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Massu: ‘The Priority Is Still Competing And, Hopefully, Winning’

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2020

Massu: ‘The Priority Is Still Competing And, Hopefully, Winning’

Chilean discusses Thiem’s chances at US Open

If there is one trait that has characterised Nicolas Massu during his life, it is the ability to adapt. In fact, one of the reasons Dominic Thiem included him in his team as a coach, in February 2019, was so that, among other things, he could help him transition to other surfaces. For this reason, the multitude of changes to the sport since the resumption of the ATP Tour has not been a huge inconvenience to the Chilean.

“Life is strange right now, everything is strange”, Massu told “Being in a 23,000-seater stadium with nobody in it, the Tour having been suspended due to a pandemic, being in a bubble without being able to leave the club or the hotel, that the three biggest players in history [Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic] aren’t in the quarter-finals of the US Open, that we have non-stop tournaments from here until the end of the year.

Everything is strange. But you can’t spend your time analysing all the changes. It is what it is. The priority is still competing and, hopefully, winning.”

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

The Chilean’s first experience after the return of the ATP Tour was also unusual. His pupil lost his opener at the Western & Southern Open, ensuring he would have a whole week without competing until the start of the US Open, at the same venue. In addition, the bubble of the complex and hotel established new dynamics that Massu would have to get used to very quickly. How? By knuckling down.

“There are restrictions everywhere. But it is what it is,” said Massu. “The important thing is playing. There will be time to discover more about the tournament’s city later. While this is happening, I’m watching a lot of matches, I take a look back at Dominic’s to see what he can improve on. I spend time on my own, thinking, analysing the next match, which in the end is the most important thing about tennis.

“Also, I spend a lot of time in the gym, at least two hours a day. I do aerobics, weights. Five times a week I try to do that, and it kills two hours a day. Sometimes it’s me who knocks up with Dominic, I also exercise with him on court… That really motivates me: keeping myself fit.”

He is also motivated by keeping an eye on the Chilean players. Such is the case of Cristian Garín, whom he was cheering on from the stands in the bubble in New York.

“I love that there are Chileans in big tournaments and that there is friendship there. I’m the Davis Cup captain and I try to support them,” said Massu. “[Cristian] was playing really well when [the ATP Tour] was suspended. Now it’s a question of him playing in more tournaments to earn confidence and to get comfortable after so long without competing.”

What has not changed for Massu, compared to life before the pandemic, is that his pupil Dominic Thiem continues to live up to his seeding at Grand Slam tournaments. Since being under the tutelage of Massu, Thiem has played five majors. During that time, the Austrian has reached finals at Roland Garros in 2019 (l. to Nadal) and this year’s Australian Open (l. to Djokovic).

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Rublev: Calm vs Storm

At the 2020 US Open, he has maintained his streak of reaching the later rounds and handling the pressure. One day after becoming the highest remaining seed in the draw, following Novak Djokovic’s fourth-round exit, the World No. 3 beat #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in three sets.

“I was very happy with the way Dominic played. I’ll watch that match again several times to analyse it and see what he did well and what he can continue to improve. But I think wins like this have to give him confidence for what is to come,” said Massu, who also spoke of unexpectedly seeing his 27-year-old pupil become the second-oldest player in the quarter-finals of the US Open.

“Everything’s different now. Strange. But it will be a question of getting used to it. Now there are young players who have a lot of potential. If they’re in the Top 30 at that age it’s because they’re playing well. They’re going to lead the future change of generations. Tennis is going through a phase in which this kind of player is reaching the very top,” said Massu, who is looking no further than Thiem’s quarter-final match against Alex de Minaur.

“We’re just focusing on what comes next. Nothing more,” said Massu. “Whether or not the best in history are in these rounds is out of my hands. What I can do is concern myself with the next match. And in my head there is nothing other than that next match. It will require the utmost concentration”.

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Steady As He Goes: Carreno Busta Survives In Five Against Shapovalov

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2020

Steady As He Goes: Carreno Busta Survives In Five Against Shapovalov

Spaniard to face Zverev in US Open semi-finals

Despite 76 winners and relentless fighting spirit from No. 12 seed Denis Shapovalov, Pablo Carreno Busta remained unflappable in their US Open quarter-final on Tuesday.

The No. 20 seed was largely stoic throughout their four-hour, nine-minute showdown inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Tirelessly retrieving balls and blocking back the onslaught of Shapovalov’s power, Carreno Busta overcame a back injury late in the match and dug deep to prevail 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 0-6, 6-3 for his second US Open semi-final.

”I’m destroyed, but I’m very happy. It’s incredible to be back in the semi-finals,” Carreno Busta said to ESPN’s James Blake after the match. “I think I’m very comfortable on these courts.

”I think the past months during quarantine was very tough for everyone. I worked very hard with my coach. When you work hard, normally the results arrive. Maybe not in the first tournament, but I’m very lucky to be in the semi-finals.”

Carreno Busta continues to excel at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In addition to his semi-final three years ago, the Spaniard also won his first ATP Masters 1000 doubles title two weeks ago alongside Alex de Minaur at the Western & Southern Open. He improved to 4-1 in his ATP Head2Head series with Shapovalov and has prevailed in their past three matches.

Standing between him and the championship match is fifth seed Alexander Zverev, who defeated No. 27 seed Borna Coric earlier in the day. Zverev won their lone ATP Head2Head meeting two years ago in Miami.

Carreno Busta and Shapovalov traded breaks to start the match, but it was clear from the onset that Shapovalov would be dictating play with his winners and unforced errors. He was even more energised than usual, yelling when he hit thunderous winners and jogging to his chair after service holds. Shapovalov struck a down-the-line forehand to break again at 4-3 in the opening set and held comfortably in the next game for an early advantage.

Service breaks once again highlighted the start of the second set as both men held serve once each in the first six games. As Shapovalov’s first-serve percentage began to drop, his second serve betrayed him. He hit six double faults in the second set and won just eight of 23 second-serve points. Carreno Busta took advantage of the opportunities provided to him, striking a backhand passing shot at 3/2 in the tie-break and converting his third set point with an ace to level the match. 

Carreno Busta’s relentless retrieving and consistency contributed to Shapovalov’s increased unforced error count and a 4-2 lead for the Spaniard in the third set. But the Canadian continued to battle, earning the break back at 4-3 with powerful baseline play and bravely saving a break point with an ace at 5-5.

With the third-set tie-break even at 4/4, Carreno Busta stepped up and played some of his most aggressive tennis of the night. He earned a mini-break with a solid down-the-line backhand, then ripped an unreturned first serve and forehand winner to take a commanding advantage.

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Five Things To Know About Pablo Carreno Busta

The grueling rallies appeared to take their toll on the 29-year-old Spaniard as he began to take more time in between points. Shapovalov opened the fourth set with a forehand winner to break serve, then won 20 of the next 24 points to take their clash to a decider.

Carreno Busta received a medical timeout on his lower back before the start of the fifth set. Although his movement improved significantly, Shapovalov appeared to have more energy and bounced between return points even as the match neared the four-hour mark.

But Carreno Busta’s steadiness prevailed as Shapovalov’s streakiness proved to be his undoing. A backhand error set up two break points for Carreno Busta at 3-2 and Shapovalov stood in disbelief as he double faulted to give away the break.

The Spaniard raised his arms in triumph after a forehand return in the net from Shapovalov, his 76th unforced error of the night, wrapped up the match.

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The Evolution Of Andrey Rublev

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2020

The Evolution Of Andrey Rublev

The Russian is pursuing the biggest result of his career

Three years ago, a 19-year-old Andrey Rublev became the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001. The Russian teenager faced a great challenge against top seed Rafael Nadal, who eliminated him in only 96 minutes.

“He gave me a lesson: 1, 2, and 2,” Rublev said, referencing the score.

The big-hitting righty is back into the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows. But this is not the same Rublev. This is a newer, better version of the ball-thrasher from Moscow.

“I hope and I wish that I’m a better player, that I have a better mentality, that physically for sure I’m better, game-wise as well,” Rublev said. “For sure I improved a lot in the past three years. I’m really happy that I reached my second quarter-final here at the US Open.”

Sure, the 22-year-old has improved different physical aspects of his game, including his serve, footwork and overall physique. But he has taken his biggest leaps mentally.

Rublev was always capable of blowing opponents off the court, but his success came in spurts and he was inconsistent. According to his quarter-final opponent, close friend Daniil Medvedev, that’s no longer the case.

“He really progressed starting last year. I think he changed something in his mindset, in his game,” Medvedev said. “Now he’s one of the best players in the world, only going up the rankings. [He will be in the] Top 10 soon, I guess. Really happy for him.”

This was evident in the fourth round against 2019 semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini Last year, the Italian cruised past Rublev in straight sets in the same round. The sixth seed appeared on the same path after winning the first set on Monday, but Rublev did not panic, instead seizing control and rallying for a four-set triumph.

“He probably was thinking, ‘Shucks, I’m going to lose to this guy again,’” former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert, who was broadcasting the match, said. “But he stepped up. Now he’s got a tough match with Medvedev.”

“Last year I remember he started to play really well, he started to play aggressively and I was not ready to accept that. I started to complain really early. I was thinking, ‘How was it possible that he’s playing so good? I cannot play the same way.’ When I woke up I was already losing two sets to zero and he was already so confident,” Rublev said. “[This time] he started also so good. He was aggressive, he was dictating. I think I accepted this a little earlier and that’s why after the first set I was able to come back and start to play better.”

Berrettini believes Rublev improved in several areas.

“I think he’s returning better, serving better. His forehand and backhand are heavier,” Berrettini said. “I knew every time that I play him that he was improving… I think he improved everything a little bit. Today he was just better than me.”

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Kafelnikov: ‘Kids Want To Be Like Medvedev, Rublev Or Khachanov’

Rublev is at a career-high No. 14 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, and former World No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the first Russian to win a Grand Slam singles title, believes he “definitely” still has room to grow.

“One area I’d love for him to improve is his physical conditioning, his footwork. I think it remains to be better,” Kafelnikov said. “If he improves his quickness and footwork on the court as well as his first serve a little bit, he’s going to win many Grand Slams, I have no doubt about it.”

Kafelnikov first met Rublev when he was around 16 at a Davis Cup tie, and the Russian teen was already an impressive junior. The 26-time tour-level singles titlist is happy to see Rublev living up to those early expectations.

“There have been many cases in the past when some talented prospect has a fantastic junior career and when they try to transfer it to the different level they struggle,” Kafelnikov said. “That has not been the case for Andrey. He transferred his junior success into the men’s level, so that’s really nice to see.”

After Nadal defeated Rublev in New York three years ago, he had plenty of praise for the young Russian.

“If he continues with that improvement, he going to fight for the most important things that we have in our sport,” Nadal said. “Even if you are young and you are having success, you know that you have to keep doing things that make you a better player.
I think he’s doing that, and that’s the most important thing in our sport.”

Rublev has made strides over the past three years. On Wednesday afternoon, Rublev will step onto the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium for his second quarter-final at Flushing Meadows, where he will have a chance to prove it. 

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