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Wawrinka To Evert: 'Federer Is The Best Player Ever'

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Wawrinka To Evert: ‘Federer Is The Best Player Ever’

ATP and WTA legends chat on Instagram Live

For Stan Wawrinka, the debate on who the greatest player of all time is doesn’t need much of a discussion.

The Swiss dropped in for a lengthy conversation on Wednesday with Chris Evert via Instagram Live. Evert grilled Wawrinka on what it’s like to face the Big Three and he candidly admitted that his greatest difficulties have come in facing 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

“He’s the best player ever so far. He’s been winning everything, beating everybody. He’s better than the other players and better than me,” Wawrinka said. “His game is a completely different style. He puts you under pressure all the time, he’s so aggressive, changes [pace] a lot. For my style of play, that’s tougher than someone who keeps [hitting] the same ball.”

Wawrinka also had plenty of praise for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He said that Nadal’s serve is one of the more underrated shots in the game and the heavy spin on it is further amplified on a clay court. The Swiss is 1-8 against Nadal on clay in their ATP Head2Head series, with all of those defeats coming in straight sets.

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

“I have difficulties to return the ball well because of the spin he hits and the lefty serve. He doesn’t have the best serve, but he makes it difficult for me and always puts me directly under pressure,” Wawrinka said. “On clay, it’s impossible. Forget it.”

Evert took time to highlight Wawrinka’s three victories over Djokovic in Grand Slams from 2014-2016 during their discussion. But while the former World No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings acknowledged that the Serbian is his preferred opponent among the Big Three, he still felt there was a gap between them and cited his record (6-19) in their ATP Head2Head rivalry as proof.

“Novak is the one in the Big Three that I like to play the most, even if I’ve lost to him many times. I play the best against him and have been lucky to peak against him in Grand Slams,” Wawrinka said. “I feel like I can keep my power with him for three, four or five hours. Those three times I beat him, I kept playing my game.

“[But] even after beating Rafa or Novak, they’re still way better than me. They’re still in a different category than me. I beat them one time here or there, but I know it’s a different league.”

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Although the modest Wawrinka downplayed himself against the Big Three, Evert called out his achievements that include 16 tour-level titles and 13 consecutive seasons inside the Top 20. The Swiss said he has no regrets about his career and would have been satisfied even without a trio of Grand Slam titles to his name.

“We’ve been in a difficult generation to win more because of the Big Three and Murray… I needed more time to be at my best. Some people might wonder why I didn’t win Grand Slams before [age 28], but It’s not about why. I’ve done it. For me, that’s the positive,” Wawrinka said. “I could have never done it, been Top 20 for the rest of my career and been super happy about it because I think it’s amazing to be in the Top 20.”

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Nadal Provides Update On Academy, Foundation During Instagram Live Session

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Nadal Provides Update On Academy, Foundation During Instagram Live Session

Spaniard also discusses his Red Cross campaign alongside Pau Gasol

During an Instagram Live session on Monday night, Rafael Nadal took a moment to pay tribute to the members of staff and children taking refuge at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 33-year-old, who opened the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar in 2016, has been in regular contact with staff and children who took refuge at the Manacor-based facility in March. Due to travel restrictions, many of the children at the academy were unable to return home to their families.

“I am super proud of the work that my team is doing inside the academy. There are 70 workers and 85 kids inside the academy since the beginning of the quarantine,” said Nadal on Instagram Live.

“They are doing a great job. They are following the rules. I have been in touch with them. I have been in touch with the coaches, I have been in touch with the kids and I [used] this period of time to try to be in touch with the parents too.”

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Nadal’s academy management has maintained direct contact with the Superior Sports Council and the Balearic Islands’ Regional Ministry of Health since the closure of the facility in March.

“During these times, I think parents need to make sure that their children are safe and in the best hands possible. We can’t stop working and [we are] working to make sure this is happening. It has been a great conversation with the parents. I think [it has been] very productive and [I have] just been letting them know that we are following the rules of the authorities… to make sure the kids are healthy and in the best hands possible.”

Through the Rafa Nadal Foundation, founded in 2008, Nadal has also been providing families with food, hygienic products and school materials.

“Even through these hard times, my foundation is not stopping the work,” said Nadal. “We are trying to keep helping the families. For example, in Palma, we are helping the families in terms of basic products… we are sending them food, hygienic products and just trying to be in touch and making sure we are able to cover the things that they need.

“We are sending, to the kids, school materials because they don’t have the opportunity to keep working online from their homes. We are making sure they have the things that they need. [It is] something that I think is important during this very tough period of time.”

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Nadal also took a moment to reflect on the success of #NuestraMejorVictoria (Our Best Victory), a campaign he is running alongside six-time NBA All-Star Pau Gasol in support of the #CruzRojaResponde (Red Cross Responds) project. In a recent charity auction, one of Nadal’s 2019 Roland Garros final match shirts raised €20,500 for the initiative.

“I am in touch with the people of the Red Cross. We started an initiative with Pau Gasol and it has been an important success,” said Nadal. “[I am] happy that we are raising a lot of important money for the cause…

”I can’t thank enough my colleagues for their support and not only the world of sport, everyone has been very positive about the project and supporting. I am super happy for that and we really hope to keep encouraging the people to keep supporting all the initiatives, to help and to try to overcome this very tough situation.”

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Stranded 3000 Miles From Home, Bob Bryan Reveals Family Survival Guide

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Stranded 3000 Miles From Home, Bob Bryan Reveals Family Survival Guide

Planes, trains, automobiles? Few good options to move a young family from California to Florida

During the coronavirus lockdown, a little road trip sounds appealing. But driving coast to coast from Southern California to Miami with your wife and three kids under eight? That’s a 3,000 mile journey that would give any family pause.

There could come a time, however, when Bob Bryan may not have a choice. Bob, wife Michelle and children Micaela (8), Bobby Jr. (6) and Richie (4) have been stranded in Bob’s childhood hometown of Camarillo since heading west in early March for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

“I’ve pushed our flight home back four times now; fortunately, there are no change fees,” Bob tells “It’s a little bit too risky to fly right now, especially with the kids who don’t know anything about the germs. I can imagine Richie going through security touching everything and then licking his hands.

“We have talked about getting an RV and driving it home. That would be quite the adventure.”

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Having rented a comfortable AirBnB surrounded by plenty of green space close to twin brother Mike and his parents, Bob and family are about as comfortable as they can be while under home confinement.

Michelle also had the foresight to bring 10 pieces of luggage, including a keyboard and guitar. So there’s no rush to get back to their condo in Sunny Isles, just north of Miami, especially when Mike and his wife Nadia are expecting their first child any day now.

“If we go home it’s going to be the same. We are going to be quarantined,” says Bob, who turns 42 next Wednesday. “During this time you want to see your family, but it’s not possible. My parents are just down the road but they are both in their 70s so we are staying away from them.

“They have come by a couple of times and we just talk to them from 15 to 20 feet away. The kids run to hug them but we hold them back. Mike is right here too but we have not had any contact with him. Nadia is pregnant so we don’t want to mess around. It’s just a very unusual time. We may never see another time like this in our lifetime.”

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Bob, who grew up in a TV-free household, said that he and Michelle have eased screen-time restrictions for their kids during the lockdown.

“We definitely limit time on the iPad and watching TV, but we are giving them a little bit of a break during these weeks. And for us it can be tough having three kids on you all the time, so we are letting them watch Disney, Disney+ for a couple of hours when we need a break.

“Michelle is kind of the piston of the operation. She drives the learning and a lot of the plans and she always comes up with great ideas for the day. We had always planned to homeschool the kids this year so Michelle has all of the workbooks and arts and crafts.”

A typical day begins with bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast, followed by a couple of hours of homeschooling, time in the backyard pool and then playing in the yard and looking for ladybugs. There are Legos and puzzles to play with and deserted dirt roads for bike rides. The family builds a fire at night and Michelle entertains the kids with ghost stories.

“It’s kind of like a staycation,” Bob says. “We’re enjoying the time with the family and staying positive. It’s kind of a blessing for us because our life has always been ‘go, go, go’ and this time we get to slow it down a little bit. It’s a cute stage for us with the kids with the age they are at.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with Bob and Mike’s planned farewell season on the ATP Tour. The first tournaments cancelled, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open presented by Itau, were two of the brothers’ favourites.

“It definitely hurt to miss the Indian Wells/Miami stretch. We have played well there and it’s where my friends and family can come watch us play. Being from Southern Cal, Indian Wells was always our hometown tournament.”

Additionally, Bob’s father, Wayne, was bringing 300 kids to Indian Wells from across the country for a series of clinics, a talent show and of course to watch the Bryans in action. “That was going to be a huge experience for our Foundation,” Bob says. “And our band was going to play on the Thursday night and that is always one of our best gigs. It’s our Super Bowl of gigs.

“We also loved Houston and am sorry to miss that as it’s always such a great, relaxed atmosphere at River Oaks and we look forward to getting on stage there as well. Obviously, we also have great memories of slams, so we hate to see those slip, but it’s important right now that everyone stays in their own space and we beat this thing.”

The Bryans’ initial plan was to sign off after the US Open. Although the US hard court season is still scheduled to proceed, nothing in this world is certain at the moment. If the Bryans don’t get to play tournaments over the summer, then Bob says they may re-assess their schedule.

“Our retirement plan is not going as planned for sure,” he says. “We had a lot of hopes and dreams to say goodbye to our favorite tournaments for the last time and really get our fill before we shut it down. We don’t know what the schedule holds for the summer. If we could play a full summer and finish at the Open like we talked about, that might be enough.

“We haven’t made a decision if we are going to play in 2021, but Mike and I will sure to be talking about that in the months to come.”

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Last month the Bryan Brothers Foundation made a $150,000 donation to the Inspiring Children Foundation in Las Vegas as part of Jewel’s ‘Live From San Quarantine’ concert.

“It has been a cause we’ve been supporting for a long time. A lot of the kids wear the Team Bryan shirts,” Bob says. “Ryan Wolfington and Trent Alenik do a great job of taking kids from challenging situations, mentoring them and turning them into leaders. Ninety-five per cent of them go on to get a college scholarship, and to many of the top colleges like Stanford, Harvard, Yale. We’ve never seen a programme like it and we’re passionate about supporting it.

“Jewel came on to support and we felt it was our obligation to make sure they were able to continue their mission.”

A winner of 119 team titles and more than 1100 matches with Mike, Bob is hoping that COVID-19 won’t be the reason they are denied a shot at a 120th title and the opportunity to say goodbye to American fans this summer.

“Our bodies feel good but we’re not getting any younger. I know it will get more challenging as we play past 42. But with this downtime, the inflammation should go out of the body and we should be able to get strong and hopefully play some of these tournaments again.”

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Emirates Increases Safety Measures To Protect Fliers

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Emirates Increases Safety Measures To Protect Fliers

ATP Tour’s Premier Partner provides safety update during COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATP Tour’s Premier Partner, Emirates, is stepping up precautionary measures at airports and on board to ensure the health and safety of its employees and customers. 

All cabin crew, boarding agents and ground staff in direct contact with passengers will now wear personal protective equipment (PPE) which includes a protective disposable gown over their uniforms, and a safety visor, in addition to masks and gloves.

At Dubai International Airport, physical distancing indicators have been placed on the ground and at waiting areas.

On board Emirates’ flights, seats are pre-allocated with vacant seats placed between individual passengers or family groups in observance of physical distancing protocols. The ATP Tour’s Premier Partner has also modified its inflight services. Food and beverages continue to be offered in the form of bento-styled boxes to reduce contact between the crew and customers during meal service. The personal boxes provide customers with sandwiches, beverages, snacks and desserts.

Similarly, to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 by touch, magazines and other print reading material are temporarily unavailable. Cabin baggage is currently not accepted on flights. Carry-on items allowed in the cabin are limited to laptops, handbags, briefcases and baby items. All other items have to be checked in and Emirates will add the cabin baggage allowance to customers’ check-in baggage allowance. Customers have to wear masks and gloves throughout their journey from check-in until they disembark.

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Safety Measures At Dubai International Airport
1) Gloves and masks are mandatory for all customers and employees.
2) Thermal scanners monitor the temperatures of all passengers and employees.
3) Physical distancing indicators have been placed on the ground and at waiting areas.
4) Protective barriers have been installed at each check-in desk to provide additional safety reassurance.

After each journey, all Emirates aircraft will go through enhanced cleaning and disinfection processes in Dubai.

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Tsitsipas, Shapovalov Complete Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro Field

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Tsitsipas, Shapovalov Complete Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro Field

Learn more about Madrid’s innovative virtual event

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov are the final two participants in the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, the innovative tournament in which the best tennis players in the world will square off from their homes from 27 to 30 April in a Manolo Santana Stadium that has been recreated in exquisite detail in the Tennis World Tour video game (Nacon Gaming).

Tsitsipas and Shapovalov join Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Dominic Thiem Alexander Zverev, Gael Monfils, David Goffin, Kei Nishikori, Fabio Fognini, Diego Schwartzman, Karen Khachanov, John Isner, Lucas Pouille, David Ferrer and Frances Tiafoe to complete the entry list for the tournament. The event will be streamed on Facebook Gaming.

Tsitsipas, a finalist at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open (l. to Djokovic), currently occupies the No. 6 spot in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The Greek player, who captured his second straight Open 13 Provence title in Marseille this year, has become one of the biggest stars on the ATP Tour at just 21 years of age. At the end of last season, Tsitsipas won the Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 in London to claim the biggest title of his career.

“Happy to prove my parents wrong back in the day when they used to tell me playing video games would bring me nowhere in my life,” said Tsitsipas. “It’s great being part of the first virtual online tennis tournament with actual professional tennis players.”

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Shapovalov is also looking forward to testing his skills at the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro. The Canadian, ranked No. 16 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, reached the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals on his tournament debut in 2018.

“I like this original idea very much and I am excited to be part of it”, said Shapovalov. “I will start practising and get back into competition mode to be performing well. Watch me perform.”

The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro can be followed in English on the Mutua Madrid Open’s page and in Spanish on PlayStation España’s Facebook page

Streaming will start on Friday at 4pm CEST with the draws for the competition. The ATP and WTA draws will be followed by the charity tournament draw, which will see content creators come together with tennis stars.

Eight content creators will participate, in parallel with the official competition, in a charity tournament that will see clashes between the biggest-name professional gamers in the industry; DjMaRiiO, Cristinini, Alexby, Seb Delanney, Gravesen, Borja Iglesias, Ibai Llanos and Grefg.

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In addition, the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will be sponsored by Orange. For the past two years, thanks to Orange, the tournament has run the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual, with six qualifying heats (where Tennis World Tour was played in various Orange stores around Spain) and a final stage in the Caja Magica, during the week of the Mutua Madrid Open.

For the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, Orange was quick to join the initiative and lend its support to the first virtual tennis event to be played by professional tennis players. Once again, with the sponsorship of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro, Orange has demonstrated its commitment to e-sports and also its interest in tennis, which it shares with the Orange Group (a regular supplier at Roland Garros). Its commitment to the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will bolster the growth of electronic sports in Spain, where they are currently booming.

Like the other players in this pioneering online charity competition, Tsitsipas and Shapovalov will both have the chance to help the tennis players most in need at this time, those that have no income to help them through these months of inactivity and those affected by COVID-19.

The tournament will include a purse of €150,000 in both draws (ATP and WTA), from which the winners will be able to decide on how much they donate to the tennis players currently suffering economically, and €50,000 that will all go towards reducing the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stream over 7,000 full match replays from the ATP Tour

The format for the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will be as follows: 16 singles players in each of the two draws (ATP and WTA) initially divided into four groups. The groups will decide which players qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament. In addition, in parallel with the official competition, there will be a series of benefit matches that will see some of the biggest content creators in the gaming world take on the professional tennis players to raise funds to help those affected by COVID-19.

In the WTA draw, Donna Vekic and Caroline Wozniacki will feature alongside Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina, Bianca Andreescu, Belinda Bencic, Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys, Kristina Mladenovic, Carla Suarez Navarro, Victoria Azarenka, Johanna Konta, Fiona Ferro, Eugenie Bouchard and Sorana Cirstea.

The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro will officially kick off on Monday 27 April with broadcasts beginning at 3pm CEST each day. The broadcast, which will be similar to the television production for the conventional Mutua Madrid Open, will include a presentation for each match, with commentary, interviews with the players after each match and the presence of special guests, such as ex-tennis players and well-known journalists. A summary programme with the highlights of the day will round off each day of competition.

An added bonus for spectators will be the option of watching the tennis stars play from their home thanks to two windows on the screen. This means that everything that happens in the Tennis World Tour video game will be enhanced by the reactions of the biggest ATP and WTA stars.

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Flashback: How Lucky Loser Cecchinato Became Budapest Champion

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Flashback: How Lucky Loser Cecchinato Became Budapest Champion

Relive the Italian’s dream run in Hungary

Italian Marco Cecchinato lost in the final round of qualifying in straight sets at the 2018 Hungarian Open. Yet seven days later, then World No. 92, he left Hungary as a first-time ATP Tour champion.

After gaining entry to the main draw in Budapest as a lucky loser, Cecchinato never looked back. And even though he had never reached a tour-level semi-final prior to that event, the Italian defeated Aussie John Millman, another first-time finalist, 7-5, 6-4 to claim his maiden trophy.

”It is amazing because the first title in my career is not possible to forget in my life,” Cecchinato said. “I am very happy because I lost last Sunday [in qualifying] and now I won the tournament. It is incredible. It is amazing. I don’t know, maybe it is a dream.”

Cecchinato rallied from a set down in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals against powerful German Jan-Lennard Struff and savvy Italian veteran Andreas Seppi, respectively. But despite winning only six games in the final round of qualifying against Jurgen Zopp, Cecchinato dug deep to earn what was the biggest result of his career.

”Every match was tough. Today I was tired, because [I played] five matches in the main draw, plus two in qualifying,” Cecchinato said after the championship match. “But the final is the final, it is one match and after [you get to] rest.”

Cecchinato accomplished his biggest goal in 2015, when he cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. But he never imagined what he would accomplish in Budapest.

”My dream was to be in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings,” Cecchinato said. “Never [did] I think I would win an ATP Tour title.”

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Later that clay-court season, Cecchinato made an even bigger splash. He defeated then-World No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta, 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up David Goffin and current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to the Roland Garros semi-finals.

Cecchinato had lost in the first round of his first four Grand Slam main draws. But in Paris, the Italian carried the momentum he had earned earlier during the clay season, especially from his run in Budapest.

“I think I started two months ago, not [just] the past two weeks, because I also won Budapest,” Cecchinato said after losing in the semi-finals against Dominic Thiem. “Every week I’ve played very, very well… and I want to continue like this.” 

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Ilie Nastase, The First No. 1

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Ilie Nastase, The First No. 1 looks back on the career of the first No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. View Full List

First week at No. 1: 23 August 1973
Total weeks at No. 1: 40
Year-End No. 1: 1973

As World No. 1
Temperamental and talented Ilie Nastase was the first No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, when the ATP established the new world ranking system on 23 August 1973. Nicknamed ‘Nasty’, the right-hander once said, “The player who wants to conquer the summit cannot afford to be kind… He must want to kill”. The Romanian spent 40 straight weeks in top spot until 3 June 1974, when he was replaced by John Newcombe of Australia, and was a member of the Top 10 until February 1978.

Grand Slam highlights
Nastase reached five major singles finals, winning the 1972 US Open title over Arthur Ashe in five sets and over Nikki Pilic at 1973 Roland Garros, when he became the first man to lift the trophy in Paris without losing a set. Two years earlier, he lost to Jan Kodes in the 1971 final.

His narrow 7-5 fifth-set loss to the fellow Army lieutenant Stan Smith in the 1972 Wimbledon final showcased the best of Nastase. Three-time former champion Fred Perry had told the Romanian before the start of The Championships, “If you can beat yourself, you can win Wimbledon.” Nastase also lost to Bjorn Borg in the 1976 final, at the start of the Swede’s five straight Wimbledon triumphs. He made his Grand Slam championship debut at Roland Garros in 1968 and his final appearance at the 1985 US Open.

Nitto ATP Finals highlights
His record was spectacular, winning on four occasions in 1971-73 and 1975, and he was runner-up to Guillermo Vilas in five sets in 1974. He compiled a 22-3 match record (.888). Only Roger Federer (six), Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and Novak Djokovic (five) have won more titles in the 50-year history of the season-ending championship (1970-2019).

Arguably, the most controversial moment came when the elite event was held in Stockholm in 1975, when Nastase’s clowning around during a round-robin match proved to be too much for Arthur Ashe. It led to the first double disqualification. Ashe led 1-6, 7-5, 4-1 and 40/15, when he walked off court because of Nastase’s antics. Walking onto court, referee Horst Klosterkemper said, “I had made up my mind to disqualify him (Nastase). But I had no chance because Arthur Ashe left the court.” Needing to win two matches to qualify for the semi-finals, Nastase regrouped and went on to beat Borg in the final. He never qualified for the season-ending championships again.

Tour highlights
Nastase, an all-court player, considered one of the fasted players on the 1970s circuit, announced himself on the world tennis scene in 1966 when he partnered fellow Romanian Ion Tiriac to the Roland Garros doubles final. But it wasn’t until 1970 that he came to the fore as a singles competitor, winning his first of two Internazionali BNL d’Italia trophies. In 1973, the year he won 16 singles tournaments and was the undisputed World No. 1, with a 118-17 record (59-3 on clay), he lost just three games to Manual Orantes in the Rome final. Nastase reached four straight Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finals between 1971 and 1974, winning on four occasions. With Tiriac, they won the 1970 Roland Garros doubles title and contested the 1969, 1971 and 1972 Davis Cup finals. He also won the 1973 Wimbledon and 1975 US Open doubles title with Jimmy Connors, who would become the third player to rise to No. 1 in the history of the FedEx ATP Rankings on 29 July 1974. In 1976, Nastase became the first European to exceed $1 million in career prize money.

Overall ATP Match Win-Loss Record: 866-321
Overall ATP Titles/Finals Record: 62-39

Biggest Rivalries
At his peak, few got the better of a focused Nastase, but his matches against Stan Smith (11-10), Tom Okker (10-11) and Guillermo Vilas (7-5) stand out for their intensity. He also had winning records against Jimmy Connors (16-12), Jan Kodes (16-8), Manuel Orantes (16-7) and Adriano Panatta (15-6).

Ashe once described Nastase as a “walking paradox”, an incredibly gifted and devoted athlete “who somehow can lose from 5-2 and 40/0; it is impossible to fathom him.” It was because of Nastase’s behaviour at the 1975 season-ending championships that Ashe and the sport’s governing bodies voted to implement Open tennis’ first formal code of conduct. His first wife, Dominique Grazia, explained, “I married two men. There is the man I see at home, and that other man I see on the court. I live the two parts — the good and the bad. It is the special thing about Ilie… you either love him or hate him. You see there is no middle with Ilie.”

Certainly, there have been few tennis players as quick around the court, as entertaining, though so mystifying. Bud Collins, the late journalist and broadcaster, once said, “When his concentration held together, he was an artist creating with great originality and panache.” Tiriac commented, “He is scared to lose, he is scared to win, he is scared of everything.” What’s certain is that when Nastase’s mind matched his talent for a six-year period between 1970 and 1976, he was among the world’s best players.

Memorable Moments
Although Nastase was good-natured, likeable and friendly off-court, on 3 October 1977, he controversially used a double-strung racquet against Vilas, riding a 46-match winning streak, in the Aix-en-Provence final. The racquet, known for creating a large amount of spin and unpredictable bounces, was subsequently banned by the ITF the following week, but not before Vilas walked off the court having lost the first two sets. “I am completely disconcerted and discouraged by the trajectory of those balls,” said Vilas. “You understand that Nastase, plus the racquet, that’s just too much.”

Two years later, aged 33, Nastase began to stall and argue when he played John McEnroe in the 1979 US Open second round. With McEnroe serving at 2-1, 15/0 in the fourth set, Nastase began to argue about a line call and he sat in a linesman’s chair, refusing to play. The umpire, who had previously docked Nastase a point in third set, docked Nastase a game, so McEnroe led 3-1 in the fourth set. Cue pandemonium, with the crowd throwing beer cans and cups on the court. The match was eventually restarted with the chair umpire being replaced by the US Open referee.

Nastase on Nastase
“Everybody is not the same. Everybody’s personality is his own. Arthur Ashe is Arthur Ashe and I am me. I don’t try to make trouble; what happens outside comes from inside and I pay for it — fines, defaults, all those things… I was always rather nasty. I was willing to be friends with the Devil, just to cross the bridge.”

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A Home Away From Home: Nishikori In Barcelona

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

A Home Away From Home: Nishikori In Barcelona looks as the excellent Barcelona record of Nishikori

Kei Nishikori has found a home away from home in Barcelona, where the Japanese star has captured two titles from three finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

It took Nishikori four goes to land the heavy 13kg silver trophy, returning from a three-week lay-off due to a groin injury to reach the 2014 final and beat Santiago Giraldo 6-2, 6-2. He became the first non-Spaniard to win the title since Gaston Gaudio in 2002. “This title and (my run in) Miami helped my confidence, especially this week on clay,” said Nishikori.

“I was good on clay when I was little. Like 14 [years old]. I was winning all the European juniors events. Now it’s much tougher than hard courts and I was struggling a bit, but I’ve been playing well these past couple years so there’s no fear to play on clay.”

Nishikori returned the following year to retain the Barcelona crown, once again beating Roberto Bautista Agut in a three-set quarter-final, prior to overcoming Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4 in the final. He was the seventh player in the Open Era (since April 1968) to clinch back-to-back trophies in Barcelona.

Nishikori went on to stretch his winning streak to 14 matches in Barcelona before coming face-to-face with Rafael Nadal, the then eight-time champion, in the 2016 title match. Nishikori fought hard in his bid for a 12th ATP Tour title, but ultimately fell short to Nadal 6-4, 7-5.

He missed the 2017 edition due to a right wrist injury, which flared up again in 2018 against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round. However, last year, Nishikori demonstrated once again why he’s such a force at the Real Club de Tennis Barcelona by reaching the semi-finals. He led Daniil Medvedev by a break in the decider, but lost the momentum to lose 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

Watch over 165 classic ATP Tour matches from the 90s

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'I don't remember when I was last in the UK for weeks outside Wimbledon'

  • Posted: Apr 23, 2020

Backyard fitness sessions, hit-ups on a basketball court and Fortnite battles.

Welcome to the lockdown training schedule of tennis player Jay Clarke, as mapped out by his live-in coach.

But that, of course, only happens once the British number five has done the washing up.

The 21-year-old is isolating at home with his family in Derby, including older brother and coach, Curtis.

At a time when most athletes and coaches around the world are barred from interacting in person because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the brothers have a welcome advantage.

In fact, Clarke finds himself with a few coaches on hand to offer words of encouragement.

“For me it’s totally different because I’m here with my brother and I’ve always had a member of the family coach me, my sister and before that my dad,” he told BBC East Midlands Today.

“I know they always want to give me the best advice they can.”

So how does a professional tennis player – someone who faced Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon just nine months ago – progress his career from his family home in the East Midlands?

Well, it starts with chores.

“We don’t have a set time to start training each day because I still have to help out around the house – I’m pulling my weight,” he said.

“They keep me grounded through washing pots.”

Housework slots easily in around sessions on the exercise bike, basic fitness and bodyweight workouts under a marquee at the back of the house and even time ‘on court’ with racquet in hand.

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However, that court is a multi-sport asphalt cage where Clarke has to rely on “muscle memory” and imagination to get the ball over the non-existent net.

There the entire time is older brother Curtis, just as he would be almost every week on tour.

The only difference is that they are also sharing days with with mum and dad, rather than with tennis’ elite on grass, clay and hard courts in far-flung places.

“We have spent practically every day together since Jay was born,” said Curtis.

“We go play tennis at the park, come back and play Fortnite together. We enjoy each other’s company much more than people realise.”

In the days before being forced into lockdown, Clarke was on court with double Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy Murray at the National Tennis Centre in London.

A training block with the three-time Grand Slam-winner and former world number one came just as Clarke was completing his return from a two-month injury lay-off and just days before tennis and almost all sports had their schedules suspended.

“It’s always special training with Andy,” said Clarke. “He is such a nice guy and gives me so much advice when I step on court with him. Obviously there is no better person to be aware of your level against than a guy who was number one in the world, who has won slams and Olympic gold.”

While tennis is on hold and Wimbledon in 2020 has been lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Clarke says he is “trying to enjoy” the rare extended stay at home.

“Being a Brit, it is the only time that all my family can come and watch so it is a big hit for us, but I think it is the best for everyone that it doesn’t go ahead,” he said.

“I don’t remember the time that I was in the UK, besides Wimbledon, for four or five weeks straight.

“It’s given me time to spend with my family and my dogs, which I hardly ever see because I travel so much.”

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