And for Vicente, it felt like a double victory as Rublev was also recognised with the 2020 Most Improved Player of the Year award by his ATP peers.

“These awards, both mine and Andrey’s, are just a consequence of the years of hard work and countless hours dedicated to a sport that gives us so many emotions – for better or for worse,” Vicente said, speaking exclusively to “We’ve gone through some difficult times during these last almost five years together.

“Having the recognition from his peers is something that makes him feel so happy and appreciated. They also see Andrey day to day, how hard he works and tries each day to become a better player.”

The first Spanish coach to win Coach of the Year since the award’s inception in 2016, Vicente retired from professional tennis in 2011 after a career that took him as high as World No. 29. He also won three ATP Tour singles titles and two doubles crowns. His partnership with Rublev began in 2016 when the Russian arrived at the 4Slamtennis Academy, which Vicente co-founded with fellow players Galo Blanco and Jairo Velasco, near Barcelona.

“I would say Andrey has made me a better coach,” Vicente reflected. “I’ve learned and continue to learn a lot with him. I think that on my end, he understands what I’m trying to impart on him and there’s a very good personal connection, too. If not, it would be impossible to stay together so long.”

One of the qualities that Vicente highlights in his player is Rublev’s strong motivation and desire to continually improve as a player – something the Spaniard says makes his job “a pleasure”. It was this same quality that drove Rublev to new heights in 2020, despite the tough circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Tour’s resulting five-month stoppage.

The result was five titles from five finals for Rublev – including his first three at the ATP 500-level – a breakthrough into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, and a debut at the Nitto ATP Finals. In addition to being the 23-year-old’s best season to date, it was also Vicente’s most successful year as a coach.

“At the end of the day, I’m the person who accompanies him and works in the best way possible to make sure that the dream he has and loves so much comes true in some way!” he said. “For me, it’s a pleasure to work with a player who is motivated all the time and works with such passion, always with the desire to keep improving.”

For Vicente, beyond the titles and accolades that Rublev achieved, the proudest moment of the season came away from the courts in the buildup to the Tour’s season-finale. Rublev was one of the last players to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in a battle that came down to the wire, and the Spaniard applauded the way his player handled himself through those pressure-filled moments.

“What I’ve been most pleased to see was Andrey’s steady mentality during the weeks where our objective was to reach the Nitto ATP Finals. Those were weeks with so much tension, and he managed to compete at a very high level.

“Of course, I’m pleased with almost everything. It was his best year in terms of [FedEx ATP] Ranking, he won the five finals he played and in general his entire game improved a lot. I would give him an ‘outstanding’ on the season.”

With a rollercoaster 2020 season in the books and a new award to adorn his trophy cabinet, Vicente made it clear that he refuses to rest on their laurels in the season to come. That same desire for continuous improvement that makes Rublev such a force on the Tour was evident as Vicente outlined his vision for 2021: to keep rising to new heights.

“We’ve been through very tough moments and now we’ve had a great year. The key is to keep working with passion and the work will bear fruit. So we have to keep going and not be satisfied, there is a lot to improve if we want to stay at this level!”

Fernando Vicente was selected as ATP Coach of the Year by fellow coaches from a shortlist that included Gilles Cervara (Daniil Medvedev), Juan Ignacio Chela (Diego Schwartzman), Nicolas Massu (Dominic Thiem), and Riccardo Piatti (Jannik Sinner).

“I don’t want to forget to give thanks to all the coaches and players who have voted for us. I know that there are many players and coaches who work equally hard or harder than us, but well, in this case Andrey had a year to remember! I wish them all the best in the upcoming season.

“I also don’t want to forget to give thanks to my wife and son for understanding what it means to be a professional tennis coach. It happens to all coaches, having to leave your wife and kids behind at home – they are the real champions! And to close, I want to thank and acknowledge all of the coaches that have been with Andrey from the start: Marina Marenko, Andrey’s mom, as well as the 4Slamtennis Academy: Galo Blanco, Abraham González, Marcos Pizzorno, Phillip Wessely and Marc Boada.” – Fernando Vicente

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