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Nadal, Djokovic Rome Rumble: 'Tennis Nearer The Gods'

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

Nadal, Djokovic Rome Rumble: ‘Tennis Nearer The Gods’

Relive a memorable semi-final from the Foro Italico

When Novak Djokovic believes he’s playing well, that’s typically a bad omen for any opponent. But in the semi-finals of the 2018 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, that still wasn’t enough.

Rafael Nadal battled past Djokovic 7-6(4), 6-3 in a tight one hour and 56 minutes, moving to 10-0 in Rome semi-finals. The match was full of thrilling points as the legends clawed for control of the rallies. It was so exciting that at one point, commentator Robbie Koenig uttered an iconic line.

“It’s tennis nearer the gods!”

Nadal emerged victorious on Court Centrale to earn his 356th ATP Masters 1000 win, breaking a tie with Roger Federer (355) for the most victories at the elite level in history. The Spaniard is in top spot today with 384 Masters 1000 victories, and Federer is right behind at 381.

“It was a tough battle, I think a good level of tennis,” Nadal said. “[It was a] combination of tactics, a combination of great shots for both of us. [It’s a] very important victory for me. I’m very happy.”

Both Nadal and Djokovic entered the match having never lost in the semi-finals at the Foro Italico, and it was the Serbian who suffered his first defeat at that stage in Rome. However, it was not all bad news for Djokovic, who earned renewed confidence after reaching his first semi-final of the season and digging deep to challenge the Spaniard.

Watch over 165 classic ATP Tour matches from the 90s

Earlier in the year, Djokovic had undergone a right elbow procedure, which contributed to him losing six of nine matches leading into the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. Yet suddenly, then World No. 18, he was going ball-for-ball with an in-form Nadal.

“Rafa was just better in important moments. He just managed to play [the] right shots and he deserved to win. He was the better player,” Djokovic said. “I don’t think that there was too much of a difference, which is great for me, great news for me. Because Rafa is, of course, the best player ever to play tennis on clay courts. And he’s in great, great form. It’s very difficult to play him on clay anywhere. But as I said, I thought the level of my tennis was very high.”

Nadal never doubted that Djokovic would return to form. Although he beat the Serbian in straight sets, he knew it’d take his best to do so.

“I played against one of the best players of the history of this sport, you know. It’s always a challenge to play against him. He has all the shots,” Nadal said. “He’s always a match that when he’s playing well, you’re going to have to play your best if you want to have chances.”

Nadal would go on to beat defending champion Alexander Zverev for his eighth Rome title. In 2019, he retained his crown for a record ninth victory at the Foro Italico.

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Cabal Welcomes His Second Child: 'I Have No Words To Express The Happiness'

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

Cabal Welcomes His Second Child: ‘I Have No Words To Express The Happiness’

Colombian announces feel-good news on social media

Juan Sebastian Cabal’s life is about to get busier at home. The No. 2 player in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings revealed on Saturday that he and wife Juliana had welcomed the arrival of their second baby boy named, Juan Martin.

“I can only thank God for giving me one more blessing in my life. I have no words to express the happiness that is so pure,” Cabal wrote in an Instagram post. “Welcome to the world JM. Your family loves you madly.”

 

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🙏🏻 Solo puedo darle gracias a Dios por regalarme una bendición más en mi vida 🙏🏻 No tengo palabras para expresar la felicidad tan pura que se siente!!!! Bienvenido al mundo JM 😍 tu familia te ama locamente 😍 . . . @jvasquezb @jacobocabal #familia

A post shared by Juan Sebastián Cabal (@jscabal) on

The couple also has a three-year-old son named Jacobo, who has already inherited his dad’s racquet skills.

 

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Cuidado @robertfarah que te van a quitar el puesto! Porque aquí seguimos entrenando a full 🔥 . . #tennisathome #quedateencasa

A post shared by Juan Sebastián Cabal (@jscabal) on

Cabal and fellow Colombian Robert Farah clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team Ranking for the first time last year after winning Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, in addition to prevailing at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Rome and tour-level events in Barcelona and Eastbourne. They also finished runner-up this February in Acapulco.

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

Cabal’s newest addition adds to the recent trend of players welcoming children into their families. Mike Bryan, Sam Querrey, Andreas Seppi, Hugo Dellien, and Marin Cilic all became first-time parents this year.

Bryan and his wife, Nadia, welcomed a boy in April named Jake. Dellien and his wife, Camila, had a baby girl named Mila on 25 April. Seppi and his wife, Michela, shared the news of baby Liv on 20 February. Querrey and his wife, Abby, also became new parents in February to a boy named Ford. Cilic and his wife, Kristina, welcomed a son in January.

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Trapped In India, Moldovan Baskov Feeds The Masses

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

Trapped In India, Moldovan Baskov Feeds The Masses

Learn how the member of Team Moldova is doing his part in India

Dmitrii Baskov enjoyed one of the best experiences of his tennis career in January. However, it’s been a wild ride since.

The 26-year-old, whose career-high FedEx ATP Ranking is No. 1,366, was part of Team Moldova in the inaugural ATP Cup. Not only did he represent his country, but Baskov got to be around some of the best players in the world.

Afterwards, Baskov was excited to visit India for the first time on the way home to train at Ace Tennis Academy in Ahmedabad.

“January in Moldova, it’s cold, there is not much space to practise, nobody to really practise with,” Baskov told ATPTour.com. “India was just a good place to make a stop.”

The Moldovan booked a ticket to fly home on 31 March. However, those plans were derailed by the spread of the coronavirus.

“When the lockdown hit here in India, it was already pretty big in Europe. I’d heard about Italy, I’d heard about Germany, I’d heard about even Russia. When things were happening, I didn’t know if I should leave or I should stay. I decided staying in India might be safest,” Baskov said. “It’s just a good place, honestly. A lot of fresh air, a lot of sun, a lot of space to do fitness or whatever by myself. I can’t do that in my apartment in Moldova.”

Baskov had never been in Asia before, but he is certainly making an impact. The Moldovan is staying with the academy’s director, Pramesh Modi, and his wife, Ami Modi. One day they were talking about the situation, and Baskov recalls Ami worrying about the people who weren’t getting food.

“We were like, ‘Okay, let’s try to cook some food and distribute it on the street. That was the first day. We did maybe 200 portions. We drove around, we gave the food, everyone was happy and then the next day the same thing happened. After a couple days we cooked for 500 people,” Baskov said. “I don’t know how it happened, but now we’re packing every day about 2,000 to 3,000 portions. The government cars come to pick it up because the quarantine is very strict. You can’t really drive, police stations are everywhere, so we can’t distribute it.

“We just order the food from someone who cooks it in huge amounts, he brings us huge jars, and we pack it in proper packages and give it to the people.”

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

Ami is the founder of the Shree Sava Foundation, which Baskov says has received support from the local community to help with this initiative. They spend an hour and a half in the morning to package lunches, and another hour and a half later in the day to package dinner.

“There are 24 hours of freedom, you can afford to do something good for society,” Baskov said. “It’s obvious that some people need help… I consider myself lucky being here with such great people. Not everyone is that lucky. Not everyone has the financial support, not everyone has the financial safety and I think everyone would do it if they have the opportunity. I’m sure, especially tennis players.”

Baskov’s parents are both doctors in Russia, and he says his father, who had been working in an ambulance, came down with COVID-19 about three weeks ago. He is not clear of the virus yet, but has been feeling better.

“Even if I was there, I couldn’t be in touch with him,” Baskov said. “He has to self-isolate himself when he’s sick.

“Deep down I’m really proud of them. They’re doctors. That’s how the world survives for now, because of them.”

Watch over 165 classic ATP Tour matches from the 90s

Baskov could only come up with one word to describe the roller-coaster he’s been on since the start of the year — “crazy” — but he still keeps in touch with his ATP Cup teammates via a WhatsApp group. He says that captain Vladimir Albot is the most active in the chat.

“We talk once in a while just checking in on each other, but there’s not much to talk about with everyone staying home, or wherever they were stuck,” said Baskov, who did not play an official match in the event. “[Vladimir] the most active in the group. I love him! As soon as I message something in the group you can be sure in two minutes he’s going to reply.”

Baskov says they cannot play tennis right now due to the lockdowns, but he’s been able to hit some balls against the wall for a short time here and there, while also maintaining his fitness.

“You have no idea how much we crave now to get back on the court.”

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A Welcome Return Home For Zhang Zhizhen, China's Top Player

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

A Welcome Return Home For Zhang Zhizhen, China’s Top Player

Rising star gives insight into current life in Shanghai

Zhang Zhizhen is used to being away from home for months at a time as he continues his climb up the FedEx ATP Rankings. But for China’s top-ranked player, his globetrotting schedule at the start of the year was fueled in part by not being able to return home.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold worldwide, many countries instituted temporary bans beginning in January and the following month, authorities in Zhang’s home city of Shanghai began implementing movement restrictions on residents.

But three months later, Zhang is now back in Shanghai and training with other top players from China. Although there are still some restrictions in place, many of them are beginning to be lifted and normalcy is returning to daily life.

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

“I went to the zoo, but you have to book ahead because they’re controlling the number of people [who enter],” Zhang told ATPTour.com. “The situation has improved a lot in the past month, but people are still wearing a mask when they go outside. When you go out to a restaurant or somewhere like this, you have to show a [digital QR] code that shows you’re healthy and then they check your temperature.

“Right now, it’s pretty safe. We can practise all day because it’s only the other players from the federation here. We can run some laps around the club as well. We don’t know when the Tour can restart, so we try to keep it interesting and vary the training, play points and not just drill at the baseline all day.”

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/zhizhen-zhang/z371/overview'>Zhizhen Zhang</a>

Being healthy isn’t something that Zhang is taking for granted after a frightening on-court episode this February while competing in Dubai. A fluke accident saw him frame a service return and the ball ricocheted into his right eye. Zhang went directly to the hospital and laid low for a week afterwards, but his vision in the eye is nearly back to normal now.

“I was really scared because I couldn’t see anything after being hit. It was completely black. I thought that maybe I’d be blind,” Zhang said, laughing softly. “Now my eyes are getting better. It’s not 100 per cent, but maybe 90 per cent. There are some small things I can’t see from far away, but it’s okay.”

Players typically return to their home base when competing isn’t an option, but this initially wasn’t possible for Zhang after his Dubai mishap due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. His parents also encouraged him not to fly back, so Zhang opted to travel to Croatia for recovery and training with his coach, Luka Kutanjac, at HATK Zagreb.

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“When you get injured, you want to go back home because you feel better in your home,” Zhang said. “But I knew if that I went to Croatia, I could get treatment and still see how I can practise. It was really difficult at that moment in China. Nobody could go outside of their house. It would have been very hard to go back to China and then travel to Europe again, so I just told myself that I couldn’t go back.”

When action resumes on Tour, Zhang looks to continue his push towards becoming the first Chinese man to crack the Top 100. He’s already achieved the highest singles ranking among male Chinese players by reaching No. 136 in February, fueled by an impressive finish last season that saw him win two ATP Challenger Tour titles and pick up tour-level wins in Zhuhai and Beijing.

<a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/zhizhen-zhang/z371/overview'>Zhizhen Zhang</a> Shanghai outside

Zhang knows that he’s been in this position before, though. He acknowledged that his results have fluctuated drastically in recent years, so he’s focussing on continued progress instead of a big run at one event. Zhang is confident that his long-term outlook can not only lead him to the Top 100, but take him well beyond that mark.

“Nobody has reached the Top 100 among the men in China, but to me, the Top 100 is just the start in professional tennis,” Zhang said. “I don’t want to jump up the rankings too quickly because in the past five years I’ve had huge jumps, then huge drops and huge jumps again. I’m just trying to enjoy playing tennis at the moment. If I can win, then that’s perfect, but I’m not scared of losing either.”

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With Tennis Career On Hold, Sitak Shifts To Plan Bee

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

With Tennis Career On Hold, Sitak Shifts To Plan Bee

Learn about what Sitak has been doing in Auckland, New Zealand

Five-time ATP Tour doubles champion Artem Sitak has found a potential ‘Plan Bee’ for life after tennis during the suspension of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sitak, who is staying with a friend, Bryan Lang, in New Zealand, has been hands-on with 120,000 bees. Lang has six hives on his roof and is a “semi-professional beekeeper”, and Sitak has been more than happy to help.

“Obviously I’m here every day so I can do more, and it’s fun. It’s cool to do it. Definitely something different. Maybe I’ll do something bee-related after tennis because I know quite a bit already,” Sitak told ATPTour.com. “It’s absolutely amazing [watching them], what you need to do with the process, how they operate. It’s quite impressive.”

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

One of the big responsibilities Sitak has helped with is marking the queens of each hive. They do that in order to find the queen quickly when the bees begin swarming.

“You quickly get the queen out with maybe half the other bees and put them in another hive so they think they did swarm and they’re not flying away. You’re not losing half your bees,” Sitak said. “You have to stay on top of it. You have to see when they’re going to do that, because there are some signs. They are producing some kind of substance and they put a new baby queen in, and that means they’re going to start swarming very soon.”

Lang, who annually goes to the Australian Open and Wimbledon with the former World No. 32, began his work with bees about six years ago, getting 300 kilograms of honey per year. People call him to extract swarms from their houses. Sitak even accompanied him to deal with one swarm on the 12th floor of an apartment building.

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

It’s safe to say Sitak, who has only been stung a few times, has taken advantage of the honey, eating it on toast for breakfast daily.

“That honey tastes so much better than the grocery store honey because there’s no added sugar,” Sitak said. “It’s very thick. I love it. I think I ate like 10 pounds of it in the past six weeks.”

Although the ATP Tour is still suspended due to coronavirus, Sitak has been doing more than just eating honey and tending to bees.

“I’ve been doing a lot of fitness. We have a lot of hills here in Auckland so I’ve just been running up the very steep hills. Sprinting up, running around. Just doing a lot of running and hitting against a wall I found nearby,” Sitak said. “We’re not allowed to play on courts yet. Hopefully in a week or so we’ll be able to play, so I’ll start proper training.”

What’s more difficult to prepare for: a tricky set of doubles opponents or swarming bees?

Sitak laughed before saying: “The bees definitely have much more complicated tactics than doubles.”

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Resurfaced: When Del Potro Met Pope Francis In Rome

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

Resurfaced: When Del Potro Met Pope Francis In Rome

Argentine star presented Pope Francis with a racquet he used during the 2009 US Open final

Editor’s Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 5 May 2013.

Juan Martin del Potro met His Holiness Pope Francis, the first Pope from South America and a fellow Argentine, after attending Mass at the Vatican on Wednesday. Del Potro presented the Pope with a racquet used during his 2009 US Open final victory over Roger Federer.  

“It was an incredible experience with Pope Francis, something that I’ll never forget,” said Del Potro. “It was a dream come true for a guy like me. It was an unforgettable moment. I was very nervous before meeting him, to be able to congratulate him and talk with him. He was nice. Everybody knows he is very humble. Today was a day that I’ll remember forever.”

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio and noted for his humility and concern for the poor, Pope Francis was elected just over two months ago, during Del Potro’s run to the BNP Paribas Open final.

“I wanted to meet him from the moment he got elected Pope,” Del Potro said. “I said it in Indian Wells. This moment was possible thanks to arrangements in Buenos Aires and to the ATP. It also coincided that I had a day without a singles match.”

The World No. 7 and winner of 14 ATP Tour titles said that he was surprised when the Pope recognised him in the crowd.

“There was a very nice moment when he was talking to all of us, all of his audience, and he turned his face, saw me and raised his thumb. He recognised me and that surprised me. We talked for a few seconds,” Del Potro said. “He told me that he knew I was playing at the tournament in Rome, he blessed me and wished me the best. I congratulated him and thanked him for the opportunity to talk to him.”

ATP Tour players Carlos Berlocq and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez and Marin Cilic of Croatia also attended the service.

Seventh seed Del Potro opened his Internazionali BNL d’Italia campaign on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov. He returns to action on Thursday with a third-round clash against Benoit Paire.

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Five Things To Know About Alexander Bublik

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

Five Things To Know About Alexander Bublik

Learn about the 6’6” star’s achievements, love of tricks and more

With an entertaining brand of tennis, 22-year-old Alexander Bublik has reached two ATP Tour finals and a career-high No. 47 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

ATPTour.com looks at five things you should know about the Kazakhstani.

1) He Raised His Game In 2019
Last year, Bublik advanced to his first two ATP Tour finals in Newport and Chengdu. On the grass courts of the Hall of Fame Open, the Kazakhstani navigated four consecutive three-set matches to reach his maiden ATP Tour championship match and improve to 9-1 in deciding sets at tour-level. Bublik was unable to take the title, losing in straight sets to four-time Newport winner John Isner.

It didn’t take long for Bublik to return to a championship match. Two months later, at the Chengdu Open, the 22-year-old earned Top 30 victories against Taylor Fritz and Grigor Dimitrov en route to the final. Bublik fired 125 aces in Chengdu, but fell just short of the trophy after losing a final-set tie-break against Pablo Carreno Busta.

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

2) He Is Unpredictable
When you step onto the court against Bublik, anything can happen. From tweeners to extended net exchanges, the Kazakhstani has already made a name for himself with his entertaining game style.

En route to the Chengdu Open final, Bublik contested a thrilling rally with Fritz after hitting an underarm serve. Following the point, the players shared a laugh near the umpire’s chair.

3) Less Counting = More Winning
Prior to reaching his first final in Newport, Bublik revealed that he had changed his outlook on the FedEx ATP Rankings. Less counting, more winning.

The 22-year-old admitted that counting points and paying too much attention to how close he was to the ranking cutoff of a big tournament had previously had a negative effect on his performance, so he decided to make a change.

“This was my problem when I was a kid. I was counting the points. Even if I didn’t win the match, before the match I started counting points, how much I’d earn,” said Bublik. “This was my problem. I deleted all the apps, the live scoring, rankings. Especially when there’s a deadline week and I needed to make something and I’d be like ‘Yes, I need to do it,’ I’d choke 0 and 1.”

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4) He Reached A Career-High In February
He may not be counting, but Bublik achieved a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking in February. The 6’6” right-hander earned three consecutive victories at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, beating Marton Fucsovics in straight sets before back-to-back three-set wins against Top 25 stars Benoit Paire and Denis Shapovalov. Despite falling to eventual champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals, Bublik climbed eight positions to a career-high World No. 47.

5) He Has Tricks In His Locker
Bublik’s tricks are not limited to the court. The two-time ATP Tour finalist is just as impressive with his freestyle tennis skills.

At the 2019 US Open, Bublik took time out of his schedule to teach fans some of his favourite moves. After setting a challenge for one fan, he offered his new shoes as a prize. Fortunately, for Bublik at least, the fan fell just short of the mark.

“One guy challenged me for my shoes,” said Bublik. “[I was hoping] he didn’t make it because I love these shoes.”

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Take Our Tennis Audience Survey

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

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Please take this survey so that we may learn from our fans – and potential fans – as we strive to help tennis reach its full potential.

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'It's going the distance, but we would edge it' – who would win if Murrays faced McEnroes?

  • Posted: May 11, 2020

It would be a showdown for the ages. A doubles match that crackles with intensity and drama. But who would win? The McEnroe brothers, at the top of their game, or the Murray brothers at their peak?

The grand-slam doubles winner Patrick McEnroe fancies the chances of him and a seven-time grand slam singles champion brother John taking down Andy and Jamie, but only after a fraught contest.

“Either way, it’s going the distance, whether we play with the old wood racquets or not,” the 53-year-old says.

“Both Murray brothers have amazing hands, so they could play with anything. My brother certainly could and he was arguably the greatest individual doubles player of all time.

“You’d have the calm guys – me and Jamie. I’m guessing John and Andy would probably go at it a little bit.

“There would some serious language and some serious intensity going on. It would also be a lot of fun and very competitive but I’m going to give the edge to the McEnroes – obviously – mostly because of my brother.”

No conversation about tennis in Scotland can go very far without mentioning the Murray brothers, and McEnroe is clear that their rise is a greater achievement than many people acknowledge.

“It’s absolutely incredible that they did it from Scotland,” he said. “It’s an amazing country but it doesn’t have an amazing tennis history.

“Just getting them to be professionals would have been a huge accomplishment. So the fact that they went on to become world number one in both singles [Andy] and doubles [Jamie] is incredible.”

  • Tennis Scotland want Murray brothers for event

Andy Murray remains on the comeback trail from a second round of hip surgery, recently stating his intention to play in the rescheduled French Open come September should it go ahead.

The pause due to coronavirus – a bout of which McEnroe himself is recovering from – may just buy him some extra time to recover, but does the American think the Scot can recapture his best?

“I would say he could get close but I think it’s going to be difficult for him to get back to the level he was at, in other words, right there with [Roger] Federer, [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic,” he said.

“I do think he could probably get back to the top 20 or top 15. When he came back and won that tournament indoors [the European Open in Antwerp in 2019] that was a great sign.

“So if he could get back and be in the mix, that would be awesome and we would love to see that in the tennis world.”

McEnroe worked with Leo Azevedo, the head coach of the new British Tennis academy in Stirling, in the USA and says the facility is “in good hands” with the Brazilian.

The programme at Stirling University is one of two centres set up by the Lawn Tennis Association.

“He’s an amazing person, an amazing mentor for young kids,” McEnroe said.

“He’s extremely passionate about tennis but I think even more so about helping and teaching children and helping them become great human beings.”

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