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Murray/Skupski Keep London Hopes Alive In Sofia

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2020

Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski advanced to their third final of the season on Thursday at the Sofia Open to extend their Nitto ATP Finals qualification bid.

The British pair saved all three break points they faced to overcome Fabrice Martin and Hugo Nys 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 10-4 in just under two hours. Murray and Skupski must win the Sofia title to have any chance of qualifying for the eight-team event, which will be held at The O2 in London from 15-22 November.


If the top seeds in Sofia, Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, beat Tomislav Brkic and Marin Cilic on Friday, they will qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time as a team.

Murray and Skupski are bidding to capture their first team title in the Bulgarian capital. The second seeds reached their first two ATP Tour championship matches as a pair earlier this year at the Western & Southern Open and the Erste Bank Open.

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Groups Are Set For 2020 Nitto ATP Finals

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2020

Novak Djokovic, who will be bidding to earn a record-trying sixth trophy at the season finale, learned his group for the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals on Thursday. The World No. 1 leads Group Tokyo 1970 alongside Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman.

Djokovic has a 39-3 match record on the season and has qualified for the season finale 13 times. He triumphed at the event in 2008 and 2012-15.

Nadal, who has earned his spot at the prestigious event for a record 16 consecutive years, leads Group London 2020 alongside Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev. Nadal, who has a 25-5 record in 2020 with two titles, has earned a berth at the Nitto ATP Finals every season starting in 2005.

Group Tokyo 1970
Novak Djokovic
Daniil Medvedev
Alexander Zverev
Diego Schwartzman

Group London 2020
Rafael Nadal
Dominic Thiem
Stefanos Tsitsipas
Andrey Rublev

The other two former champions of the event are 2019 champion Tsitsipas and 2018 titlist Zverev. Thiem, the third seed, captured his first Grand Slam title this year at the US Open. Rublev and Schwartzman are first-time competitors at the event.

The singles draw for the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 15-22 November, was made on Thursday and broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘5 Live Drive’ featuring ATP Supervisor Gerry Armstrong and 1970 tournament champion Stan Smith.

“If you look at this draw, you look at Medvedev and Zverev, who just played in the finals against each other in Paris last week, they obviously are playing quite well. They’re going to be pushing Novak in that group,” Smith said on the broadcast. “But on the other side, Rublev has really been hot overall for the year, it’s unbelievable. Tsitsipas is the defending champion and Thiem is the US Open champion, so Rafa’s got his hands full with those three guys.”


Seven different countries are represented in the elite eight-man singles field. Four played aged 24 and under will compete at The O2. This is the 50th Anniversary of the Nitto ATP Finals, which was first held in 1970 in Tokyo, where Smith lifted the trophy. It is the tournament’s 12th and final edition in London. Next year, the season finale will move to Turin, Italy.

Italian Matteo Berrettini, the 2019 qualifier, and Canadian Denis Shapovalov are first and second alternates, respectively, in the singles field.


CENTRE COURT start 12:00 noon
Doubles TBD Doubles TBD

Not Before 2:00 pm
[3] D. Thiem (AUT) vs [6] S. Tsitsipas (GRE)

Not Before 6:00 pm
Doubles TBD Doubles TBD

Not Before 8:00 pm
[2] R. Nadal (ESP) vs [7] A. Rublev (RUS)


CENTRE COURT start 12:00 noon

Not Before 2:00 pm
[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [8] D. Schwartzman (ARG)

Not Before 6:00 pm

Not Before 8:00 pm
[4] D. Medvedev (RUS) vs [5] A. Zverev (GER)

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One Year On, Sinner Earns Second De Minaur Victory

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2020

One year on from his championship victory against Alex de Minaur at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, Jannik Sinner earned another memorable win against the Aussie on Thursday at the Sofia Open.

The #NextGenATP Italian rallied from a set down to overcome De Minaur 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and 11 minutes. Sinner won 80 per cent of his first-serve points (43/54) and held his nerve under pressure, as he saved six of the seven break points he faced.

“The key [in the big moments] is the balance on court, trying to understand how big I should go,” said Sinner. “The important points, when you serve, try to serve with the first serve in and maybe then it is a little bit easier to win the point.

“I was just focussing on that and trying to let him play in one corner, because he moves very fast… My tactic was to stay in one corner and try and play a little bit faster than him.”


Sinner, who owns a 17-11 record in 2020, is through to his second ATP Tour semi-final of the year. The bett1HULKS Championship semi-finalist is aiming to reach his first ATP Tour championship match this week.

After dropping the first set in a tie-break, Sinner earned an unlikely break at 3-3 to turn the match in his favour. De Minaur raced into a 40/0 lead on serve, but Sinner played with aggression on his forehand to overpower his opponent.

After saving break points to close the second set, Sinner charged to victory in the decider. The Italian stepped in on short balls and ripped winners to open a 5-1 lead. De Minaur began to commit errors as he attempted to shorten points and Sinner moved through to the semi-finals when De Minaur fired a forehand beyond the baseline.

Sinner will face Adrian Mannarino for a place in the championship match. The Frenchman reached his second semi-final in three weeks with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 victory against Radu Albot.

The Nur-Sultan runner-up landed seven aces and broke serve on three occasions to reach his first semi-final in Sofia. Since arriving at the bett1HULKS Championship in Cologne last month, Mannarino has won 10 of his 13 matches.

“[Adrian] is a tough player, a lefty [who is] serving well and moving well in long rallies. It is going to be a physical match,” said Sinner. “I have to talk to my coach about how I am going to play tomorrow and try to be prepared.”

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Sinner: From The Stands To The Stage To The Top

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2020

It’s easy to forget that Jannik Sinner was the eighth seed at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals. Then only 18, the Italian had shown promise earlier in the year by reaching the Antwerp semi-finals. But he gained entry into the 21-and-under finale as a wild card. Sinner finished the 2019 FedEx ATP Race To Milan in 11th place.

But the one-time skiing prodigy was determined to prove that he could compete with more established #NextGenATP stars, like Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe and Casper Ruud.

“Last year, I was watching from the stands,” Sinner said before the tournament, cracking a smile. “This year, I can play in front of the stands.”

Sinner did more than just compete. He became the first Italian to lift the Next Gen ATP Finals trophy, beating De Minaur 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 with a breathtaking shotmaking display in the final. That proved to be just the beginning of what has been a rapid ascent for the teen.

The red-headed right-hander received plenty of attention for his efforts. Even Roger Federer chimed in at this year’s US Open.

“I think we’ll see so much more from him,” Federer said. “He’s an exciting guy and [a] super sweet kid, which I always love to see.”

The spotlight that was on Sinner only grew bigger throughout 2020, but the Italian never allowed the pressure to get to him. In fact, he thrived under it. Sinner has made the biggest jump into the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings this year, surging from No. 78 to No. 44, and he is not yet done, competing at this week’s Sofia Open.

The #NextGenATP star didn’t soar with just one big result, either. One can argue some of Sinner’s losses have been just as impressive as his wins.

The Italian earned his first Top 10 triumph in February, when he beat World No. 10 David Goffin in Rotterdam. The Belgian is one of the toughest baseliners on the ATP Tour, but Sinner dispatched him in straight sets.

“It feels like a normal victory, [but] sometimes you play [matches] better than others,” he said. “It’s all about improving and testing where you are [as a player].”

Since he first broke onto the scene, Sinner has maintained that he does not focus on one result. He is always working to best position himself for the long term, trying to improve daily.

After the ATP Tour was suspended for more than five months due to COVID-19, the Italian lost his first two matches back. But a five-set defeat against then-World No. 16 Karen Khachanov in the first round the US Open showed a big result was not far away.

Khachanov is one of the world’s biggest hitters, but Sinner had no problem going toe-to-toe with the Russian for three hours and 44 minutes, pushing the 2018 Rolex Paris Masters champion to a fifth-set tie-break. Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi was in the stands watching his countryman.

“Sometimes it’s like he’s playing another sport. The ball is going so fast from his racquet. He’s still thin, he’s not so big. But the ball is going really, really fast,” Lorenzi told “It was impressive. He was playing unbelievable [against Khachanov]. He was two sets up against a guy who is Top 15 in the world and they both were playing really good. I think that was a big step for him.”

Sinner carried that momentum into the clay-court season, during which he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for his second Top 10 win. Sixteen months earlier, he had managed to take only five games from the Greek star at the same tournament.

That set the stage for one of the most impressive #NextGenATP efforts of 2020. Sinner only lost one set en route to his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros, where he beat Goffin and recent US Open finalist Alexander Zverev. The Italian became the first player to reach the last eight on his debut at the clay-court Slam since Rafael Nadal in 2005. It was only fitting Sinner faced the Spaniard next.

“I don’t watch about records. I know who is on the other side,” Sinner said. “I have a lot of respect [for] him. At the end you want to win. You go on court to play your tennis with your personality. You go on court trying to play your tennis, trying to win obviously.”

Sinner gave it a good shot, winning more games against Nadal (11) than World No. 1 Novak Djokovic did in the final (7). The teen showed a willingness to engage the legendary lefty in baseline rallies, sometimes even overpowering the Spaniard.

“He’s improving every single week. He’s playing better and better and better,” Nadal said before their match. “He has an amazing potential, he moves [his] hands very quickly and he’s able to produce amazing shots.”

Two years ago, Sinner was in the stands in Milan. Last year, the Italian took centre stage. And now, the teen is proving that he is well on his way to the top.

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Beyond The Antics, Nastase’s Genius Made Him A Masters Great

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2020

Continuing our series on the 50 years of the Nitto ATP Finals, looks at one of the most colourful and controversial figures in tennis history, Ilie Nastase.

A ticket to an Ilie Năstase match represented much more than just an opportunity to watch a tennis match. Năstase once told a chair umpire that tennis “isn’t the opera”. Perhaps not, but his matches were very much a raucous blend of performance art, theater, and stand-up comedy.

The talented and polarising Romanian was fined or suspended too many times to count for making obscene gestures, using profane language, firing balls at linespersons and generally making a nuisance of himself on the court. Sometimes his fines added up to more than his prize money at the end of the week.

In a memorable match with John McEnroe at the US Open in 1979, he played the part of his other nickname—the Bucharest Buffoon—when he nearly caused a riot with his antics and made McEnroe look like a choirboy by comparison. Năstase once turned up at a Wimbledon doubles match wearing a beefeater helmet. On another occasion, he ripped his tennis shorts during a match at the US Open, and promptly took out a new pair and changed right there on the court. As they say in Romanian, nicio problemă. No problem.

British tennis great Tim Henman recently asked “Nasty” how he feels about still being considered the sport’s iconic bad boy. “I don’t care!” he said on a Zoom call from his Bucharest home, where he sat before his collection of tennis mementos and a Romanian flag, with pop music playing in his office. “Somebody has to be nasty, no? Not everybody is nice. I’m the nasty one. I love it.”

Nasty was known for clowning, stalling, and displaying flashes of genius on the court. He often drove his opponents to the brink of madness, and usually beat the short shorts off of them too, particularly at the season-ending Masters, where he made it to the final in five consecutive seasons in five countries (France, Spain, USA, Australia, and Sweden) on three surfaces.

Ilie Nastase. Photo: FC Barcelona/Horacio SeguíIlie Nastase en route to his second Masters title in Barcelona 1972. Photo: FC Barcelona/Horacio Seguí

Năstase was a playboy, a practical joker, a novelist, a coach, a diplomat, a politician, a provocateur, and, perhaps above all else, an entertainer. Amid all the legends, generations who missed watching his artful game may not realise that he was also a gifted tennis player, a guy no one wanted to see their name next to in the draw, particularly at the Masters, where he won four titles in four different cities in a five-year stretch in the early ‘70s.

Ask Năstase why he was so very good at the Masters, as British tennis great Tim Henman did, and he shrugs. “I don’t know how I did it,” he said. “It was my lucky tournament…it was my favorite tournament, but I don’t know how I did it.”

Ilie Theodoriu Năstase was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1946 just months before the Romanian Communist Party took power, winning an election marred by allegations of fraud. He lived for tennis from an early age and wrote in a memoir that his parents were “extremely supportive” but decided not to come to any of his matches or “take any interest” in his tennis career. “When I rung them to tell them I had won the French Open in 1973, my dad said, ‘What’s that?’” he wrote. “Deep down, I knew this was his way of showing he loved me.”

Travel was strictly restricted during the communist era in Romania, so Nasty was unable to test his level of play at an international level until the mid-1960s. His tennis career took off in 1966, when at 19 he became the champion of Romania. That same year, he reached the French Open doubles final with his sidekick, Ion Țiriac.

He went on to win two singles majors—the French and US Opens— three doubles majors, and more than 100 titles (combing singles and doubles), 15 of them in 1973, when he was the first ATP World No. 1. Năstase also proudly represented his country in Davis Cup competition for 18 years, leading Romania to the final on three occasions. He was part of an elite club, together with Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe— who earned $1 million or more in the sport.

“People remember his crazy antics but not his talent”, said Zeljko Franulovic, Tournament Director of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, who lost a tough three set match to Năstase at the ’71 Masters in Paris. “He was one of the most talented ever. We were used to (his antics), but now I don’t think it would work because the rules have changed.”

Ilie Nastase. Photo: FC Barcelona/Horacio SeguíIlie Nastase at the Barcelona presentation ceremony in 1972. Photo: FC Barcelona/Horacio Seguí

Năstase told Henman that his first Masters title in Paris at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin in 1971 remains his favourite. His $15,000 first prize came in handy for the post-match celebration.

“I lived in Paris for four years,” said Năstase, who was the head of the Romanian tennis federation for eight years until 2008 and also served as the country’s Davis and Fed Cup captain for spells. “It was my favorite city at the time. When I made the (prize) money, by the next day I had to take the bus because I spent it all at a nightclub in St. Germain.”

Nasty backed up that title with back-to-back Masters wins in ’72 (Barcelona) and ’73 (Boston), notching wins against a host of tennis legends, including Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, Manuel Orantes, and John Newcombe among others. But if you ask him about Boston, what he remembers is how a chair umpire didn’t show up for one of his matches.

“They picked some guy out of the crowd to be umpire!” he said.

In 1974, the quest to win four Masters titles in a row took Nasty Down Under, to the grass courts of Melbourne’s venerable Kooyong Club. He came into the event ranked No. 10 and grass wasn’t his best surface, but he was undefeated in the round-robin stage and then upset Aussie star John Newcombe, then ranked No. 2 in the semi-finals.

“But then I lost to (Guillermo) Vilas in the final,” Năstase said, chuckling at the memory of his five-set loss. “The grass was very slow, the balls were quite big… it was like playing on clay.”

The following year, 1975, the tournament was played in Sweden, and a young Björn Borg, then just 19 but already ranked No. 2, was the hometown favorite. Năstase, then 29, schooled young Borg in the final, winning three sets in just 65 minutes. After the match, Nasty told reporters, “It was the most I concentrate in 29 years. From now on, I try not to kid. For as long as possible, anyway. I realise it’s not good for my game.”

The “kidding” he was referring to was a round-robin match earlier in the tournament where both he and his opponent, Arthur Ashe, were disqualified. Nasty quick served Ashe on at least one occasion, and was repeatedly warned for stalling. At one point, he faked as though he was about to serve four times, remarking to his opponent, “Are you ready, Mr. Ashe?” Ashe eventually walked off the court to protest Nasty’s antics. The American was disqualified for leaving the court; moments later, Nasty was also disqualified. If Ashe had stayed on the court, he would have won the match. After the debacle, Năstase said, “I’m always wrong. Why do I have to say anything?”

“It was my fault,” Năstase told Henman of the Ashe disqualification affair. “Jack Kramer was the president (of the ATP) at that time. I went to him the next day and apologised. I told them it was my mistake and they should give the match to Arthur. No other player would do that. You see, so I was not always so Nasty.”

Nitto ATP Finals 50th Anniversary Content

  • Step Aside Boris, Sampras Owned Germany in The ‘90s
  • The Other Rock Stars Of Madison Square Garden
  • Tom Gorman’s Remarkable Sportsmanship Resonates 48 Years On
  • Djokovic’s Shanghai Reality Check Fuelled His Finale Success
  • Stan Smith: From First Masters Champ To Boot Camp…
  • At Madison Square Garden, ‘Ivan Was The Truth’
  • Two Years To Rule Them All: Hewitt Soars In Sydney And Shanghai

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Step Aside Boris, Sampras Owned Germany in The ‘90s

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2020 continues its series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Nitto ATP Finals, looking at the biggest stars and greatest moments in tournament history.

In the ‘90s, Nirvana rocked, the Soviet Union vanished, Netflix, Google and online dating were launched on the new World Wide Web, and Pete Sampras dominated the ATP World Championships in Germany. The always cool and collected Californian won a remarkable 12 majors in the decade.

He led the United States team to a Davis Cup title in 1995, beating the Russian team in Moscow. And Sampras won five Masters titles and two Grand Slam Cups. Other than healing lepers, turning loaves of bread into fish and winning Roland Garros and Olympic gold, Sampras did it all.

Petros “Pete” Sampras has largely retreated from the public eye since he retired from the sport in 2002 after beating Andre Agassi in the final of the US Open. And with tennis’ Big Three passing his record haul of 14 majors, younger tennis fans who never had the pleasure of watching Pete’s emphatic slam dunk overheads may not know much about his remarkable story, which he detailed sparingly during his career but in much more detail in his memoir, A Champion’s Mind: Lessons from a Life in Tennis.

See more stories in the 50th anniversary celebration series

As a boy, Sampras often practised 12 hours a day. His coach insisted he play with a wooden racquet until he was 13 because he thought it would help him perfect his strokes. “For some reason I had no best friends – or any friends, for that matter – but I did believe in God because he had given me the Gift,” he wrote in his book.
Sampras suffers from thalassemia minor, a condition that can inhibit the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, but it didn’t stop him from bursting into the Top 10 by age 19 and remaining there for nearly his entire career.

By his own reckoning, Pistol Pete’s most difficult feat may have been his Open Era record of six consecutive year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Rankings from 1993 to 1998. His five Masters titles helped lock down those honors, but don’t get as much attention as they deserve. In a recent conversation with British tennis great Tim Henman, and Novak Djokovic for, Sampras reflected on the event and how it helped make him the sport’s dominant player of the decade.

“It was stressful, I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t eating well, I just kind of put all this pressure on myself to break this record that was important to me,” Sampras said. “It felt great, but it definitely took a lot out of me emotionally. Just, even the next few years, those years at No. 1 and staying on top of the game, year after year after year. … it’s very hard to stay No. 1. And to do it six years in a row was for me in my career… I look back at that, and I’ve won a lot of majors, I’ve done some great things – but staying No. 1 all of those years, I think was my biggest achievement.”

Djokovic, who now has six year-end No. 1 finishes on his CV and passed Sampras’ mark of 286 total weeks as World No. 1 in September, agreed. “Staying No. 1, ending the seasons as No. 1… is a paramount achievement and the amount of dedication that you need to undergo in your life and the way you have to organise yourself, not just on the court but off the court, is tremendous. So, six years in a row? I really don’t know how… Pete did it, but huge respect for that.”

Sampras reflected that the pursuit of year-end No. 1 was a 24-hour job that consumed him. “Just to be dominant, and to not just stay No. 1 for six months or a year, but to really cement that and own it, it’s not easy, as Novak knows,” said Sampras, who is now 49.

His journey to cement his preeminence in the sport ended each year in the ‘90s at ATP Tour World Championships in Germany. Sampras played in the event a remarkable 11 consecutive times, compiling a 35-14 record from 1990-2000. By comparison, Djokovic, who has also won the title five times, has gone 36-14, and played in the tournament 10 times in a row from 2007-2016. For his part, Federer played in the season finale 14 years in a row during one long stretch, from 2002-2015. He’s won the title six times, and has a staggering 59 wins at the event, against 17 losses.

Each of Pete’s five title runs in Germany—he won twice while the tournament was in Frankfurt and three times after it moved to Hanover—were replete with wins over legends of the sport. His victims’ list from his five titles reads like a who’s who in the sport: Michael Stich, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, Goran Ivanisevic, Patrick Rafter, and of course, his great rival Boris Becker, whom he played seven times, all in Germany, where Becker was a national hero.

Sampras won four of those seven encounters, including both times they met in finals, in 1994 and 1996. “(Boris) really was like the king coming home,” Sampras told Henman and Djokovic. “He was tough to play… He was a beast. Boris played well indoors. He was a very imposing figure on the court. Boris is a big guy. And having his German fans behind him, it was tough, there’s no doubt—you’re not only playing a great player, you’re dealing with the fans.”

Sampras’ four-hour, five-set win over Becker in the ’96 final at the intimate Festhalle in Hanover remains one of the most exciting in tournament history. Becker took the fourth set in a riveting tie-break, 13-11, but resilient Sampras took the match 6-4 in the fifth, clinching the match on a 24-shot rally.

Hanover 1999


“We were both exhausted,” Sampras recalled. “It was a great embrace at the end; we gave each other a hug. It was one of the all-time great matches I’ve been a part of. The atmosphere was fantastic. We were both playing great at the same time.

Everything was meant to be. I think it was one of the best ATP Final matches in history.”

Sampras isn’t prone to self-promotion or hyperbole. He once told Sports Illustrated, “I could be a jerk and get more publicity, but that’s not who I am.” And so, his pride in reflecting on his five Nitto ATP Finals titles and his incredible wins over Becker in Germany are worth highlighting.

“We were both playing great at the same time on a fast court,” he said. “It was two heavyweights. And that crowd was loud, but fair. It was a great rivalry.”

Nitto ATP Finals 50th Anniversary Content

  • The Other Rock Stars Of Madison Square Garden
  • Tom Gorman’s Remarkable Sportsmanship Resonates 48 Years On
  • Djokovic’s Shanghai Reality Check Fuelled His Finale Success
  • Stan Smith: From First Masters Champ To Boot Camp…
  • At Madison Square Garden, ‘Ivan Was The Truth’
  • Two Years To Rule Them All: Hewitt Soars In Sydney And Shanghai

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