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Nakashima Completes #NextGenATP American Double In Quimper

  • Posted: Feb 07, 2021

The #NextGenATP revolution has descended on Quimper, France.

One week ago, it was 20-year-old Sebastian Korda lifting his second ATP Challenger Tour trophy, and on Sunday fellow American Brandon Nakashima grabbed the spotlight himself. The 19-year-old also captured his second Challenger crown, streaking to victory at the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale 2.

Nakashima needed one hour and 18 minutes to dispatch Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, dominating the final 6-3, 6-4. The California native turned in an efficient performance on the indoor hard courts of the Parc des Expositions, saving five of six break points faced to complete the #NextGenATP American double in Quimper.

Nakashima becomes the youngest American to win multiple ATP Challenger Tour titles since Frances Tiafoe in 2016. Tiafoe was 18 when he lifted his second trophy on the hard courts of Stockton five years ago.

“It feels great,” said Nakashima. “It’s definitely been a long two weeks, but I thought I played the matches really well. It’s exciting to come out on top. It’s my first Challenger victory in France, but I’m always very excited to come here. I played juniors at Roland Garros for two years and then qualified for the men’s tournament last year. I always enjoy coming out here and playing.

“I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, especially during the offseason. That is, to prepare for these exact moments. I’m just happy that it paid off and I was able to play well for all these matches.”

Both Korda and Nakashima were made to work to etch their names on the Quimper trophy. Last week, Korda saved a match point and rallied from 1/5 down in a deciding tie-break in the first round. And this week, Nakashima was forced to rally from a set and a break deficit in his semi-final enounter with Lukas Lacko. Trailing 4-6, 1-3, the teenager exhibited his trademark poise and steely resolve to storm back and upset the former World No. 44.

Nakashima will rise to a career-high No. 135 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday, soaring 22 spots with his victory in Quimper. Also the champion in Orlando in November, he is now a combined 14-3 since the start of that maiden title run.

The teen, who joins Korda as instant contenders in the ATP Race To Milan, will look to continue the momentum next week in nearby Cherbourg. Both Americans will be seeking to punch their tickets to the Next Gen ATP Finals for the first time in 2021.

Youngest Americans To Win Multiple Challenger Titles (since 2010)

Player Age Second Title
Taylor Fritz 17 years, 11 months 2015 Fairfield
Frances Tiafoe 18 years, 8 months 2016 Stockton
Brandon Nakashima 19 years, 6 months, 4 days 2021 Quimper
Michael Mmoh 19 years, 6 months, 26 days 2017 Lexington
Stefan Kozlov 19 years, 8 months 2017 Las Vegas

Taberner Triumphs In Antalya
Carlos Taberner prevailed on the clay of Antalya on Sunday, defeating countryman Jaume Munar 6-4, 6-1 for the title. It was the 23-year-old Spaniard’s second Challenger crown, having previously triumphed in Iasi, Romania, last year.

Taberner exacted revenge on Munar, following a straight-set defeat one week ago at the same site. This time, he would not be denied, earning the upset after one hour and 45 minutes. The Valencia native is projected to rise 15 spots to a career-high No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday.


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Djokovic Ready To Continue Australian Open ‘Love Affair’

  • Posted: Feb 07, 2021

With 17 Grand Slam titles, a record 36 ATP Masters 1000 crowns and six year-end World No. 1 finishes in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Novak Djokovic’s career has been defined by consistent success throughout each year he has played on the ATP Tour.

The World No. 1 has been a dominant force in men’s tennis for the past decade, and there is one location where he has regularly reached his peak level: the Australian Open. Since his tournament debut in 2005, when he lost to eventual champion Marat Safin, Djokovic has earned 75 wins at the opening Grand Slam event of the year (75-8).

The Serbian will attempt to add to that statistic on Monday night, when he begins his bid for a record-extending ninth title. Djokovic aims to follow in the footsteps of rival and 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, by becoming only the second man in history to win a single Grand Slam event on nine or more occasions.

“It’s a love affair… Maybe not like Rafa has at Roland Garros, but I’ve been feeling more comfortable on the court each year that I’ve been coming back,” said Djokovic. “The more you win, obviously the more confidence you have and the more pleasant you feel on the court… When I stepped on the court this year for the first time in the practice session, I relived some of the memories from last year, also the other years that I won the tournament here.

“It just gives me a great sensation, a great feeling, confidence. It feels right. It feels like the place where I should be and where I have historically always been able to perform my best tennis. Hopefully [this] can be another successful year.”

Novak Djokovic will face Jeremy Chardy in his first-round match at the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic is chasing his third straight title at Melbourne Park this year.

Despite his past success, Djokovic admitted that he still has to regularly overcome his nerves as he fights for the biggest titles in the sport. With history on the line this year in Melbourne, it is a battle he is prepared to face again over the next fortnight.

“In every single tournament [I feel nerves], regardless of my previous success,” said Djokovic. “I do feel that I have more confidence, more experience, maybe more training in understanding how to deal with these specific situations when I’m coming onto the big courts, being expected to win 99 per cent of the matches that I play.

“But it’s still there. It’s still there. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away, especially when the occasion is big, when you’re playing for the biggest trophies.”

Those nerves may be lowered by this year’s unique tournament build-up. When he steps onto Rod Laver Arena for his first-round match at the Australian Open, he will not be playing his first match in almost a year on that court. This year, due to the relocation of the ATP Cup, Djokovic will be making his first appearance on Rod Laver Arena in three days.

During the ATP Cup, Djokovic contested two ties on the court where he has lifted the most trophies in his career. Djokovic claimed two singles wins and earned one win from two doubles matches, as Serbia finished second in Group A.

“Playing the ATP Cup and having four matches, two singles, two doubles, on Rod Laver Arena helps to prepare well for Australian Open,” said Djokovic. “I’ve never experienced that kind of lead-up to Australian Open before. So that’s a positive, having already [had] quite a lot of match time on the court where I’ll start my Australian Open [campaign] tomorrow night.”

Djokovic will attempt to win his first-round match at the Australian Open for the 15th consecutive year when he faces Jeremy Chardy on Day 1. Djokovic owns an unbeaten 13-0 ATP Head2Head record against the Frenchman, which includes a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3 victory when the pair met for the first time in the second round in 2009.

“I have a very good score against Jeremy,” said Djokovic. “I think that helps… He’s a very experienced player. He’s been on the tour for a lot of years. He has a big serve and big forehand. His game kind of revolves around those two shots.” 

One of the keys to Djokovic’s Australian Open success has been his ability to adapt to the various court speeds at Melbourne Park. After conversations with fellow players this year, Djokovic believes that the court is much quicker than it was when he claimed back-to-back titles at the event in 2015 and 2016.

“A lot of players have actually been noticing that and commenting on the speed of the court this year. It’s really, really very quick. Compared to five [or] six years ago, it’s a lot quicker than it used to be.

“It obviously favours big servers. You have to adapt your game… In these kinds of conditions, you really need to have a complete game in order to go all the way. I’ve managed somehow to always adapt very well to Rod Laver Arena. Whatever the speed or conditions, somehow that court has always been my favourite court.”

Djokovic stands just seven matches away from the trophy. If he can adapt well to this year’s fast conditions, he will put himself in a great position to continue his Australian Open love affair and place his name in the history books once more.

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Despite Eight Titles, Djokovic Needs New Playbook For 2021 Australian Open

  • Posted: Feb 07, 2021

Toss the playbook out the window.

The trusted and time-tested warm-ups, the routines, the rituals employed in the lead-up to the year’s first major? Yeah, you can scrap those, too. This is an Australian Open like no other, after all, one held amidst a global pandemic; one that’s seen athletes quarantined and the run-of-the-mill practice session become a treasured commodity.

Hotel rooms became improvised gymnasiums, fitted with stationary bikes, yoga matts and hand weights. Mattresses became backboards, entryways suddenly ideal for suicide sprints. But sometimes you’ve just got to make do.

“Players are so used to routines. They like to be in control. They’re not in control,” observed Chris Evert, a two-time Australian Open champion. “I think it’s going to demand a lot of patience and a lot of flexibility and who’s going to really adjust and adapt the best under those precarious circumstances.”

“This is obviously totally unprecedented,” echoed John McEnroe, who’ll partner with Evert in the ESPN broadcast booth throughout the fortnight. “I guess you have to sort of go into it in ‘be-prepared-for-anything’ mode. Look at the glass half-full instead of half-empty. Some players will be better at that than others.”

Novak Djokovic is among those who are learning to adjust on the fly. Though Serbia fell short in its title defence at the ATP Cup (l. to Germany, 2-1), the full-throttle match play should serve the top seed well as he sets out in pursuit of a record ninth Norman Brooks Challenge Cup at Melbourne Park. The two-time defending champion, who in 2020 matched boyhood idol Pete Sampras by finishing year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for a sixth time, will be the featured opening-night attraction in Rod Laver Arena when he faces veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. Djokovic is a perfect 13-0 against his fellow 33-year-old, including a straight-sets victory on these same courts in their first encounter back in 2009.

Another former champion, 17th seed Stan Wawrinka, will also be in action Monday. The 2014 titlist is set to face Portugal’s Pedro Sousa in what will be their first meeting.

Tennis aficionados are gleefully envisioning a third-round tussle between countrymen Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 11th and 20th seeds, respectively. But both Canadians — first-round casualties last year — have their work cut out for them if that is to become a reality.

As luck would have it, Shapovalov drew fast-rising Italian Jannik Sinner in the opening round, a highly anticipated match-up in Margaret Court Arena. Sinner comes in hot, having won his second ATP Tour title at the Great Ocean Road Open on Sunday. The #NextGenATP Italian enters the Australian Open on a 10-match winning streak, after finishing his 2020 campaign with another title run at the Sofia Open.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who advanced to his seventh ATP Tour final at the Murray River Open, will meet lucky loser Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany on Court 13.

“Felix has an opportunity to be potentially the best player in the world in the future. There’s not many players that you can say that about,” said McEnroe of the World No. 21.

The question for both Sinner and Auger-Aliassime will be how they recover after the quick turnaround from Sunday’s ATP 250 finals. Will they have anything left in the tank?

Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime aren’t the only Canadians hitting the court on Day 1. No. 14 seed Milos Raonic, who’s reached the quarter-finals or better on five occasions in Melbourne, opens against Argentine Federico Coria in 1573 Arena.

Novak Djokovic defeated Dominic Thiem in five sets to win the 2020 Australian Open final.

Last year’s finalists Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem could meet in this year’s semi-finals.

No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem, who broke through for his first major singles title last year at the US Open, will face Kazakhstani Mikhail Kukushkin in Rod Laver Arena. Thiem’s foil at Flushing Meadows, No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev, is scheduled to take on former UCLA standout Marcos Giron of the United States. Zverev helped lead Germany past Serbia in Group A play at the ATP Cup, teaming with Jan-Lennard Struff in doubles to down Djokovic and Nikola Cacic for the clincher, 7-6(4), 5-7, 10-7.

Marin Cilic, an Australian Open finalist in 2018, won’t have the luxury of slowly working his way into form on the speedy courts of Melbourne Park. The 32-year-old Croat is sure to be tested from the get-go against Grigor Dimitrov, a semi-finalist in 2017. Cilic holds a 4-2 advantage in his ATP Head2Head rivalry against the talented Bulgarian, though Dimitrov claimed their most recent clash at Roland Garros in 2019, a thrilling 6-7(3), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 nail-biter.

Homegrown favourite Nick Kyrgios’ return to Grand Slam tennis is also among the most intriguing storylines as the 2021 Australian Open gets underway. Out of precaution, the Canberran opted out of both Roland Garros and the US Open in 2020, playing only nine matches all year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His first-round opponent will be Portuguese qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva, ranked No. 184.

Also on the Day 1 schedule are four-time quarter-finalist Kei Nishikori vs. No. 15 Pablo Carreno Busta; Elias Ymer vs. No. 8 Diego Schwartzman; No. 10 Gael Monfils vs. Emil Ruusuvuori; Albert Ramos-Vinolas vs. No. 27 Taylor Fritz; and Reilly Opelka vs. Yen-Hsun Lu.

How they fare under these unique circumstances is anybody’s guess. That patience Evert spoke of, that ability to adjust, will surely come in handy.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Daniel Evans

  • Posted: Feb 07, 2021

Last year, Daniel Evans rose to a career-high No. 28 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and claimed eight wins against Top 20 opposition. There was only one thing missing from his list of 2020 achievements: a first ATP Tour title.

The Brit wasted no time adding that honour to his 2021 list, as he claimed five straight-sets wins to clinch the Murray River Open trophy on Sunday. Evans is the first man to win his maiden ATP Tour title in 2021 and he becomes the first British player to win a tour-level trophy since Kyle Edmund’s title run at the 2020 New York Open. caught up with the World No. 33 after his victory to talk about his week in Melbourne and the path he has taken to reach this milestone.

What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
It is good to come through. I had lost two before, so it is good to win today [and get] some good preparation for next week.

You reached your first final in Sydney four years ago. How much you have grown as a player and a person since then?
It has been a long time. I have had plenty of chances to get back into a final and win one, so it is a good feeling to have come through.

You held championship points at the 2019 Delray Beach Open by What did you learn from that experience that helped you get over the line today?
I learned to forget it. I learned to forget the chances you have missed and keep looking ahead. It is a good thing to be able to do.

Last season, you recorded eight Top 20 wins. How much confidence did your performances in 2020 give you as you prepared for this season?
It was a difficult year last year. In the tennis that I did play, I played good. It always gives you confidence to beat the better players and I was confident coming into this year.

What did you work on during the pandemic and ahead of the 2021 season? Were there any particular areas that you wanted to improve on?
I didn’t get to play much tennis during the pandemic. I worked on my fitness a lot and when we could play tennis again, I just worked on my game. The normal, basic stuff.

Who are the people you would most like to thank for getting you to this milestone in your career?
Everybody who has been involved in my tennis has been through a lot. It is good that everybody still sticks around. It has been good and I am just happy to be able to repay them with the win today.

Will you find a small moment to celebrate this title today, before your mind shifts to your first match at the Australian Open?
I play Tuesday, so I will go for dinner tonight and relax a bit. I can focus tomorrow.

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Djokovic Chasing Ninth Australian Open Title, Nadal Pursuing Slam Record

  • Posted: Feb 07, 2021

The Australian swing got off to a thrilling start with a jam-packed week, which featured the ATP Cup, the Great Ocean Road Open and the Murray River Open. Now the world’s best players will compete in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam championship of the year. looks at 10 things to watch at Melbourne Park.

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1) Djokovic Going For Ninth Australian Open Title
No player has been more at home inside Rod Laver Arena than World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is an eight-time Australian Open champion. The Serbian star captured his first Grand Slam trophy in Melbourne 13 years ago, and he has dominated the tournament since, tallying a 75-8 record. The top seed will face a familiar foe in the first round against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, against whom he has won all 30 sets he has played (leads ATP Head2Head series 13-0).

But Djokovic has plenty of tricky opponents in his section of the draw, with 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka and former World No. 3 Milos Raonic potentially looming in the fourth round. The highest-ranked player in the Serbian’s quarter is 2018 Nitto ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, who challenged him in a tight three-setter at the ATP Cup.

2) Will Rafa Win Record 21st Grand Slam Title?
Rafael Nadal will pursue history at this year’s Australian Open, just four months after winning his 13th Roland Garros title to tie Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam crowns. If 2009 champion Nadal triumphs at Melbourne Park, he will hold that record alone for the first time. The Spaniard would also become the first player to win the Career Grand Slam twice during the Open Era (since April 1968).

The left-hander has reached at least the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in 12 of his past 13 appearances. Nadal will begin his run with his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Serbian Laslo Djere.

3) Thiem Going For Two In A Row
One year ago, Dominic Thiem reached his first hard-court Grand Slam final at the Australian Open. It took all Djokovic had to rally from two sets to one down and prevent the Austrian from earning his first major crown. But Thiem did not let that close call set him back. He lifted his first Grand Slam trophy at the US Open, and is now the No. 3 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Thiem will try to add another major title to his resume Down Under, beginning his run against Mikhail Kukushkin, with Aussie Nick Kyrgios looming in the third round.

4) Medvedev Enters With Momentum
Nobody on the ATP Tour finished 2020 in better form than Daniil Medvedev. The Russian played some of the best tennis of his career to win the Rolex Paris Masters and then the Nitto ATP Finals, where he beat the top three players in the FedEx ATP Rankings. “It’s definitely a much bigger challenge in a Grand Slam because it’s out of five sets. All of them, the top three, they’re machines physically. We all know it. Hopefully I can be one of them soon also, that when people know they have to play me out of five sets, they’re going to be scared because they think, ‘This guy is scary,’” Medvedev said.

The World No. 4, who has won a career-high 14 consecutive matches after leading Russia to the ATP Cup title, is arguably the second favourite behind Djokovic at the Australian Open. He will be fully focussed on his opening test against Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who beat him in Rotterdam last year (Medvedev leads their ATP Head2Head 2-1).

5) Tsitsipas Searching For Slam Breakthrough
One of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ biggest breakthroughs came at the Australian Open in 2019. Just months after capturing the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals title, the Greek reached the semi-finals in Melbourne to become the youngest male player to reach the last four at a major since 20-year-old Novak Djokovic at the 2007 US Open. But Tsitsipas has not advanced further than that at six Slams since. Will this be the event where he takes the next step? The 22-year-old earned two singles wins at the ATP Cup, and he will try to stay sharp in the first round of the Australian Open against former World No. 6 Gilles Simon.

6) Red-Hot Rublev
How many players are hotter than the big-hitting Andrey Rublev? The Russian star led the ATP Tour with five titles last season and he competed in the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. Now Rublev, who dominated at No. 2 singles for Russia in the ATP Cup, will try to earn a career-best Grand Slam showing. He is one of three players (also Carreno Busta and Thiem) to reach the quarter-finals at the past two majors. Now the World No. 8 will try to advance past the last four at a major for the first time. Rublev could play countryman Medvedev in the quarter-finals.

7) Shapo-Sinner Highlights First-Round Blockbusters
There are plenty of tantalising first-round matches at this year’s Australian Open, with 11th seed Denis Shapovalov and 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Jannik Sinner leading the way. Matteo Berrettini, who led Italy to the ATP Cup final, will play former World No. 5 and two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson, 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov will face Marin Cilic in a battle of former World No. 3s and Australian No. 1 Alex de Minaur will try to battle past two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren.

8) Dangerous Floaters Abound
Anderson, Cilic, Sangdren and Sinner are all unseeded players to watch for that we already mentioned in our first-round blockbusters. But there are even more dark horses who could make an impact at Melbourne Park. #NextGenATP Carlos Alcaraz, a 17-year-old Spaniard, caused a stir last week by upsetting top seed David Goffin, Nick Kyrgios is always a dangerous opponent, especially at home, Reilly Opelka is one of if not the biggest server on the ATP Tour and Jan-Lennard Struff showed what he is capable of by helping Germany reach the semi-finals of the ATP Cup.

9) De Minaur Leads Aussie Hopes
De Minaur will be the top-ranked Australian in the field for the second time (also 2019), and he will try to follow up on his career-best Grand Slam result from last year’s US Open, where he reached the quarter-finals. The 21-year-old, who will turn 22 on 17 February, will need to dig in from the first point, with two-time Australian Open quarter-finalist Sandgren across the net. Their first ATP Head2Head clash promises to be a physical battle, as they are two of the fittest players on Tour.

John Millman, who was Australia’s No. 2 singles player in the ATP Cup, will try for another good showing at home after pushing Roger Federer to a fifth-set tie-break one year ago. Kyrgios will also try to make his mark in just his second tournament since Acapulco last February. The last Australian man to win the Australian Open was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

10) Doubles Down Under
Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, who just missed out on the year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Doubles Team Ranking in 2020, are back to defend their Australian Open title against a hungry field of tough teams both new and old. Former champions in the field include Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares (2016) and Pierre-Hugues-Herbert/Nicolas Mahut. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, the 2019 year-end No. 1 team, will try to start off the year on a high note, while new duos Nikola Mektic/Mate Pavic and Wesley Koolhof/Lukasz Kubot will seek an impressive Slam debut together.

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