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Flashback: Djokovic Begins New Chapter Against Nadal With Third Rome Crown

  • Posted: May 13, 2020

Flashback: Djokovic Begins New Chapter Against Nadal With Third Rome Crown

Serbian claims first of four clay victories against Nadal from 2014 to 2016

Novak Djokovic entered the 2014 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final with three victories from 16 ATP Head2Head clashes against Rafael Nadal on clay.

His performance on that day in the Italian capital marked a new chapter in their rivalry.

The Serbian, competing at No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, ended World No. 1 Nadal’s bid for an eighth Rome trophy with a three-set victory. It proved to be the first of four wins for Djokovic from five clay-court matches against Nadal between the 2014 and 2016 editions of the event. It remains the most successful period in Djokovic’s career against Nadal on the surface.

Djokovic v Nadal on Clay (Rome 2014 through Rome 2016)

Year Event Winner Score
2014 Rome Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
2014 Roland Garros Nadal 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
2015 Monte Carlo Djokovic 6-3, 6-3
2015 Roland Garros Djokovic 7-5, 6-3, 6-1
2016 Rome Djokovic 7-5, 7-6(4)

Djokovic had battled through the field to reach his fifth final in Rome (2-2). After beating Radek Stepanek in straight sets in the first round, the 26-year-old was forced to deciding sets by Philipp Kohlschreiber and Top 10 stars David Ferrer and Milos Raonic.

Fresh from his Mutua Madrid Open triumph, Nadal was also tested en route to the championship match in Rome. The Manacor native survived three-set clashes against Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray, before a 6-2, 6-2 semi-final victory against Grigor Dimitrov.

After dropping the opening set, Djokovic earned an early break in the second set and pushed the Spaniard behind the baseline with aggressive groundstrokes to force the match to a decider. The two rivals traded early breaks in the third set, before Djokovic made the crucial breakthrough at 3-3. The 18-time Masters 1000 titlist soaked up the pressure from the back of the court to break serve and, two games later, took the title after two hours and 19 minutes with his sixth service break.

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

“I’ve had some tough matches. Four out of five matches were three-setters and I had to come back from one set down yesterday against Raonic and today again. That gives me a lot of confidence,” said Djokovic. “Winning against Rafa in the final of a big tournament on clay, his preferred surface, is definitely a confidence booster.”

With his 44th tour-level trophy, Djokovic moved to within 650 points of the World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Despite falling to Nadal in the Roland Garros final, Djokovic eventually overtook the Spaniard in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 7 July 2014 after winning his second Wimbledon trophy. The Serbian maintained the position until 7 November 2016.

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Challenger At Home: Arthur Rinderknech

  • Posted: May 13, 2020

Challenger At Home: Arthur Rinderknech

Today’s ATP Challenger Tour stars discuss how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, providing an exclusive glimpse into life at home.

Arthur Rinderknech talks about his mother’s coronavirus diagnosis and how he has turned to baking, drawing and watching ‘The Last Dance’ to pass the time…

In January and February, no player was more dominant than Rinderknech on the ATP Challenger Tour. The Frenchman entered the season outside the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, but he would find his stride in a hurry.

Having thrived in four years at Texas A&M University, Rinderknech embarked on his second season on the professional scene in 2020. The 24-year-old adapted quickly, claiming his maiden Challenger title at home in Rennes, before sprinting to back-to-back finals on Canadian soil.

Armed with a mammoth serve and boisterous baseline game, Rinderknech built more confidence with every passing week. It was in Canada that he surged to a career-high of No. 160, finishing runner-up in Drummondville and lifting his second trophy the following week in Calgary.

“It was pretty tough for me [to stop playing]. If I can digest what happened in January and February, and go back to work with even more motivation, I can achieve my goals. I had a pretty good chemistry on the court and with some more hard work, I know I can do it again. I don’t have many [FedEx ATP Rankings] points to defend through the end of the year, but we’ll see how it goes. We’re all missing the competition in tennis, but the safety of the world is more important.”

Rinderknech’s victory at the Calgary National Bank Challenger marked the last time he would step on a match court. The Parisian immediately returned to France and just two weeks later, the country announced its lockdown. He has since remained in Paris, staying with his girlfriend and her parents.

During his time in quarantine, Rinderknech describes how his mother and two aunts contracted the coronavirus, what daily life has been like, how he’s been staying in shape and his plans to return to the court. He’s thankful for all the frontline workers’ dedication and hard work throughout the pandemic.

“The people working in hospitals are the true heroes right now. They are saving lives day in and day out. We’re all just trying to hold on for a few more months. I know it’s really tough for everyone. We’re just waiting inside, which is the best thing we can do right now. They are battling 24/7 and hopefully they can keep going and save as many lives as possible. They are the true heroes and we can only support them and do everything we can to make sure they are able to work.”

Photo credit: Arthur Rinderknech




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Resurfaced: Brick By Brick, Bolt Rebuilds Passion For Tennis

  • Posted: May 13, 2020

Resurfaced: Brick By Brick, Bolt Rebuilds Passion For Tennis

In the newest installation of’s My Point series, Aussie Alex Bolt details how he fell out of love with tennis, and the out-of-the-box journey that took him back to the sport

Editor’s Note: is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published in January 2019.

I had finally reached my breaking point. Tennis wasn’t fun anymore.

I was playing a Futures event in Mornington, a town in Melbourne, Australia, in March 2016. I had recently struggled with some elbow issues, but that wasn’t my biggest problem. Questions constantly popped into my head.

Why am I here? Why am I playing? When could I go home?

It was funny because on the training court, I was having a great time. But as soon as it came to a match, my mind was everywhere but the tennis court.

I was miserable. I’d hit an error and be asking myself questions instead of problem-solving or looking to the next point.

After barely squeaking by an unranked player in the first round, I lost to someone outside the Top 1,300 in the ATP Rankings. When you’re a kid, everyone dreams of becoming the next Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. You think about playing for Grand Slam titles. And there I was losing early at a Futures.

Climbing the ATP Rankings is tougher than these guys make it look. You have to do well at Futures and then hopefully Challengers and finally ATP World Tour events. You work hard day after day and sometimes it’s not enough, and you get stuck. It can be so frustrating.

After my loss in Morrington, I needed a talk. My coach, who was Simon Rea at the time, sat me down and we had a pretty long chat. There was clearly something wrong. Outside of tennis, I was fine. But as soon as a match began, it was a different world.

Simon didn’t speak to me about tactics or my performance that day. He said I should be more worried about my wellbeing and happiness. And he was right — if I wasn’t happy playing tennis, what was the point?

In that moment, I didn’t think I’d ever pick up a tennis racquet again. I certainly needed a break.

That’s when life got a bit weird.

Tennis was all I knew. I’d never worked a day in life.


But I got a call from my brother-in-law, who was working as a fencer. He needed a couple of people to help him with a project, so I joined in. It’s not like I had anything else to do.

I was actually really excited. I remember waking up at 5:30 a.m. and making the 45-minute drive from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia to a primary school in Mannum.

And let me tell you, this was work. Putting up retaining walls. Digging holes. Sticking posts in the ground. Cementing. I didn’t know much of anything about what I was doing, but I was doing it.

Those were long, hot days. It can get pretty hot out on a tennis court, but this was rough. I was drained to say the least. Those 5:30 wake-up calls? My excitement was gone after Day 2. That was not fun at all.

And the job was around basketball and tennis courts. All I wanted to do was put tennis out of my mind. Just my luck.

I was sick of it after a couple of weeks. And after three weeks, we finished the project. I didn’t go out and find another job. I’d had enough.

Local Aussie Rules football was starting, and some of my mates asked me to play, so I joined the Mypolonga Football Club, where I was a goal-scoring forward. It wasn’t a professional team, but it was fun. I played with the club a bit, and caught up with my friends from home. That helped me regain my happiness again.


It was probably a couple months after that when I started missing tennis. I know, I know. I didn’t think I’d ever pick up a racquet. But I wasn’t totally out of touch. I’d made some great mates with the Aussie boys, and was still in group chats with them.

So when I saw guys I grew up with doing well, my fire started to burn a bit. Jordan Thompson and I had been climbing the ATP Rankings together. Yet there he was cracking the Top 100 and winning four ATP Challenger Tour events that year. Me? I was sitting at home. I was like… s***, that could be me. That should be me.

I didn’t want to act on any of these feelings because they could have just been for a day or two. It could have been a trap. I could have been back on the court hating it.

Eventually, I didn’t have a choice. I got a call from a bloke named Todd Langman. You might know him as the guy who coaches a good mate of mine, Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Todd saw a picture I posted on Facebook at the end of the footy season and gave me a call.

Are you ready to get going again?

All I could say was, you know what, I am.

That first day back was the day of the 2016 AFL Grand Final. I was massively out of shape, but I gave the ball a bit of a bash that Saturday. Todd said he’d see me Monday, and away we went.

Bolt Langman

It was all a novelty. Training again, getting back into a routine. I was enjoying every bit of it.

As much as I had loved tennis, I used to dread some of the more boring drills. Who wants to hit two balls cross-court and another down the line over and over? But weirdly enough, I was loving it.

Todd even had me playing against young kids. I asked him if he was sure, and he told me to give it everything I had. He didn’t want me worrying about my opponent. It was all about focusing on myself.

I made my return at a Challenger in Adelaide at the start of 2017. A lot of the footy boys came out, so I had plenty of friends and family there to support me. I managed to win a few matches to get into the main draw, and then I reached the second round, so that was pretty cool. Not once did I wonder when I could get off the court.

Things got even better when Tennis Australia gave me a wild card into Australian Open qualies. It was all such a blur. Before I knew it, I was beating Julien Benneteau in the final round of qualies to reach the main draw of a Slam for the first time.


I’d dreamt of that moment for so long, and I thought it was gone the minute I put down my racquet the previous March. I went nine months without playing tennis, not touching a racquet for almost the entire time. But somehow, I’d just beaten a former Top 25 player to make my dream come true.

I don’t know what it was about that month of tennis, but it was like I wasn’t even playing. I couldn’t tell you what happened. But that was when I realised that I made the right choice in coming back.

Last year, I won my second Challenger title, my first ATP Tour match and the coolest of all, I qualified for Wimbledon.

It was definitely bittersweet beating one of my best mates, Thanasi, to do it. But I definitely won’t forget that moment anytime soon. I even got to play on Court 1 in the main draw against British No. 1 Kyle Edmund. That was a bit overwhelming. I might have lost, but I loved every second of it. That’s why us Challenger guys grind away week after week. We live for those moments.


Every so often in my travels, I see a retaining wall and think, ‘Yeah, I know how to put that up’. It’s a good little reminder that I chose the right path.

I feel lucky. When I stopped, that could have been my life. I could be wilting away in the heat putting up fences right now. That’s a career path I would not have done well in, that’s for sure.

Leaving tennis was the best thing I ever did.

Before my break, I was living and dying by everything I did on the court. I couldn’t lose a point. I couldn’t lose a match. But coming back, my mindset was different. I wanted to compete and give it everything I had. If I won, I won. If I lost, I lost. It was what it was. I think that’s a big reason why I started to love this sport again. And I can’t wait to see where this ride takes me.

– as told to Andrew Eichenholz

Read More ‘My Point’ Essays

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Why Kecmanovic Says 'You Need To Commit Every Day'

  • Posted: May 13, 2020

Why Kecmanovic Says ‘You Need To Commit Every Day’

Learn more about the sacrifices Kecmanovic has made in order to succeed

Success hasn’t come without sacrifice for #NextGenATP star Miomir Kecmanovic.

The Serbian, who is only 20, is at a career-high No. 47 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. It wasn’t easy getting there, though. When he was 13, Kecmanovic moved away from his parents in Serbia to train in Florida at the IMG Academy.

“It definitely was tough, especially for my parents. They had to make that call and I know it wasn’t easy for them, but I think they knew that it was the best thing for me at that time,” Kecmanovic told ATP Uncovered presented by Peugeot. “I’m very happy that they let me go to pursue my dream… I didn’t really speak English that well, didn’t know anybody. At the beginning, it was really tough to get through. But eventually everything came together, and it was really enjoyable to be there.”

Tennis captivated the Serbian at a young age. One of his grandfathers took him to play the sport at Zlatibor Mountain, and he never looked back.

“We were always close, but I think that was definitely our thing. It was funny, because he was trying a bunch of different things, trying to see what would get me excited, and we finally found something that was working,” Kecmanovic said. “It was a happy time for us.”

In leaving for Florida as a teen, Kecmanovic was setting his sights high, hoping to become a professional. He knew he had to commit to his training to chase those goals.

“You have to be on the court every day, day in, day out. [You have to] give 100 per cent every time, even when you don’t want to, or you’re playing badly. It takes basically your whole life to commit to it, with the nutrition, with the mindset, with the way you behave, the way you act on the court,” Kecmanovic said. “I also think you need a ton of people around you that can help you, that can guide you through it, because obviously you don’t know a lot at that age. I think you do need to find that balance, and you just need to commit to it every day.”

Miro Hrvatin, Kecmanovic’s coach, has mentored him for more than a decade, and his aunt, Tanja Pavlov, accompanied the teen when he moved to Florida at a young age.

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“My parents gave me everything that I needed so I’d have an opportunity to do it, and obviously my aunt too, she travels with me a lot. She’s a big help of course with everything outside of tennis,” Kecmanovic said. “I’ve had a lot of good coaches, physios and fitness guys, and I think I was very lucky to have a good group of people around me who wanted me to succeed for me, and just to help me in the journey.”

At the end of the day, through his highest highs — like making last year’s BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals and qualifying for the Next Gen ATP Finals later in the season — and his toughest moments, Kecmanovic is still that boy in the Serbian mountains who loves playing tennis.

“I just like to play. I enjoy being on the court,” Kecmanovic said. “I just want to prove to myself that I can do it in the end.”

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