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Bob Ryland, First African-American Pro, Dies Aged 100

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

Bob Ryland, First African-American Pro, Dies Aged 100

Talented player and coach, who dedicated his life to the sport

Robert ‘Bob’ Ryland, the first African-American pro tennis player and a coach to future trailblazing generations of global stars including Arthur Ashe, Venus and Serena Williams, passed away on Monday aged 100.

His parents, Irishman Robert Sr., and mother, Gussie, who died of tuberculosis when Ryland was aged two, were forced to move from Alabama to Chicago. Upon the death of his mother, Ryland, who received his first tennis racquet at the age of eight, was raised by his grandmother in Mobile, Alabama, where his father taught him to play on clay courts in the segregated Brooklyn Park.

Returning to Chicago after almost 10 years away, Ryland went on to become the first African-American to win the Illinois State title, beating Chris Evert’s father, Jimmy, in the 1939 final. Around this time, he received a scholarship to Xavier University, a Historically Black College and University in New Orleans, and served in the U.S. Army between 1941 and 1945.

Ryland returned to another scholarship at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he resumed his tennis career. But during away matches was forced to eat separately from his teammates and occasionally slept on the team bus. He was one of the first African-Americans to play in the NCAA Championships, and gained a bachelor of science degree at Tennessee A&I in Nashville, where he coached and led the team to two small college national championships.

A combination of American Tennis Association (ATA) advocacy, an open letter from Alice Marble to the American Lawn Tennis Magazine in 1950, and a perception shift helped to start breaking down barriers in tennis across the next decade. Ryland, who moved to California after his studies, played tennis with Pancho Gonzalez and competed in ATA tournaments, becoming singles champion in 1955 and 1956.

In 1955, the United States Lawn Tennis Association awarded Ryland a wild card into the US Nationals at Forest Hills, having picked up that year’s ATA crown, and four years later, at the age of 39, he received an invitation to join promoter Jack Kramer’s World Pro Tour Championships, receiving $300 a match. At 5’9″ and 155 pounds, Ryland had a powerful serve, a solid game, backhand and net game. 

For a short time, Ryland was a YMCA physical education director in Montclair, New Jersey, taught tennis in Washington D.C., including to the Kennedy family, and coached at the Mid-Town Tennis Club in New York City from 1963 to 1990, honing the games of Arthur Ashe, a young Harold Solomon, Bruce Foxworth, and dozens of celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and Dustin Hoffman. Richard Williams also brought Ryland to Florida to oversee his daughters, 14-year-old Venus and 13-year-old Serena.

Ryland, who continued to volunteer his services at Harlem’s Frederick Johnson Playground each Saturday, passed away alongside his partner, Nancy, at his home in New York City, the oldest of more than 13,000 tennis court permit holders in the metropolis.

Robert Ryland, tennis player and coach, born 16 June 2020, died 3 August 2020.

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Murray Highlights US Open Wild Cards

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

Murray Highlights US Open Wild Cards

#NextGenATP American Nakashima also receives a wild card

Andy Murray, the former World No. 1 and 2012 US Open champion, headlines the wild cards for the US Open, the USTA announced Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who is No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings as he continues his recovery from hip surgery, will compete in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2018. The three-time Grand Slam champion owns a 45-12 record at the US Open, where he also reached the final in 2008.

The USTA also announced that Americans Ulises Blanch, Maxime Cressy, Sebastian Korda, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Michael Mmoh, Brandon Nakashima and J.J. Wolf will also receive singles main draw wild card entries to the tournament, which begins on 31 August.

A #NextGenATP player, World No. 220 Nakashima has risen more than 500 spots in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the past eight months. He reached the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open by in February.

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Djokovic Leads US Open Field

Blanch, 22, is World No. 242. He won his second career ATP Challenger Tour title in Ann Arbor this January and defeated then-World No. 54 Pablo Andujar in Monterrey. Another player who enjoyed ATP Challenger Tour success at the start of the season is 23-year-old Cressy, who made two finals in February, winning the title in Drummondville.

Former junior World No. 1 Korda won the 2018 Australian Open boys’ singles title. His father, Petr Korda, won the 1998 Australian Open men’s singles title. Kwiatkowski, 25, lifted his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy in February at Newport Beach.

A former Top 100 player who received a wild card is Mmoh. The American beat then-World No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets to reach the third round of the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau. Wolf, 21, has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year.

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Flashback: Del Potro's Washington Hat Trick

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

Flashback: Del Potro’s Washington Hat Trick

Argentine prevails in three consecutive appearances

Juan Martin del Potro always brings his best tennis to the North American hard-court swing and the Citi Open has become the most successful hunting ground of his career.

The Argentine prevailed in three of his five appearances in Washington, D.C., (2008-2009, 2013) enabling him to rack up a 15-match run at this event before Kei Nishikori snapped his winning streak in 2017. It remains the only tournament in which Del Potro has stood in the winner’s circle on three occasions. looks back at Del Potro’s trio of thrilling runs.

Del Potro was on a confidence high as he rode a three-tournament, 14-match winning streak. The 19-year-old Argentine prevailed at clay-court events in Stuttgart and Kitzbühel before completing a hat trick in Los Angeles by defeating Andy Roddick in the final.

Playing with the confidence of a man who hadn’t lost in several weeks, he charged through the draw and overpowered Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-3 in the final. After falling behind 1-3 in the opening set, Del Potro quickly recovered and wrapped up his perfect week with an ace on championship point. The victory made Del Potro the first man in ATP Tour history to win his first four singles finals.

“Today I was very, very nervous because I was the favourite to win the tournament,” Del Potro said. “In a final, if you play your best you can win, for sure, but I think today I played more with my mind than my body.”

Despite being the defending champion, Del Potro arrived in a different mood having not won a title in seven months. After struggling to victory in his first two rounds, he benefitted from receiving a walkover in his quarter-final against Robin Soderling and soon found himself facing Roddick on championship Sunday.

The sweltering conditions wore both men down as they battled from the baseline for more than two hours. With almost nothing left to give physically, the Argentine turned to his serve and cracked five aces in the third-set tie-break to prevail 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(6). Del Potro squandered his first three championship points, but made good on his fourth chance and became the first man to successfully defend his title at this event since Andre Agassi (1998-1999).

“I did my best serves ever in my life,” Del Potro said. “After the first set, I couldn’t move any more. It was impossible. It was serve and one more ball. If you run, you die.”

Buoyed by his second title of the year, the Argentine went on to capture his maiden Grand Slam crown one month later at the US Open (d. Federer).

Del Potro delighted local fans by returning to this event after a four-year absence and quickly made up for lost time. After marching to the final without dropping a set, he shook off a slow start in the final to defeat John Isner 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

The Argentine became energised early in the second set after returning a timid overhead from Isner with a clean forehand winner. Del Potro repeated that effort later in the set and stole the momentum from his opponent to sprint through the remainder of the match.

“It’s amazing. I’m so happy to win here once again,” Del Potro said. “Always when you win a tournament, it’s special [and] it’s big. In the third set, I played my best tennis of the tournament.”

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Yevgeny Kafelnikov: The Man Who Sparked Tennis' Russian Revolution

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

Yevgeny Kafelnikov: The Man Who Sparked Tennis’ Russian Revolution

The Russian was the first man from his country to become World No. 1

In the latest profile on the 26 players to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, looks back on the career of Yevgeny Kafelnikov. View Full List

First week at No. 1: 3 May 1999
Total weeks at No. 1: 6

At World No. 1
Yevgeny Kafelnikov overtook Pete Sampras to become No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 3 May 1999, remaining atop tennis’ mountain for six weeks. “I think it’s the ultimate goal for every professional tennis player, to be able to reach that pinnacle. That’s what we play for,” Kafelnikov told “It’s one of the most enjoyable accomplishments from my career.”

Kafelnikov made national history by becoming the first Russian to reach World No. 1. At the time, there was only one other Russian in the Top 100: Marat Safin, who reached World No. 1 the following year.

Grand Slam Highlights
Kafelnikov arrived at 1996 Roland Garros as one of the tournament favourites, crushing World No. 1 Pete Sampras in Dusseldorf the week before the clay-court Grand Slam. Four of the Top 5 seeds lost by the fourth round and Kafelnikov took full advantage.

The 22-year-old felt in great physical shape during the fortnight, going for four eight-kilometre runs around Court Philippe Chatrier during the tournament. Kafelnikov earned his second and final ATP Head2Head win against Sampras in the semi-finals before overcoming surprising cramps late in the championship match against Michael Stich to become the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion. He also won the doubles title alongside Daniel Vacek. No man has won the singles and doubles trophy at the same major since.

“I’ve got news for you: Nobody will [do it again] for a very long time,” Kafelnikov said. “If you ask me when the next time we’re going to see a champion in singles and doubles at the same Slam, I don’t see that happening for many, many years to come.”

Kafelnikov won his second and final major singles title at the 1999 Australian Open, beating five players who reached the Top 5 of the FedEx ATP Rankings to lift the trophy. That victory helped propel the Russian to World No. 1 later in the year. He also won Grand Slam doubles titles at Roland Garros in 1997 (w/Vacek) and 2002 (w/Haarhuis) as well as the 1997 US Open (w/Vacek).

Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Kafelnikov competed at the ATP Tour’s season finale, now called the Nitto ATP Finals, seven times. The Russian advanced through round-robin play three times, highlighted by a trip to the championship match in 1997. He battled past Carlos Moya in two tie-breaks to reach the final in Germany, but was unable to challenge Sampras, who triumphed in straight sets.

Tour Highlights
The International Tennis Hall of Famer (inducted in 2019) won his first ATP Tour match at 1992 Moscow, defeating Spaniard Marcos Aurelio Gorriz. That proved a happy hunting ground for the home favourite, as Kafelnikov won five consecutive titles at the tournament from 1997-2001. He lost in the 1996 final against Goran Ivanisevic before winning 28 consecutive matches in Moscow.

Kafelnikov was a model of consistency during his career, winning multiple titles each year from 1994-2002. Kafelnikov claimed 26 tour-level singles titles. Although he never claimed ATP Masters 1000 glory, the right-hander made five championship matches at that level. He proved capable on all surfaces, winning ATP Tour titles on clay, hard, grass and carpet. He completed his singles career at 2003 St. Petersburg, falling in the second round against rising Russian star Mikhail Youzhny. In doubles, Kafelnikov won 27 tour-level titles, including seven Masters 1000s.

Biggest Rivalries
There wasn’t one man who served as a consistent foil for Kafelnikov. The Russian believes his generation was so saturated with talent, that there were many rivals to contend with.

“You take Marcelo Rios, Guga, Moya. Pete and Andre were dominating the Tour at the time,” Kafelnikov said. “To me, the whole field was a big competition. I played many great matches against Guga. Me and Marat didn’t play any big matches against each other, thank God. We both had about 20 guys who were great rivals for both of us.”

If you had to pick one rival for Kafelnikov, it might be Gustavo Kuerten. The Brazilian beat the Russian in three Roland Garros quarter-finals (1997, 2000-01), needing five sets in two of those matches. Kuerten lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in each of those years. It wasn’t always the biggest stars who frustrated Kafelnikov, either. He never enjoyed playing Dominik Hrbaty (4-9) or Thomas Johansson (5-9).

“Dominik’s game was such a solid game that he had every answer to all my shots,” Kafelnikov said. “If I was hitting the ball hard, the ball was coming back twice as hard. That stuff was driving me nuts. Those two players [Hrbaty and Johansson] read my game so well.”

Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 609-306

Overall Titles/Finals Record: 26-20

The Russian maximised his all-around game and stellar fitness to compete — and in many cases, beat — the best players in the world. Kafelnikov’s strength was his backhand, especially up the line. His two-hander was one of the best of his generation.

“I was not even close to being as gifted as John McEnroe or Roger Federer or even Marat Safin, or Marcelo Rios or Nick Kyrgios,” Kafelnikov said. “I was never that gifted. But I was a really hard worker. I’m sure that because of that, I’ve got all my titles, all my goals.” 

Besides his work ethic, Kafelnikov will be remembered for showing young Russians they could enjoy success on the ATP Tour. He was the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion and World No. 1. Today, three Russians are inside the Top 15 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“Yevgeny was the guy who really made it click for me that it was possible to become an unbelievable tennis player,” Safin told “Yevgeny achieved to be the elite in tennis, so for me that was the goal, it was like, ‘Wow’. To that point no Russian guy like him made it, so because of him I [knew] I had a chance.”

Memorable Moment
Kafelnikov does not consider one achievement from his career greater than the rest. Instead, he cherishes his Grand Slam victories, reaching World No. 1 and winning the singles gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

In familiar circumstances, Kafelnikov played Kuerten in a consequential quarter-final, defeating the Brazilian 6-4, 7-5. With gold on the line, the Russian battled hard to scrape past rising German Tommy Haas 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. 

Marat Safin on Kafelnikov
“I learned a lot from him when I was younger, practising with him. I understood the intensity of the tennis ball, the way he played from the baseline and how close he stood to the line. For me it was the most shocking moment in my tennis understanding. It was due to him. I never told him, but I understood what it meant to take the ball early [because of Yevgeny]. It clicked and from that point I started to play better and better because of him.”

Larry Stefanki on Kafelnikov
“He was a workhorse, playing both singles and doubles most weeks. Yevgeny and competition merely went together. He always showed up to win. He loved the big matches and played his best tennis under the most extreme pressure. He absolutely cherished being under the gun to have to win a match.”

Kafelnikov on Kafelnikov
All my success came because I worked hard. That’s how I will always be remembered.”

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
Strong and tall with a powerful and reliable baseline game, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a handful for all those who had to face him across the net. The poker-faced Russian was also adept at volleying when he chose to be and that made him a difficult player to outmanoeuvre.

His no-fuss approach to the game didn’t make him a box office headliner like some of his peers, but his results spoke for themselves. He became the first Russian to win a Grand Slam title when he defeated Michael Stich at Roland Garros in 1996 and he added to his haul that same year by winning the doubles crown as well. In doing so, he remains the last player to win both the singles and doubles titles at the same Slam event, a record that will likely stand for a long time.

After retiring at the St. Petersburg Open in October 2003, the multi-talented Russian turned himself to a variety of different endeavors. He played successfully in the World Series of Poker, competed at the Russian Open, Austrian Open and Czech Masters on the European golf tour, and briefly coached fellow Russian Marat Safin.

When not engaging in those activities, he also had interests in fishing, watching football, baseball and ice hockey and spent two years playing on the ATP Champions Tour.

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For Daniil, Depth Is A Diamond

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

For Daniil, Depth Is A Diamond

Hitting deep counted for more than speed of shot in Medvedev’s Cincinnati title run

It’s easy to be mesmerised by Daniil Medvedev’s unorthodox groundstrokes.

To better wrap your head around what makes the 6’6” Russian so potent from the back of the court, don’t focus on his flailing follow-throughs. Keep your eye on the ball as it travels like a laser beam to the other side of the court, and notice how deep it lands near the baseline.

Daniil dines on depth.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Medvedev’s maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last summer, identifies that he never lost the depth battle in his six matches. Hitting the ball deep in the court is arguably the best thing you can do to force an error in tennis, as your opponent has to either move back to hit the ball in their strike zone or shorten their swing to successfully time the ball on the rise. Quite often, they do neither, and errors abound.

Deep Groundstrokes (Percentage Shots Deep Of Service Line)
In Medvedev’s opening round 6-2, 7-5 victory over Kyle Edmund, both players hit 85 per cent of their rally balls past the service line. From then on, Medvedev hit the ball deeper than every opponent. Overall, Medvedev hit on average 85 per cent of his shots past the service line, while opponents managed just 79 per cent.

Medvedev’s Run To 2019 Cincinnati Title

Opponent Opp. % Shots
Past Service Line
Med. % Shots
Past Service Line
David Goffin 83%
Novak Djokovic 80%
Andrey Rublev 86%
R16 Jan-Lennard Struff 77%
Benoit Paire 62%
Kyle Edmund 85%
Average 79%

Winners & Unforced Errors
You would naturally associate hitting more winners with winning more matches, but it’s not always the case. Medvedev failed to hit more winners than his opponent in every match, and only 39 per cent (55/103) of overall winners came off the Russian’s racquet. In four of the six matches, Medvedev’s winners were all in single digits. His opponents were always in double digits, with Paire and Djokovic leading the way with 19 winners each in their respective matches against the Muscovite.

Where Medvedev did excel was committing fewer unforced errors. He only committed 41 per cent (103/250) of total unforced errors, and only once, against Djokovic, did he commit more (24-19) than his opponent.

Cross-Court & Down-The-Line
Hawk-Eye ball-tracking technology uncovered that almost two out of three shots for both Medvedev and his opponents were directed cross-court, with the other third struck down-the-line. The Russian hit 63 per cent of his shots on average cross-court and 37 per cent down-the-line, which were the same combined percentages for his opponents.

Speed Of Shot
While Medvedev hit the ball significantly deeper (85% to 79%) past the service line than his opponents, his average groundstroke speed was slightly slower from both wings.

Average Forehand Speed

Medvedev = 72mph
Six Opponents = 73mph

Average Backhand Speed

Medvedev = 65mph
Six Opponents = 66mph

Medvedev has risen to No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and will be looking to defend his Western & Southern Open title in New York later this month. Of all the jewels in his game, depth is a diamond.

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