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Marcelo Melo: ‘Doubles Is Like A Marriage’

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Marcelo Melo: ‘Doubles Is Like A Marriage’

Learn what it’s been like for long-time doubles partners to be apart during the COVID-19 pandemic

When it was announced that the BNP Paribas Open would not be held as scheduled due to COVID-19 concerns, Lukasz Kubot returned home to Poland fairly quickly. It is two and a half months later and Marcelo Melo, his doubles partner, still doesn’t know when they’ll see each other again.

“Doubles of course is like a marriage, so sometimes it’s good to have a little break,” Melo told “Of course it’s not necessary, at least between me and Lukasz… I don’t know when we’re going to see each other again. Of course it depends on when tournaments will come back and where we can practise, but sometimes it’s good for the doubles [players].”

Kubot and Melo have qualified for three consecutive Nitto ATP Finals together, and they have lifted 14 tour-level trophies as a team. Spending months apart is certainly not the norm, but they have maintained contact during the suspension of play.

“We have a group chat with our team, so we keep in touch there. Of course we talk one, two times a week, because at this time there are not so many things to talk about,” Melo said. “Normally we always talk about the schedule, practice, this and that. Of course we ask each other how everyone is doing, et cetera, so we keep in touch that way.”

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Typically, doubles partners don’t go more than a few weeks without seeing each other, so it’s easier to appreciate one another during this time apart.

“Kubi is a very nice guy. Kubi is always positive. He always wants to go practise. He brings such a good energy,” Melo said. “We can miss the good energy from such a good guy.”

Melo stayed in Indian Wells at first, before going to Florida for almost two months to quarantine with close friend Alexander Zverev. About a week ago, he returned home to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he plans to train with fellow doubles star Bruno Soares when allowed to do so.

“We were very lucky to be there,” Melo said. “Of course we need to see how we’re going to manage [in Brazil], but it’s always good to be back home.”

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The 36-year-old Melo enjoyed spending an extended period of time with Zverev, who is 23. Despite the age gap, when they compete at the same event, they always are attached at the hip.

“He’s a very nice guy to hang out with. His family is very nice, his team is very nice, so I get along with them,” Melo said.

The friends only played doubles together once, at 2017 Shenzhen. Melo thinks it would be fun to compete together again when tournaments resume.

Who would be the team leader?

“This is not even a question. Of course, I would be the boss!” Melo said, cracking a laugh. “He’s not going to accept it, for sure. He’s going to say he wants to be the boss. In singles of course it’s going to be [him], but in doubles he needs to follow my rules.”

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Here’s How Nadal Plays Tennis Like A Chess Grandmaster

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Here’s How Nadal Plays Tennis Like A Chess Grandmaster

Rafa dictates patterns of play in 5-8 shot rallies

The perfect storm in a tennis match is Rafael Nadal hitting either three of four balls into the court.

Not more. Not less.

Just three or four moves is all it takes for the Spaniard to lure his opponents into checkmate.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis shows that Nadal is in a class of his own in mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots. The data set is comprised of players who competed in a minimum of 20 matches at ATP events on Hawk Eye courts from the beginning of the 2018 season.

The three rally lengths commonly measured in tennis are:

•0-4 Shots (First Strike)
•5-8 Shots (Patterns Of Play)
•9+ Shots (Extended Rallies)

It’s important to note that rally length in our sport is predicated by the ball landing in the court, not hitting the strings. So a “three-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and a winner, while a “two-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and an error. That explains a “zero-shot” rally, which is a double fault. The ball simply didn’t land in the court.

The inner workings of Nadal’s formidable game can be best understood when it’s dissected by how many shots he ideally desires to win a point. It highlights efficiency and intent.

Nadal won a head-turning 59.7 per cent (652/1092) of points in the 5-8 shot range from 33 matches. Next best is Diego Schwartzman at 55.9 per cent (547/978), putting the Spaniard almost four percentage points higher than his closest rival. Novak Djokovic sits in third place, having won 55.5 per cent (1043/1879) in 5-8 shot rallies.

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The leaders in the three rally lengths are:

•0-4 Shots: Daniil Medvedev (55.0%)
•5-8 Shots = Rafael Nadal (59.7%)
•9+ Shots = Yoshihito Nishioka (56.6%)

Mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots (3-4 shots for each player) are all about specific patterns of play, much like moves on a chess board. The first shot involves the serve or return, where Nadal is typically targeting his opponent’s backhand return, or moving way back in the court for his own return to enhance his chances of putting it successfully back in play. His second shot is all about taking a 50-50 battle and “arm-wrestling” it in his favor.

There are eight ways to attack an opponent and gain control of the point.

Eight Control Factors In A Rally


Control Factor





















Court Position

Where You Stand



Time To Prepare

Nadal’s third shot of the rally typically involves a potent cocktail of two or more of the control factors, mentioned above, infused into the same shot. For example, he loves to hit a run-around forehand standing in the Deuce court directed cross court past his opponent’s outstretched forehand wing. That specific shot, which he has executed tens of thousands of times in his career, is a crushing mix of direction, spin, power and court position.

If Nadal needs a fourth shot to reach “checkmate”, his court position is typically inside the baseline taking time away with wicked spin and direction back behind a running opponent. Nadal is much better off running these three- and four-shot combinations than trying to end the point quicker, or trying to outlast his opponent.

Nadal Win Percentages By Rally Length

•0-4 Shots = 52.9% (1126/2127)
•5-8 Shots = 59.7% (652/1092)
•9+ Shots = 55.3% (412/745)

The Spaniard’s game is not built around massive power in the first two shots. It is also not best suited to grinding endlessly in long rallies, where win percentages naturally gravitate closer together than further apart.

It’s all about patterns. It’s about a successful sequence of shots that out-smart and out-maneuver opponents to achieve his desired end-game with three or four moves.

Nadal is our sport’s Grandmaster chess champion.

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Naomi Osaka: Japanese tennis star becomes world's highest-paid female athlete

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has become the world’s highest-paid female athlete, displacing US rival Serena Williams at the top of the list.

According to Forbes magazine, Osaka, 22, a two-time Grand Slam champion, made £30.7m in prize money and endorsements over the past 12 months.

That was £1.15m more than the amount earned by 38-year-old Williams.

Both shattered the previous single-year earnings record of £24.4m set in 2015 by Russia’s Maria Sharapova.

Since Forbes began tracking women athletes’ income in 1990, tennis players have topped the annual list every year.

Osaka, whose father was born in Haiti and whose mother is Japanese, is 29th on the 2020 Forbes list of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, four spots ahead of Williams, the winner of 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

The complete Forbes list, due to be released next week, has not featured two women since 2016, the magazine says.

The pair met in the 2018 US Open final with Osaka winning her first Grand Slam title in a highly controversial match in which Williams was given three code violations by the umpire.

The Japanese then won the 2019 Australian Open, although her form has since dipped and she has fallen from world number one to 10th on the WTA rankings.

Williams had been the world’s highest-paid female athlete in each of the past four years, with Sharapova ruling for the five years before that.

Osaka has been a popular endorsement figure in Japan in the build-up to the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics, securing lucrative deals with global brands Nike, Nissan and Yonex, among others.

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Felix, Raonic, Andreescu & Bouchard Lead Canadian Takeover Of Tennis United

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Felix, Raonic, Andreescu & Bouchard Lead Canadian Takeover Of Tennis United

Legends Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash also join the show

Co-host Vasek Pospisil was at home in more ways than one in the seventh episode of Tennis United, which was released Friday on the ATP Tour’s Facebook page.

That’s because this episode is full of Canadians, from stars on the ATP Tour and WTA Tour to legends from other sports: Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash.

Co-host Bethanie Mattek-Sands moderated a group chat consisting of Pospisil, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Milos Raonic, Bianca Andreescu and Eugenie Bouchard. They discussed everything from who has the best hair to their favourite music genres. Later in the show, the quintet played a fun game of “Never Have I Ever”, in which Raonic reflects on his days as a rapid racquet stringer.

“When I was in my prime, I could get sub-30!” Raonic said. 

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Gretzky and Nash are legends in the hockey and basketball worlds, respectively. Both are big tennis fans, and they opened up about their favourite players to watch and their favourite rivalries. Gretzky thought back to his days playing golf with John McEnroe.

“Johnny Mac and I played golf and we all get frustrated, we all curse. I don’t throw clubs, but the odd guy will throw a club. But even on the golf course, nobody could throw a golf club and curse like Johnny Mac,” Gretzkey said, cracking a laugh before recalling his favourite rivalry. “For me, it was always watching a Borg-McEnroe match. I just thought it was pretty unique.”

Canadian doubles star Gabriela Dabrowski also joined this episode, discussing how she’s kept busy during quarantine, her golf game, and more.

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Osaka Discovers That Monfils Is A Massive Comic Book Fan!

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Osaka Discovers That Monfils Is A Massive Comic Book Fan!

Former World No. 1 interviews Frenchman on Instagram Live

Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has started a series of Instagram Live interviews with professional tennis players. On Friday when she went live, the former World No. 1 admitted her interviewee was one of her top three favourite players: Gael Monfils.

Monfils, who early on said his favourite Avengers super hero is Black Panther, walked fans over to a bookcase where he had countless comic books in plastic.

“I’m crazy about the Avengers, so it’s funny,” Monfils said.

Osaka asked the Frenchman if he is one of the best or even the best dancer on the ATP Tour.

“One of the best, maybe not the best,” Monfils said. “Nick is not bad! Nick Kyrgios is not bad at all. He’s a bit shy. He can dance. He’s got some moves. He’s pretty good.”

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What’s Monfils’ favourite dance?

“The dougie. I love the dougie. Old school, but I love the dougie,” Monfils said. “The rhythm is good. The vibes when you lean to the left, lean to the right. I’m on it, I’m definitely on it.”

Osaka’s mom wanted to know if Monfils likes sushi, and funny enough, he had just eaten it an hour ago, saying he likes salmon sashimi.

Monfils loves Japanese food and Japanese culture, and he also said he is a “big, big fan” of Naruto, a manga series. The 33-year-old tried learning Japanese, but admitted it was, “really tough”.

Osaka came plenty prepared with a notepad full of questions — she also interviewed Frances Tiafoe Thursday — and she wanted to know what people might not know about Monfils.

“I’m a pretty open guy,” Monfils said. “I can play piano. I learned when I was nine. I lost it because I don’t practise so much, but I can play piano.”

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Monfils generally enjoys music, and he loves listening to Ryan Leslie, Kanye West and others. He was inspired by his father. 

“I wanted to be him,” Monfils said. “I always grew up looking up to my dad.”

The Frenchman recalled his most memorable match, a 3-6, 6-7(3) loss against Lleyton Hewitt at the 2004 Rolex Paris Masters.

“It was my first night session in Paris-Bercy,” Monfils said. “That game was the beginning of everything for me. 100 per cent. I knew I wanted to do that.”

Monfils is well-known for his athleticism on the court, but he also has plenty of respect for his opponents. Three players popped into his mind when Osaka asked who on the ATP Tour is quickest, besides Monfils himself.

“I will take De Minaur, Goffin or Schwartzman,” Monfils said. “They’re lightning on court.”

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Thiem: From A Gruelling Off-season To The Australian Open Final

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Thiem: From A Gruelling Off-season To The Australian Open Final

Austrian star brings ATP Tour behind the scenes during his off-season training

Editor’s Note: is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was updated on 31 January 2020.

Dominic Thiem is one of the most physical players on the ATP Tour. His groundstrokes are not only powerful, but bruising, with heavy topspin keeping opponents back deep behind the baseline. The Austrian’s game is punishing, as he is happy to maintain that level of physicality for as many hours as it takes to grind his opponents down.

On Wednesday night in Melbourne, Thiem survived an exhausting four-hour, 10-minute marathon against one of the game’s most physical players, Rafael Nadal, to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Then on Friday, he battled past Alexander Zverev in three hours and 42 minutes to reach his first Grand Slam final on hard courts.

How does Thiem do it? It all starts in the pre-season for the World No. 5, and Thiem brought the ATP Tour behind the scenes in Miami last December for a look into the work he puts into his conditioning.

“Now is the time to really get the body ready because there won’t be any time off where I can practise like this, so I try to use it as well as possible and try to get the body ready for everything that is ahead [in 2020],” Thiem said.

One of Thiem’s coaches, Nicolas Massu, would put his charge through one tough session per day on the court. But Thiem also grit his teeth through two off-court conditioning sessions per day. For example, he’d have a beach workout, tennis practice, and then a track workout at the end of the day.

“Self motivation is a very important thing. I have it in me, which is very nice. But of course there are also days when my team has to push me,” Thiem said. “Hard work is the only way to repeat my good success from last year and hopefully even improve it. Of course it helps a little bit for the start of 2020, but there is still room for improvement in 2020 and that’s what I’m working for.”

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Massu, who began working with Thiem in 2019, said that while they were in Miami, it was less about ironing out specific tennis details in terms of technique, but his physicality on the court, to make sure he is prepared for the new season.

“It’s amazing how he practises. All the time, 100 per cent, he’s very focussed all the time,” Massu said. “He tries to improve every day, so for me as a coach it’s amazing because he’s a guy who wants to win all the time.”

Thiem also had plenty of support with him throughout his training block, with two fitness coaches — Dr. Michael Reinprecht and Duglas Cordero — as well as physio Alex Stober by his side. They constantly monitored Thiem’s heart rate to see how long it took him to recover from certain drills, and used a laser beam to measure the exact speed of some sprints.

“Dominic is an amazing player. He is working very, very hard. It is amazing the high intensity he puts in for every exercise,” Cordero said. “The preseason is very important because if you get a good preseason, it’s possible to, [when you] combine it with good tennis, [to] keep the performance all year.”

The team ran Thiem through what they called “gladiator training” to simulate short bursts of intensity — like what occurs during points — and staying active between those bursts. At one point, the reigning BNP Paribas Open champion ran 15 consecutive sprints to learn the maximum speed he could reach over a small distance, and according to Dr. Reinprecht, his 15th sprint was just as quick as his first.

“Of course I’m tired almost every day, but it’s okay,” Thiem said. “I’m tired all year long.”

Thiem tires himself during the off-season so he’s ready to suffer during matches. And that is what has led him to his success.

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Can You Spot These 7 Differences?

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Can You Spot These 7 Differences?

New activity drops in Emirates ATP Kids Hub

Good eye site is a pre-requisite for most tennis players. It helps to hit the ball in the middle of your racquet… and to make sure your opponent isn’t hooking you on line calls!

So young players should be well prepared for the newest activity in the Emirates ATP Kids Hub: We’ve got two game sheets for you. All you need to do is spot the seven differences on each sheet.

Get Started…

  • Download and print the two-page game sheet
  • Look closely at the two versions of each photograph
  • Grab a marker and circle the changes you find in the photos
  • You’re done when you have circled seven differences on each photo
  • If you can’t find all seven, download the Answers PDF to see the ones you’ve missed
  • Have fun!

Download Game Sheets (PDF)

Download Answer Sheet (PDF)

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33 Stats On Novak Djokovic's 33rd Birthday

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

33 Stats On Novak Djokovic’s 33rd Birthday

The Serbian turns 33 one week after former World No. 1 Andy Murray

In honour of Novak Djokovic’s 33rd birthday, the ATP Tour is celebrating by reliving 33 facts, moments or memories that have made his tennis career spectacular thus far.

33 – Combined wins against former World No. 3s and US Open champions Marin Cilic (17) and Juan Martin del Potro (16).
32 – years old when he led Team Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup title.
31 – Top 10 wins in 2015. Djokovic’s overall record in the season was 82-6.
30 – Consecutive Grand Slam singles matches won from the first round at 2015 Wimbledon until losing in the third round of 2016 Wimbledon.
29 – wins vs. Rafael Nadal (29-26).
28 – The number of consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals Djokovic reached from 2009-16 (second all-time behind Roger Federer’s 36).
27- victories vs. Federer (27-23).
26 years old in 2014 when he won his third of four consecutive Nitto ATP Finals titles.
25th player to become World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings (4 July 2011).
24-0 to conclude 2013 with titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, the Nitto ATP Finals and Davis Cup.
23 straight wins from August to November in 2015 after 28 straight wins from March to June that same year.
22 consecutive wins from November 2012 to March 2013, including 11 against Top 10 players.
21 years old when he won the Tennis Masters Cup in 2008.
20 years old when he won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 2008.
19 years old when he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami in 2007.
18-match winning streak to start 2020.
17 straight wins vs. Top 10 opponents from the 2015 Nitto ATP Finals to 2016 Rome, a career-high.
16 years old when he made his tour-level debut (d. Skroderis in 2004 Davis Cup).
15 consecutive finals reached to conclude 2015 (17 including 2016 Doha and 2016 Australian Open).
14 straight Grand Slam semi-finals reached from 2010-13 (second all-time behind Federer’s 23).
13 sets won 6-0 in 2011.
12 years old when he went to Niki Pilic’s academy in Germany.
11 tour-level trophies lifted in 2015, a career-high.

10 tour-level titles won in 2011.
9 losses in Grand Slam finals (Nadal 4, Murray 2, Stan Wawrinka 2, Federer 1).
8 Australian Open titles.
7 singles titles and a career-high 43 victories in a row from December 2010 to June 2011.
6 ATP Masters 1000 titles won in 2015, a single-season record.
5 year-end No. 1 finishes in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
4-time winner of the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award (2012, 2015, 2016, 2019).
3 sets lost en route to winning the 2020 Australian Open title.
2 match points saved to beat Federer in both the 2010 and 2011 US Open semi-finals.
1 of three men to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once (also Budge and Laver).

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Aussie Legend Ashley Cooper Passes Away

  • Posted: May 22, 2020

Aussie Legend Ashley Cooper Passes Away

Cooper won his home major twice

Four-time singles Grand Slam champion Ashley Cooper AO has died, aged 83.

A winner of the Australian, Wimbledon and US Championships during an outstanding 1958 season, Cooper also won the Australian Championships in 1957.

Rod Laver said of his fellow Australian, “So said to hear of Ashley’s passing. He was a wonderful champion, on and off the court. And what a backhand! So many cherished memories. Farewell my friend.”

More to follow…

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