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Cecchinato, Rodionov Lead Challenger Return To Todi

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2020

Cecchinato, Rodionov Lead Challenger Return To Todi

Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz is also in action

This week, as the ATP Challenger Tour kicks off its long-awaited restart, players have descended on the scenic town of Todi in central Italy. After a two-year hiatus, the Internazionali Di Tennis Citta Di Todi is back for a 12th edition.

The Challenger 100 event is one of two stops on the circuit, as professional tennis returns on the clay of Todi and Prague. Located in the Umbria region, the Tennis Club Todi 1971 is nestled at the base of the hilltop town and offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding municipality.

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This week, seven players in the Top 150 of the FedEx ATP Rankings are competing in Todi, led by top seed Roberto Carballes Baena. Three-time ATP Tour champion and former World No. 16 Marco Cecchinato leads the Italian charge along with third seed Federico Gaio.

Carballes Baena opens against 21-year-old Jurij Rodionov, while Cecchinato faces Argentina’s Andrea Collarini and Gaio battles countryman Matteo Viola. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, who reached his first final on the ATP Tour a year ago in Gstaad, rounds out the Top 4 seeds.

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The #NextGenATP contingent is well represented in Todi, with Rodionov looking to carry his dominant form from February. The Austrian scored an impressive 15 wins from 17 matches before the tour was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lifting trophies in Dallas and Morelos.

Rodionov, who opens against Carballes Baena on Tuesday, is joined by surging teens Carlos Alcaraz, Giulio Zeppieri, Lorenzo Musetti and Hugo Gaston in the draw. Alcaraz is looking to build on his own breakthrough, when he claimed an impressive victory in his ATP Tour debut in Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 16, he stunned countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas at 3:00am for his first Top 50 win.

“It’s been a long time since we played tournaments, so I’m happy to play well [in qualifying],” said Alcaraz. “I’ve was trying to stay in shape in quarantine and I know I can do well here this week.”

Alcaraz, who is coached by former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, qualified for the main draw on Sunday.

“Of course we are happy to be back on the tour again after so many months at home,” added Ferrero. “Carlos needs to compete, he’s young and he’s been working hard to increase his level. I know he can play against anyone on the tour.”

Sitting at World No. 318, Alcaraz will hope for a deep run in Todi as he continues to rise the FedEx ATP Rankings. He opens against Italy’s Gian Marco Moroni on Monday, with a potential second-round date against another Italian, eighth seed Lorenzo Giustino.

Past champions in Todi include two-time winners Carlos Berlocq (2010-11), Aljaz Bedene (2014-15) and its most recent titlist Federico Delbonis in 2017.

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Murray Magic: Back-To-Back Wins Against Federer & Nadal In Toronto

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2020

Murray Magic: Back-To-Back Wins Against Federer & Nadal In Toronto

Brit delivers his best tennis in 2010 title defence

You wouldn’t know it from his muted reaction after championship point, but Andy Murray made history with his triumph at the 2010 Rogers Cup.

The Brit hung tough to score a 7-5, 7-5 victory against Roger Federer in a rain-interrupted final, making him the first player to earn back-to-back titles in Canada since Andre Agassi (1994-95). Murray’s first successful ATP Masters 1000 title defence also marked his first tour-level title since prevailing 12 months earlier in Montreal (d. Del Potro).

He powered through a challenging draw in Toronto, outlasting Gael Monfils and David Nalbandian before scoring a straight-sets victory against Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals. Murray’s magical week made him only the fifth player to defeat Federer and Nadal in the same tournament.

“Any time you win a tournament, you’re obviously incredibly happy. There’s a bit of relief there,” Murray said after the match. “It’s the first time I beat Roger and Rafa in the same tournament, which is probably the most pleasing thing, and I didn’t drop a set against either of them. It’s good for the confidence for the next few weeks.

“I’m just playing a bit freer. I was going for my shots more today… It was just expressing myself with the way I was playing. I played pretty free-flowing tennis and didn’t get too nervous today.”

Murray needed a confidence boost after a seven-month run that was disappointing by his lofty standards. After a painful straight-sets defeat to Federer in the Australian Open final, he failed to reach the semi-finals in his next eight events. The Brit finally reached the final four on home soil at Wimbledon, but endured a convincing loss to Nadal before squandering a championship point to Sam Querrey the following month in Los Angeles.

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But after gaining revenge on Nadal in Toronto, Murray took to court against Federer with the energy of a player whose confidence had been restored. He weathered an opening set punctuated by multiple service breaks and a missed opportunity to serve out the set at 5-4, continuing to swing freely from the baseline. Murray’s fearlessness was rewarded as he broke Federer for the third time with a solid game at 5-5 before grabbing a commanding advantage.

Persistent drizzle took Federer and Murray off court four times early in the second set, leading to more shifts in momentum. Both players struggled to hold serve consistently due to the punishing returns they each faced. But in identical fashion to the first set, Murray raised his level at 5-5 to break once more and closed out the match on his first try.

The match marked Federer’s first loss to Murray in a tour-level final, but the Swiss made it clear that he never saw victory as a foregone conclusion.

“I don’t have the margins where you can just come out and dominate an opponent every single time,” Federer said. “That’s why you need to be really sharp and take the right decisions at the right time. That’s sometimes hard to do when the ball comes at you so fast and you only get a couple of chances… It’s just little things here and there.”

Although the Brit was unable to build on the momentum and suffered a third-round loss to Stan Wawrinka at the US Open, he quickly returned to top form by defeating Federer two months later en route to another Masters 1000 crown in Shanghai.

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Bublik: Go Big Or Go Home

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2020

Bublik: Go Big Or Go Home

Gain exclusive insight into the Kazakhstani’s approach to tennis

You never know what you’re going to get when you watch Alexander Bublik play tennis. And that’s exactly the way he likes it.

The Russian-born Kazakhstani is one of the unique players inside the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. The World No. 51, who reached his first two ATP Tour finals in 2019, is not afraid to stray from the norm.

“I’m a gambler,” Bublik told “I like this feeling when it’s 50-50. When I’m serving full power on a second serve at deuce, I feel fear. I feel the game, I feel nice. When I hit that ace in the third-set tie-break at five-all on a second serve, I have an adrenaline boost in my body and it’s awesome… That’s the kind of person I am.”

When most players on the ATP Tour zig, Bublik zags. There is no such thing as “playing it safe” in his mind. From sneaking in underarm serves and massive second serves to carving drop shots from crazy court positions, the 23-year-old enjoys risk. Sometimes, it works brilliantly.

At last year’s Hall of Fame Open in Newport, where he made his first ATP Tour final, Bublik played Viktor Troicki in the second round. The Serbian led 4-1 when he rushed the net, hitting a backhand volley deep into Bublik’s side of the court. Instead of moving his feet to hit a normal passing shot, Bublik hit a forward-facing tweener lob to win the point, landing him on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays. He rallied to triumph in three sets.

“If something is boring, go have guts to hit the second serve at five-all and make it,” Bublik said. “Someone can say it’s stupid. Yeah, it’s stupid. But I have the balls to do it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s the way I like to play.”

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Sometimes, that doesn’t work as well. Bublik suffered 16 opening-match losses last season. The Kazakhstani knows that the key to his game is finding a happy medium between being bold and being careless.

“If you can match consistency with good talent and hit some amazing shots with some really risky shots, then you become a good player. Let’s say Nick Kyrgios, he’s good at it. He knows where you have to put [those shots] and at what time, especially,” Bublik said. “Then there are guys like Gael Monfils. He’s a consistent player, but once in a while he’s going to surprise you and maybe it’s at six-all in the tie-break. Gael Monfils is doing that unbelievably, the same as Nick does.

“This is what I’m looking for and what I’m trying to balance in my game, so I can win more matches by surprising opponents.”

Bublik tends to go big or go home. During the ATP Tour’s suspension due to COVID-19, he has worked on giving himself another option, something to fall back on when his shotmaking isn’t fully firing.

“I’ve been working on my second serve lately. To be a top player that I want to be — I want to be Top 20, maybe Top 10 — you can’t rush your second serve all the time. That was one of the main parts of my development since Indian Wells was cancelled,” Bublik said. “I stopped using my second serve at full power so often. I still have it, I’ll still be surprising guys with it, but I won’t do it all the time like I used to do it for like half a year. To be the player I want to be and not just some one-match guy, I have to be consistent.”

Quarantine started with a lot of “chilling”, from relaxing in bed to playing video games on his computer. Then Bublik began to think and evaluate what he has accomplished as well as what he’d like to achieve.

“Quarantine has been a good time for me. I had time to think, I had time to go through some things. To be where I want to be takes more than just entertaining yourself and just work. You’ve got to be disciplined on court. When you have big matches coming up, like playing in the third round of a Slam or big tournaments, you have to be consistent to beat Top 10 players,” Bublik said. “I think I’m missing some parts of my game, but I have a chance to go through it, to realise that and slowly start working on it.”

Bublik believes as tennis returns, “we’re going to have a new Grand Slam winner, 100 per cent.” He thinks it is far more likely to happen at the US Open, assuming Rafael Nadal competes at Roland Garros.

The Kazakhstani thinks a key for all players is going to be finding a balance, something Bublik has become plenty familiar with. He is set to compete in qualifying at the Western & Southern Open next week.

“I won’t be nervous. But there are guys who are going to be very tight at the beginning,” Bublik said. “The most important thing is to have the right balance between being super relaxed and being super tight.”

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Challenger Chat: Back In Action With Sumit Nagal

  • Posted: Aug 16, 2020

Challenger Chat: Back In Action With Sumit Nagal

Catch up on the latest with India’s No. 1

Sumit Nagal, the World No. 127 and highest-ranked player from India, talks about his preparation for the restart of the ATP Challenger Tour in Prague and reflects on his time away from the circuit while training in Germany.

It’s time to get back to business. This week, the ATP Challenger Tour returns with a pair of tournaments in Prague, Czech Republic and Todi, Italy. After five months on the sidelines, players are eager to resume their 2020 campaigns on the European clay.

Those competing on the Challenger circuit will once again battle for coveted FedEx ATP Rankings points, as they look to continue their quests towards the Top 100 and beyond. Sumit Nagal is no exception. After five months training at the Nensel Tennis Academy in Germany, the World No. 127 is hungry.

“We started training in the middle of April and I feel really good about my game now, with all the work we put in,” said Nagal. “In a way, I took this break as a positive for myself. It was easy on my body. I was in one place for the first time in almost 10 years. It just never happens as a tennis player.

“There were some days that weren’t easy, just not knowing when we’re going to return to the tour. It was a very different lifestyle. But there comes a point where enough is enough. I really want to travel again and play matches. It’s what we all train for. I’m excited to get in the competitive mode again.”

Nagal is ready to return to the court in Prague, before traveling to New York for a second straight US Open appearance. It was just last year that India’s top player emerged onto the scene with an opening-night duel against Roger Federer in Flushing Meadows.

Now, Nagal is heading to the hard-court Grand Slam with a different attitude and a renewed sense of confidence. He believes that it is all courtesy of that experience against Federer and the subsequent surge of momentum. Just one month later, he would capture his second Challenger title in Buenos Aires, eventually surging to a career-high of No. 125 to launch his 2020 campaign.  

Everything has changed for the Jhajjar native.

“The biggest thing that I have realized is how important confidence is in tennis. One week you can barely win a game and the next week you can win any tournament. After that match, I realized that I am better than staying around Top 200 in my life. I moved up 80 spots since then and I started to develop my game on faster surfaces. Just realizing that about myself and who I am was the biggest step. Everything can change with one moment.”

During the tour’s suspension, Nagal passed the time by playing plenty of video games, going for drives around the German countryside and even attending the wedding of fellow Challenger competitor and close friend Kimmer Coppejans.

Following months of rest, training blocks and plenty of downtime, Nagal is ready to roll at the I.CLTK Prague Open By Moneta. He celebrates his 23rd birthday and Sunday and opens against either Dmitry Popko or Jay Clarke on Monday. The sixth seed could face World No. 17 Stan Wawrinka in an enticing quarter-final encounter.

“It’s not going to be easy for anyone, because we haven’t played tournaments in many months. It’s the same for the other guy as well. It’s going to be about fighting on the court and less about tennis and tactics. You’re not in a rhythm right now. I think I need to focus on fighting for every point and not about how well I’m hitting the ball. It’s all about staying hungry and who wants it more in the end.

“I’m in a spot where I want to take the next step and I don’t think I’m too far from it… getting that double-digit ranking.”

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Rapid Fire With Sumit
One thing you could not live without in quarantine
Wifi. I’m a big gamer and watch TV shows. Doing quarantine without wifi is not possible.

Were you cooking Indian food for yourself in Germany?
No, I’m not good in the kitchen. I would probably eat out two or three times a week and we have good food here at the academy. I miss Indian food like crazy. It’s been a while.

What’s been the best TV show you’ve watched in quarantine?
I’ve been watching The Good Doctor. And I also enjoyed some anime shows and Ozark on Netflix. I watched around 10 different series the past few months.

What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you the past few months?
The quarantine. Getting time for myself has changed me on court and off court. The reason behind the quarantine is awful, as we are fighting against COVID, but having time for myself is what I needed.

The one thing you miss most about normal life.
My friends, going out and returning back to India. Those are the three things I’d say I miss most.

If you could travel to one place right now, where would you go?
I’d go home to India. It’s been a while.

What is the one thing you miss most about competing on tour?
Playing for points, money and your goals. If you can’t play a match, you can’t chase your tennis goals. This is what we live for.

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