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Thiem: 'The Draw Is Super Strong'

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Thiem: ‘The Draw Is Super Strong’

Smart scheduling the key for Austrian star

Dominic Thiem believes that the lack of fans at the Western & Southern Open and at the upcoming US Open will play a big factor in the fortunes of every player over the next few weeks in New York.

“Tennis is such a mental sport, and I guess it makes it way more difficult without fans, because I just imagine playing in the fifth set on Arthur Ashe, night session, way past midnight, and in a normal year you get so much energy from the fans,” said Thiem during a virtual press conference over Zoom on Friday.

“They give you so much, all this atmosphere. And now, in an empty stadium, maybe your coach and your team there, that makes it, I guess, very, very lonely, very, very tough. That’s going to be a very interesting thing to experience. But it’s the same for everybody. The one who will do it the best, who will manage these special circumstances the best, will be the one who lifts the trophy at the end.”

Second seed Thiem, the 2016 and 2017 Western & Southern Open quarter-finalist, will play Filip Krajinovic or a qualifier in the second round. It will be his first match since 22 February at the Rio Open presented by Claro.

“Honestly, I’m zero per cent nervous or scared about travelling here,” said Thiem. “I think we are safer than anywhere else on the whole planet. It’s different. The one who wins the title here definitely deserves it, and players-wise or draw-wise, it’s worth the same like every year…. The draw is still super, super strong.

Looking ahead to the resumption of the ATP Tour, after a five-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Austrian says, “You have to play your cards smart there… Definitely until the end of the season, it’s super busy and also not going to be easy to make a good schedule, to play all those tournaments physically and mentally 100 per cent. But I will try to do my best now.”

Thiem has a big opportunity to consolidate his position at No. 3 in the FedEx ATP Rankings with a big run, having just 10 points to defend over the next few weeks.

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Murray: 'There Will Be A Lot Of Upsets'

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Murray: ‘There Will Be A Lot Of Upsets’

Scot training hard with Thiem, Khachanov and Rublev

Andy Murray flew into New York with a degree of trepidation, but his concerns have eased ahead of the Western & Southern Open.

Initially staying at a house in Greenwich, Murray moved to the hotel a few days ago and has been pleasantly surprised by the work the United States Tennis Association has undertaken to ensure the players’ stay is as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The USTA have done, in my opinion, an excellent job of setting everything up. They’ve done a really good job at the hotel, They got games and arcades and things like that, which I enjoy. [I’m] still a bit of a child in that respect. They’re putting on different food in the evenings for the players. We can get delivery. [The] room is absolutely fine. You have a gym there. I had considered staying in a house.

“I would say going into the hotel was a little bit of a concern. Then when you get in there and you see everything that they’re doing to make sure it’s as safe as it can be, then I felt quite relaxed. Since I got in, I’ve been tested twice. There’s security, not just at the hotel, but on the site, making sure that everybody has their masks on. There’s hand sanitizer everywhere… I feel comfortable now that I’m here. But I did have some, I guess, concerns beforehand.”

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Murray plays wild card Frances Tiafoe in the first round, with fifth seed Alexander Zverev waiting in the second round. After a five-month suspension of the ATP Tour, the 2008 Western & Southern Open champion believes there may be a number of surprising results over the next week.

“I do feel there will be a lot of upsets,” said Murray. “Usually there’s a little bit more time to get used to the conditions… It’s just going to be different playing in front of no fans. I kind of felt that a little bit yesterday when I was walking through the grounds. It’s nice walking through to your practice courts, not getting stopped or anything, but then the atmosphere is just not the same without the people.”

The 33-year-old Murray, who underwent right hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019, is simply happy to be back on the ATP Tour.

“I’m looking forward to it, just to be back competing again. I’ve really enjoyed the past few days just practising with top players, which I’ve kind of done it a little bit back home but not that much… I’ve been practising. I practised with [Dominic] Thiem, [Andrey] Rublev and [Karen] Khachanov… But I’m feeling quite good on the court physically in terms of my hip.

“For me to know exactly how my body feels after playing a competitive match will be important for me. If I did well and got a few matches, that would suggest my body is probably feeling quite good. If I didn’t do well, my body wasn’t great, it would suggest I probably need to do some work in the sort of eight, nine days before the [US Open] starts. I think it would just give me more kind of information. I’ll be able to learn a little bit more about where I’m at, maybe things I need to work on, things I need to practise and stuff.”

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No Crowds = Different Approach For Tsitsipas

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

No Crowds = Different Approach For Tsitsipas

Greek shares thoughts on playing without crowd support

With no crowds at this year’s Western & Southern Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas is approaching the sport with a different mindset on his return to the ATP Tour.

The ATP Masters 1000 event has moved to New York ahead of the US Open, with players following COVID-19 safety regulations. The controlled environment has kept players away from meeting fans and exploring the city, but Tsitsipas is taking the positives from the situation. With less distractions, he is now able to focus on his game and appreciate the sport even more.

“[The controlled environment] gives me, in a way, a different approach towards my tennis. It gives me an opportunity to focus more on my tennis and less on what is happening outside of it, which is great,” said Tsitsipas. “[This situation] gives me an opportunity to practise a lot, discover myself more being out on the court, love my sport even more, appreciate my sport more.”

Before the suspension of the ATP Tour, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion had reached peak form. In his two most recent events, Tsitsipas claimed his second straight Open 13 Provence title and reached the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final (l. to Djokovic). Returning to the site of an ATP Tour event for the first time since February has brought joy to Tsitsipas.

”It’s a great opportunity to be able to perform and play at such a high level again. Personally speaking, I’m very happy I get to be back on the court,” said Tsitsipas. “I was very happy when I first came here and saw my fellow players. I greeted all of them, had a smile on my face seeing them, being surrounded by them. It’s a great environment. Honestly, I’m just happy competing again, just happy to be able to be back to my normal happiness.”

This will be the first time that Tsitsipas has competed without spectators in a decade. The 22-year-old believes the lack of crowd support will prove most difficult for the top-ranked players in the FedEx ATP Rankings, who typically receive the greatest levels of support from fans.

”I haven’t really gone out there and played without spectators,” said Tsitsipas. “I think last time was when I was 12, 11 years old… I think it’s going to be challenging for most players, especially for the top players, which are used to having a big fan base, being surrounding by fans cheering their name, having people that love them when they play.

”I think it’s going to create a more equal space for any player. It is going to be challenging. I think it benefits a bit the lower-ranked players.”

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This Is What Tsitsipas Thinks About On Big Points…

When plans for the Western & Southern Open and the US Open were revealed, Tsitsipas was unsure if he would feel comfortable travelling to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. But after speaking to fellow players and listening to expert health advice from the tournaments, the Greek made the decision to travel to New York and return to action.

“I was worried about the virus at first. Despite all of the regulations that US Open set from early on, I still felt it could be unsecure to travel to the U.S,” said Tsitsipas. “So far it has been proven wrong of what I initially thought… After I spoke to most of the ATP players, after that conversation and everything, I found it secure and safe to travel to the U.S. and that’s why I did so. Plus, I miss competing a lot. I felt like if they think it’s safe for us to play, I should just go and try it out. They know better than I do.”

With no form guide to reference, fans will struggle to predict the outcomes of matches over the next few weeks. Tsitsipas, who will open his campaign against Kyle Edmund or Kevin Anderson, believes the unique circumstances in New York will lead to a number of shock results.

”This year is very different. What I find very interesting is, I want to see who is going to manage that better than anyone else… I think we’re going to see quite a few surprises this year.”

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Zverev On Ferrer: ‘I Can’t Ask For More’

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Zverev On Ferrer: ‘I Can’t Ask For More’

World No. 7 discusses coaching relationship, ATP Tour return

During the suspension of the ATP Tour, Alexander Zverev added a familiar face to his coaching set-up: former World No. 3 David Ferrer.

The 23-year-old spent over a month alongside the Spaniard in Monaco, working on his game as Ferrer adjusted to life as a coach, just one year after retiring from the sport at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open.

“He is exactly how he was on court. He is like that as a coach. I can’t ask for more,” said Zverev. “He was known as the biggest fighter, the biggest competitor in the world… He is overachieving every single expectation I had of him as a coach. It is amazing.”

Despite Zverev and Ferrer’s different approaches to the game, the German has bonded well with Ferrer in the early stages of their relationship. Ferrer will not be present at the Western & Southern Open or the US Open, but will join Zverev for events in Europe.

“[Working with Ferrer] is great. Honestly, I have to say for me, that partnership so far is one of the best partnerships I have had,” said Zverev. “Our personalities are extremely similar, which you wouldn’t think because of our game styles and how we are on court.

“We get along super well and during the European swing he is going to be there. Unfortunately, he couldn’t come here but I am excited for what is ahead for us.”

One of the reasons Ferrer could prove to be an inspired choice for Zverev is his knowledge of current players on the ATP Tour, including Zverev. The pair contested eight ATP Head2Head encounters, with Zverev earning a fifth win against the 2013 Roland Garros runner-up in Ferrer’s final match as a professional in Madrid.

“We played a bunch of times. We played eight times in our careers, so he knows exactly what I need to improve from a player’s perspective,” said Zverev. “He knows how to play me. He knows what to do to beat me and to have chances against me.”

Ferrer has been meticulous in his plans to improve Zverev’s game. In fact, the 27-time tour-level champion has been analysing Zverev’s past performances on YouTube and bringing a detailed notepad to practice sessions.

“He came immediately with a notebook and said, ‘Okay, this, this, this and that’. He is extremely organised,” said Zverev. “We would practise together and if he sees after two hours of practice that I am not doing this or that well, he would go on YouTube and be spending time looking at videos from two or three years ago [to see] what I was doing better back then, what I am doing better now, how I improved and how my body developed.

“He is doing all sorts of things to just really improve my game and that is something very special. He just quit a year ago in Madrid and he is so into it already. I have enjoyed it and I have loved every second of it so far.”

The Tour suspension has given Zverev time to not only build a new coaching relationship, but also to appreciate life as an ATP Tour player. The World No. 7 has missed the unique feeling of competition and success since his most recent tournament appearance at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in February.

“I started to realise how much I miss tennis. How much I miss the emotions of playing in front of 20,000 people,” said Zverev. “How much I miss the emotions of competing and winning a big match that is important for me. How much I just miss being out there. The emotions and feelings you get on a tennis court, you don’t get them anywhere else… The emotions of winning a big match. The emotions of holding up a big trophy. That is something you don’t get anywhere else.”

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Ahead of his return to action at the Western & Southern Open, Zverev took a moment to praise tournament organisers for their hard work to stage the event during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s edition of the ATP Masters 1000 event is being held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, ahead of the US Open which begins on 31 August.

“I think they have done a fantastic job when it comes to accommodation, when it comes to just making the players feel well in the circumstances,” said Zverev. “They built all sorts of little things. A mini golf course, they built basketball hoops all over the place, all sorts of little things… This event is special because we don’t know if we will ever get an opportunity like this again. Obviously we don’t want to, because we want the world to go back to normal again but this is a very special event for us.”

After reaching his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open in January, Zverev felt that he had returned to his best level after struggling with his game during the 2019 ATP Tour season. The 23-year-old will now look to build on his 6-5 start to the year in his return match against two-time Western & Southern Open champion Andy Murray or Frances Tiafoe.

“I feel like I am competitive again in the biggest tournaments,” said Zverev. “I showed that in Australia. When I arrived in Indian Wells before the tournament got cancelled, I felt like I was ready… We’ll see how everything goes now with the comeback, but I hope I can continue the form I had at the beginning of the year and maybe get even better.”

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Ruusuvuori Roars Past Chardy In W&S Open Qualifying, Sinner Falls

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Ruusuvuori Roars Past Chardy In W&S Open Qualifying, Sinner Falls

Top seed Simon advances in straight sets

Emil Ruusuvuori made the most of his ATP Masters 1000 qualifying debut on Thursday in Flushing Meadows. The #NextGenATP Finn upset World No. 59 Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-4 to reach the final round of qualifying at the Western & Southern Open.

The 21-year-old performed well under pressure against the French veteran, saving all three break points he faced while converting each of the four break points he earned. Ruusuvuori won 67 per cent of his second-serve return points in a 61-minute victory.

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#NextGenATP Star Ruusuvuori’s Goal: ‘A Grand Slam Win’

Last year, Ruusuvuori became the youngest player to win four ATP Challenger Tour titles in a season since Hyeon Chung in 2015. He will try to make his maiden Masters 1000 main draw when he faces 20th seed Thiago Monteiro, who ousted Argentine Federico Coria 6-3, 6-4. Ruusuvuori, No. 101 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, is on the verge of cracking the Top 100 for the first time.

Read: 600 Miles Away, Wolf Claims ‘Home’ Win

Another #NextGenATP star, Jannik Sinner, was not as successful on the first day of ATP Tour play since action was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Salvatore Caruso rallied past his fellow Italian 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and three minutes. Caruso converted six of his 10 break points against the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion. He will next play seventh seed Jordan Thompson, who beat wild card Michael Mmoh 6-2, 7-6(2).

Gilles Simon, the top seed in qualifying, showed good form to eliminate Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-3, 6-3 in 77 minutes. The former World No. 6 will play wild card Sebastian Korda, who beat Hungarian Attila Balazs 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, for a spot in his 12th Western & Southern Open main draw.

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Japan’s Yasutaka Uchiyama crushed eight aces in a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory against third seed Pablo Cuevas. German Dominik Koepfer, who advanced to the fourth round of the 2019 US Open at this venue, also caused an upset. The lefty beat fifth seed Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 7-6(0).

All final-round qualifying matches will be played Friday, with the Western & Southern Open main draw kicking off Saturday.

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Djokovic's Doubles Draw Difficult From The Start At The W&S Open

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Djokovic’s Doubles Draw Difficult From The Start At The W&S Open

Top seeds Cabal/Farah and second seeds Kubot/Melo face tough openers

Novak Djokovic is doing double duty at the Western & Southern Open, the first ATP Tour event since play was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Djokovic and fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic face a tricky test in the first round of the doubles draw against Americans Tommy Paul and Frances Tiafoe.

The winner of Djokovic/Krajinovic and Paul/Tiafoe will play top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah or former doubles World No. 1 Jamie Murray and his partner, Neal Skupski. Second seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo will try to beat Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares, both of whom have competed in the Nitto ATP Finals with different partners.

View Doubles Draw

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Djokovic isn’t the only singles star in the draw, as Alexander Zverev and fellow German Tim Puetz will try to upset seventh seeds Raven Klaasen and Oliver Marach.

Defending champions Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek are the fourth seeds this year. The Croatian-Slovakian team will face singles standouts Alex de Minaur and Pablo Carreno Busta, who are competing together for the first time.

More interesting match-ups include fifth seeds Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers playing Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov, eighth seeds Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic battling Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev, and Nicolas Mahut and Jan-Lennard Struff facing Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic.

Hubert Hurkacz and John Isner are first-round opponents in the singles draw, but they will team against Australian Open finalists Max Purcell and Luke Saville.

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Murray Faces Tough Return At W&S Open

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Murray Faces Tough Return At W&S Open

Djokovic and Medvedev both in the top half of the draw

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray faces a tough draw early at the Western & Southern Open, the first event since the ATP Tour was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two-time tournament champion will play American Frances Tiafoe in the first round, marking the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting. If Murray beats the home favorite, he will face fifth seed Alexander Zverev in the second round.

Murray, who at last October’s European Open won his first ATP Tour singles title in two-and-a-half years, is still working his way back into form after undergoing a second hip surgery last January. The World No. 129 owns a 31-12 record at this ATP Masters 1000 event, which is being held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year due to COVID-19. This is his first tournament of 2020.

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Who Will Make A Speedy Start In New York?

Tiafoe, who is making his fourth Western & Southern Open main draw appearance, upset Zverev in Cincinnati three years ago. He will not look past Murray, though. Tiafoe paid Murray a big compliment on Instagram last week, commenting on the Scot’s most recent post: “Some people just made different 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿.”

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who completed his Career Golden Masters in Cincinnati two years ago, is in the same half of the draw as defending champion Daniil Medvedev, who is seeded third.

Djokovic will play a qualifier or wild card Tommy Paul in his opening match. The first seeded opponent he could face is 15th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Canadian #NextGenATP Star. Felix will have his hands full in his first-round match against big-hitting Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.

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Medvedev rallied from a set down to oust Djokovic in last year’s Cincinnati semi-finals. The Russian will begin his title defence in the second round against a qualifier.

Second seed Dominic Thiem will try to find the form that helped him to this year’s Australian Open final. The big-hitting Austrian will open against Serbian Filip Krajinovic or a qualifier. Thiem could face 2017 titlist Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.

There are several popcorn first-round matches to kick off the return to tennis. Canadian sensation Denis Shapovalov, the 12th seed, will try to extend his 2-1 ATP Head2Head series lead against 2016 Western & Southern Open champion Marin Cilic. All three of their matches have come on hard courts, with Shapovalov triumphing in their most recent match in Marseille this February in three sets.

Former World No. 3 Milos Raonic and big-serving American Sam Querrey will meet in a rematch of the 2016 Wimbledon quarter-finals, and two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson will play former World No. 14 Kyle Edmund. They have split their two previous clashes, both of which were five-setters at a major.

Main draw action at Flushing Meadows begins Saturday.

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Marat Safin: The Man Of Fire

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Marat Safin: The Man Of Fire

The Russian was a draw for his powerful game and memorable mannerisms

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

First week at No. 1: 20 November 2000
Total weeks at No. 1: 9

At World No. 1
Safin was No. 35 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in April 2000. But the Russian used a strong push towards the end of the season to reach World No. 1 for the first time on 20 November 2000. At 20 years, 10 months, he remains the second-youngest player to reach the top spot.

“For me it was very strange in my experience reaching No. 1 and being No. 1. I wasn’t ready for that because I couldn’t imagine just a few months earlier that I’d have the chance to become No. 1 in the world. I was Top 50, dropping, playing very badly,” Safin told “I underestimated myself… I didn’t believe in myself and I was seeing myself weaker than others, which is unbelievable. Now I can understand tennis better.”

The charismatic and fiery right-hander led the ATP Tour with seven titles that year, including his maiden Grand Slam triumph at the US Open. He reached the pinnacle emphatically by winning the Rolex Paris Masters. Safin was the first player younger than 21 to win at least seven tour-level trophies in a season since Mats Wilander in 1983. With one more win at the Tennis Masters Cup [now named Nitto ATP Finals], Safin would have finished year-end No. 1, falling just short of Gustavo Kuerten. Safin spent three stints — with the final one ending in April 2001 — at top spot lasting a combined nine weeks.

Additionally, his sister, Dinara, climbed to the top of the WTA Rankings on 20 April 2009, marking the only time in history that a brother and sister have reached the summit of the sport.

Grand Slam Highlights
Safin only made one quarter-final in his first nine Grand Slam appearances. But the 20-year-old broke through in a major way at the 2000 US Open.

After battling past Gianluca Pozzi and Sebastien Grosjean in five-setters in the second and third rounds, respectively, Safin found the level that showed his incredibly high ceiling. In the final, the Russian blasted through Pete Sampras, then a four-time US Open champion, in straight sets. Sampras had won eight consecutive Slam finals he played, but Safin did not lose serve and he broke the American four times in a 98-minute blitz.

“Whatever I tried, he had the answers,” Sampras said. “With his game, as big as he hits the ball, when he’s on, he’s very, very tough to beat.”

The 6’4” righty, who remains the tallest World No. 1 in history, reached the Australian Open final in 2002 and 2004, but he did not lift another major trophy until returning to Melbourne in 2005, when he lost only three games against a 17-year-old Novak Djokovic in the first round, squeaked past top seed Roger Federer in a four-hour, 28-minute semi-final and rallied past Lleyton Hewitt for the trophy. That was Safin’s final Slam triumph.

Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Safin competed in the Tennis Masters Cup, which has since been renamed the Nitto ATP Finals, three times (2000, 2002, 2004). His best performance came in Lisbon in 2000, when he reached the semi-finals with a 2-1 round-robin record.

Had Safin gone 3-0 in round-robin play or defeated Andre Agassi in the semi-finals, the Russian would have finished year-end No. 1. Instead, Agassi beat Safin 6-3, 6-3 to reach the final and Kuerten completed the season with 75 more points.

Another standout moment for Safin at the season finale came in Houston in 2004, when he played a 38-point tie-break against Roger Federer, who won the match 6-3, 7-6(18). That remains tied for the longest tour-level tie-break.

ATP Masters 1000 Highlights
The powerful Safin won five Masters 1000 titles in his career, with the last four of those crowns coming indoors. His first victory at the elite level came in 2000 at the Rogers Cup.

The Russian’s greatest Masters 1000 hunting ground was the Rolex Paris Masters, where his overwhelming game thrived. Safin won 23 of his first 25 matches in Paris, making the 1999 final, in which he lost to World No. 1 Agassi as a 20-year-old.

The next year, Safin won a thrilling final against fellow big-hitter Mark Philippoussis 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(8). Safin, who also lifted the Paris trophy in 2002 and 2004, completed his career at the Masters 1000. He retired in 2009 after losing a three-setter against Juan Martin del Potro in the second round.

Biggest Rivalries
Marat Safin was born 13 months earlier than Lleyton Hewitt. Although the two could not be more different — in game or personality — they followed similar paths to the top of the game. Almost exactly one year after Safin became the youngest World No. 1 in history, Hewitt did the same.

“Marat is a lot more powerful. Lleyton has the quickness and the heart” Sampras said after the 2000 US Open final. “It’s two contrasting personalities and styles. But it will be an interesting match if those guys ever play.”

Safin and Hewitt finished their ATP Head2Head rivalry tied 7-7, with two of those matches coming in individual tournament finals (they also played in the final of the World Team Cup). Safin won on both occasions, defeating his Aussie rival at the 2002 Rolex Paris Masters and the 2005 Australian Open.

Safin told that one player who gave him fits was Fabrice Santoro, who won seven of their nine meetings.

“He played ugly the first time I saw him [at 1999 Washington]. I walked on the court and he toyed with me,” Safin said. “He got into my mind and throughout my career I was going on court knowing he knew where I was going to play. I got paranoia playing against him.”

Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 422-267
Overall Titles/Finals Record: 15-12

Safin did not dominate the ATP Tour as some thought he could with his powerful game, but he will go down as one of his generation’s most memorable players. In terms of his tennis, the Russian was capable of hitting a winner from virtually any spot on the court with any shot.

He was able to reverse a point’s momentum with one swing of his racquet, especially using his two-handed backhand. Safin was 6’4”, but he moved well enough to give himself time to unleash groundstrokes that pushed virtually any opponent back. The righty rarely swung out of his sneakers, utilising clean technique to get the most out of his game. Safin’s service stats didn’t come near measuring up against the likes of John Isner or Ivo Karlovic. But when the Russian was serving well, he put pressure on opponents, giving them few looks at returning aggressively.

Nobody will soon forget Safin’s behaviour on court, either. There was no fire and ice with Safin; it was always fire. He brought it with his blazing game, and complemented it with his fiery personality. After his career, the Russian admitted to breaking 1,055 racquets – his racquet sponsor had kept count! But nobody could take their eyes off him, making Safin a must-watch player even as his FedEx ATP Ranking slipped towards the end of his career. In 2020, he returned to the sport to inspire Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov as captain of Russia at the inaugural ATP Cup.

Memorable Moment
The 2000 Paris final was the culmination of Safin’s rise. The 20-year-old proved against Philippoussis in the final that he not only had the talent to beat the best in the game, but the will to battle through adversity in the biggest moments.

Safin left everything on the court — including blood, from diving for a volley — to emerge victorious after three hours and 29 minutes. The fifth-set tie-break was a classic, as Safin, sporting a bandage over his right eyebrow, triumphed when Philippoussis mis-hit a final forehand. When the next FedEx ATP Rankings came out, Safin became the youngest World No. 1 in history, with Hewitt taking that record at 20 years, nine months the following year.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov on Safin
“Marat’s game was unlimited. I think everyone will tell you the same thing, that Marat’s game was very flashy and his game was very unlimited. He could have done a lot better than he has achieved, I think.”

Jimmy Connors on Safin
“He was emotional, played with passion. That is what drew me to him. Colourful, yes. Charismatic, yes. Controversial, yes. Great tennis player, no doubt. All reasons why when Marat took the court, you wanted to have the best seat in the house, never knowing what you were going to get. The tennis you expected. Everything else was a bonus. I for one loved the show.”

Safin On Being Inducted Into The International Tennis Hall Of Fame
“We had ups and downs, we cried, we broke racquets, we shouted some words, we threw the balls out of the court, we insulted the referees, only sometimes,” Safin said, cracking a laugh. “But this is a part of our life. I’m just so pleased to be part of it. It’s a huge honour to be inducted and be part of history.”

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
When Marat Safin was in full flight on the tennis court, he was a sight to behold. Tall, powerful and aggressive, he could make any player look ordinary as he did when he straight-setted the great Pete Sampras in the 2000 US Open final.

Unfortunately for the Russian, and fortunately for the rest of the players, he was not known for consistency of performance. One day unbeatable, the next day a racquet-tossing bundle of frustration as things didn’t go his way. Either way there was rarely a dull moment when he was in action.

The mercurial Russian holds some unique distinctions. Standing an impressive 6’4”, he is the tallest player to have ever achieved the No. 1 ranking and along with WTA No. 1 Dinara Safin, is half of the only brother and sister act to hold the top ranking in both men’s and women’s tennis.

After tennis he was elected to the Russian Parliament and served at both the Russian Tennis Federation and the Russian Olympic Committee. In 2016 he became the first Russian to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

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Wawrinka Battles Back For Prague SF Berth

  • Posted: Aug 21, 2020

Wawrinka Battles Back For Prague SF Berth

Swiss to face Czech wild card for spot in the final

Stan Wawrinka has been made to work to reach the semi-finals at the I.CLTK Prague Open By Moneta.

The World No. 17, who is kicking off his restart at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague, was forced to fight through a deciding set once again on Thursday. One day after rallying from a set down to reach the quarter-finals, Wawrinka survived a stern test from India’s Sumit Nagal 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the last four.

Wawrinka overcame Nagal after one hour and 19 minutes, as the Indian No. 1 sailed a forehand long on match point. In his two previous victories, the former World No. 3 emitted an emphatic scream as he crossed the finish line. But, on Thursday, it was a far more muted celebration that came from a relieved Wawrinka as he secured his spot in the semis.

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After five months without competing in a professional tournament, Wawrinka understands that these wins will not come easy. For him, battling through the challenging moments are what’s most important as he looks to rediscover his elite form.

“It was a tough start again,” said Wawrinka. “I was not feeling the ball very well and it was flying a lot on me. Again, it’s good to win another match and to do it in three sets gives me more time on the court. It’s all positive.

“I was playing better in the second and third sets, making him play a lot more balls,” Wawrinka said of Vrbensky. “In the first set I was missing a lot. I’m still far away from my level and that’s why I’m here, to keep improving day by day. The conditions are good and I’m happy to play in the semi-finals tomorrow.”

Wawrinka was broken twice in the first set and struggled to find his rhythm from the baseline. But as the match wore on, the World No. 17 raised his level and refused to drop his serve again. Despite gaining much confidence from his three deciding-set victories this week, he will hope for a more straightforward match on Friday. Michael Vrbensky, a 20-year-old Czech wild card, will be his semi-final opponent.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak/Prague Open 2020

“I watched him play in the match before mine, against Ymer, and he plays well. He’s really solid and was trying to be aggressive. It’s going to be a tough match. At my age, I usually play against younger players, so I’m used to it. It’s good to see these young players coming up and I’m looking forward to playing against him for the first time.”

Vrbensky also fought through a three-set encounter to reach the semis, upsetting Elias Ymer 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. Having won a mere four matches at the Challenger level entering the tournament, the World No. 405 is enjoying a breakthrough week on home soil.

Vrbenksy’s first career semi-final will be a special one against Wawrinka. Not only is this his first meeting with a Top 100 opponent, but with a spot in the championship on the line it is certainly a match he will never forget.

“This feels great,” said Vrbensky. “It’s a great opportunity and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

The other semi-final will feature third seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Russia’s Aslan Karatsev. The former World No. 36 Herbert overcame Tallon Griekspoor 7-5, 5-7, 6-3, while Karatsev upset Henri Laaksonen 7-6(3), 6-4. It will be their first meeting.

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