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Murray: 'If I Was Getting Smoked, I Wouldn't Keep Going'

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

Andy Murray told media on Monday before beginning his debut at the Open Sud de France that he barely paid attention to the Australian Open. The former World No. 1’s reasoning might be a surprise, though.

“I didn’t watch any because I wanted to be there myself and it was a struggle to be honest. Stopped following all the tennis players I follow on social media because I just really didn’t want to see it,” Murray said. “I saw little bits and pieces of highlights, but didn’t watch any [more].”

Murray, who typically watches a lot of tennis, tested positive for COVID-19 before his scheduled flight to Australia, and was therefore unable to travel to Melbourne and compete in the season’s first Grand Slam. The three-time major winner tested negative in time to play the Biella Challenger in Italy, where he reached the final.

“It was good to get the five matches. I found it tricky conditions to play there to be honest. In terms of the level of tennis, it was at times okay,” Murray said. “It was good to get the matches and not feel pain.”

The World No. 121 is still working his way back to form after undergoing right hip surgery following the 2019 Australian Open. Later that year, Murray won an ATP Tour title at the European Open in Antwerp.

“I’ve played in practice with lots of top players and I know how I’m getting on against them. If I was getting smoked when I was practising and playing with guys, I wouldn’t keep going through it,” Murray said. “But I know the level that I’m playing at.

“I’ve been playing and practising with guys who are between 20 and 60, 70 in the world and I’m doing absolutely fine and that’s off the back of hardly playing any matches in the past couple of years.”

This week in Montpellier, Murray will compete in his fifth tour-level event since the start of 2020. He opens his campaign against Belarusian Egor Gerasimov.

“If I can stay fit for a period of time and get good practise in and matches in, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to compete with the best players. Obviously playing your Rafas, Novaks, Rogers, Medvedev, Thiem, these guys is difficult,” Murray said. “Of course it would be, that would have been the case when I was ranked right up at the top of the game. But I still feel like I can compete for big events. I wish I was able to show that in Australia, because I was ready to do that. No question, I was ready to do that.”

Andy Murray
Photo Credit: J.B. Autissier – Panoramic;
Murray believes he will be competitive on hard courts and clay courts, but he isn’t sure about clay, mostly because he has only played one tournament on the surface since 2017 Roland Garros. The Scot emphasised that his health will be key.

“I need to stay fit. If I don’t stay fit, then no, I’m not going to get back to where I want to. But if I could stay fit for a period of time, then yeah,” Murray said. “It’s difficult just now moving up the rankings because of the two-year rankings… in terms of performance on the court, we’ll see. Let’s see whether I can compete with them. I’m doing it each week now. I’m going to get the chance to compete against them, so let’s see. People keep asking me about it, let’s see what happens.”

The 33-year-old has been asked often about what level he can return to. Even he isn’t sure.

“What matters is when I’m on the court,” Murray said. “Can I still do it? We’ll find out.”

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Challenger #NextGenATP First-Time Winner: Sebastian Baez

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

On Sunday, Sebastian Baez claimed a slice of history for his native Argentina. At the age of 20 years and one month, the Buenos Aires native became the youngest Argentine titlist on the ATP Challenger since 2010.

Nearly 11 years had passed since the South American nation featured a Challenger champion as young as Baez, but that would all change on the clay of Concepcion, Chile. In what was a war of attrition, he outlasted countryman Francisco Cerundolo 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(5), to lift the trophy after a marathon two hours and 40 minutes at the Dove Men+Care Challenger Concepcion.

Baez became the youngest winner from Argentina on the ATP Challenger Tour since a 19-year-old Federico Delbonis in Rome 2010. A former junior No. 1 and 2018 Roland Garros boys’ finalist, he has fought for this moment ever since turning pro two years ago. Having competed primarily on the ITF circuit, Baez was appearing in just his seventh Challenger-level tournament in Concepcion. But he would put it all together in a flash, stunning four straight Top 150 opponents for the title.

Straight-set victories over fifth seed Daniel Elahi Galan, fourth seed Hugo Dellien, second seed Andrej Martin, and a deciding-set triumph over a red-hot Cerundolo completed a dream week for the budding #NextGenATP star. Not only did Cerundolo enter the final having won 22 of his last 24 matches, but he was going for his fourth title in just five months.

Baez was not intimidated. He saved 15 of 19 break points faced to upset his countryman and take home the trophy. The Argentine will rise 58 spots to a career-high No. 254 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, cracking the Top 300 for the first time. In addition, he is up to eighth in the ATP Race To Milan, as he begins his quest to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in November.

Baez spoke to following the victory…

Congrats Seba. How does it feel to win your first Challenger title?
It makes me very happy. I know that I worked very hard with my team for these tournaments, to achieve these goals and objectives. I believe that the road is very long and you need a big boost and a great motivation to continue achieving your goals. I am working with the best people that I can be nowadays and, for that reason, this trophy is also for them. It is an achievement that I share with my entire team, as they are the people that are most important in my career and support me every day.

It was your first final. Were you nervous, especially against another player from Argentina?
It is always difficult to play against someone you know, especially from your country. We know each other for many years. It also makes you feel more nervous to play matches like this in the final rounds. We know the opponent’s weaknesses and strengths. There were nerves, even more being in my first Challenger final, but I was able to overcome them and take the trophy in the end.

What was the key this week? You beat some really good players along the way.
Yes, that same thing happened to me last year in the South American Challenger swing, where I faced very tough players. But I could not believe in myself in those moments. It was different this week. I was more focused and ready. That is also part of the work that I do every day with my coach and my team.

This was your first tournament of 2021. What was your approach and your mindset?
My focus and mentality was to approach it like any tournament. I arrived without expectations. I came to do the best job I could. Whoever I face on the court, I treat them all the same. Just keep doing what I have been training for, without putting objectives and pressure on myself all the time. That is the path and I hope to continue following it.

You had so much success as a junior. How difficult is it to go from juniors to Challengers?
A tennis career is always very complicated, above all to go from juniors to the professional level. There are many players with a lot of junior experience and many years, that have had success on the pro circuit. For us, the change in level can often surprise the younger players. Here we play very different matches at the junior stage and you play with men of a different mentality. That is what makes you stronger and forces you to improve day-by-day.

2021 #NextGenATP Challenger Winners

Player Age
Title Won
Brandon Nakashima (USA) 19 years, 6 months Quimper II
Sebastian Baez (ARG) 20 years, 1 month Concepcion
Jenson Brooksby (USA) 20 years, 3 months Potchefstroom II
Sebastian Korda (USA) 20 years, 6 months Quimper I

After all the hard work, how can a week like this build your confidence and help you going forward?
I believe that a good week is the result of good training, of the work you have put in already. The objectives that you are achieving is thanks to all the effort that came in the past. There are many things that can be achieved, but nothing without work, focus and effort every day. That is the way.

You play with a lot of energy and show your personality on the court. Where does that come from?
That is something that came from working with my coach, maybe because I have to compensate for some physical capabilities [at 5’7″]. I play with a style that comes from training hard for a long time, and I  show it in the matches. I believe that it is the result of all the training sessions. I’m just getting started.

Talk about your experience in Concepcion. How nice is it to be able to compete so close to home?
I did not know Concepcion before this week. It is a very beautiful city that I like a lot and it is a shame that I couldn’t explore more. But that they can have this type of tournament in this situation is something that is incredible. Also, we don’t have as many opportunities in South America as the rest of the world, so I want to thank the people running this event for this. I appreciate the opportunity and this is what we needed most.

You are inside the Top 300 with this title. How high can you climb in 2021?
I don’t know. I hope that it will be a surprise. All I am achieving is thanks to effort and hard work, and the results will come from this dedication.

For those of us that don’t know you, tell us something. What do you enjoy doing off the court?
I like to enjoy my time with people that I love. I listen to music, play PlayStation and read. I am a relaxed person.

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Korda Conquers Former Champ Tsonga In Montpellier

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda closed out the opening day of Open Sud de France action with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Monday. 

Korda and Tsonga’s clash was one of the most anticipated first-round matches when the Montpellier draw was made, pitting the rising 20-year-old, No. 92 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, against the former World No. 5 on Court Patrice Dominguez.

“It was definitely special [to play Tsonga], I grew up watching him my whole life,” Korda said in his on-court interview. “To get the chance to be able to play against him was an honour for me. I hope he can stay healthy and keep playing tennis… He’s such an incredible entertainer and an incredible person.”

The American came into Montpellier on a tear, previously reaching two finals this year at the Delray Beach Open by and the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale. Korda lifted his second ATP Challenger Tour title at the latter three weeks ago on French soil.

Tsonga was making his return from a back injury and was contesting his first match since the 2020 Australian Open. The Frenchman won 13 of his 18 ATP Tour titles on hard courts, including the 2019 edition in Montpellier.

“I just tried to stay focussed and take care of my side of the court. I know he hasn’t played tennis in 14 months [or so], so it definitely wasn’t easy for him,” Korda said. “I’m super happy with the way I played.”


Tsonga showed little signs of rust in a high-quality opening set, narrowly losing out to the in-form American who converted the only break point on offer for a 5-4 lead. Korda matched Tsonga with pace from the baseline, and he dialed up the aggression in the second set as he kept his opponent’s serve under pressure. The American’s return game neutralised Tsonga, and Korda reeled off the last five games of the match to claim victory in an hour and 13 minutes.

Korda will face seventh seed Lorenzo Sonego in the second round. The 25-year-old Italian needed three sets to see off French wild card Hugo Gaston 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-1 to advance.

“He has a lot of firepower, so it’s going to be a fun match for sure,” Korda said. “Hopefully we can put on a good show next time we play.”

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Humbert Earns Maiden Montpellier Win

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

Ugo Humbert claimed his first victory at the Open Sud de France on Monday, as he defeated Norbert Gombos 6-3, 7-6(3) in Montpellier.

The sixth seed, who lost in the first round at this event in 2019 and 2020, recovered from 2-5 down in the second set to advance in 78 minutes. Humbert struck 18 aces and dropped just six points behind his first serve (42/48) to improve to 2-2 in 2021. Since competing at last year’s edition of the ATP 250, Humbert has doubled his ATP Tour trophy collection (2) and risen to a career-high No. 30 in the FedEx ATP Rankings (November 2020).


Humbert is aiming to become the fifth Frenchman to claim the Montpellier title since the tournament made its ATP Tour debut in 2010. Eight of the previous 10 editions of the singles event have been won by French players.

Humbert is chasing his third ATP Tour title on hard courts in 13 months. Last year, the Frenchman claimed his first two tour-level trophies in Auckland and Antwerp. The 22-year-old will face Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor or American Marcos Giron in the second round.

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Nishioka Returns To Winning Ways In Singapore

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

Yoshihito Nishioka battled past Michael Mmoh 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 on Monday at the Singapore Tennis Open to earn his first victory of 2021.

The Japanese No. 2 entered the match on a four-match losing streak, but he broke serve on three occasions and won 71 per cent of his service points (53/75) to overcome Mmoh in one hour and 58 minutes.

Nishioka is aiming to capture his second ATP Tour title this week. The 25-year-old, who won his maiden tour-level crown at 2018 Shenzhen, will meet Maxime Cressy for a place in the quarter-finals.

Earlier in the day, Cressy claimed his second win of the year. The American, who fell in three sets to Alexander Zverev in the Australian Open second round, converted three of his five break points to beat Jason Jung 7-6(4), 6-2.


#NextGenATP Bulgarian Adrian Andreev earned his second tour-level victory with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 comeback win against seventh seed Lloyd Harris. The 19-year-old saved 12 of the 15 break points he faced to overcome Harris in two hours and 19 minutes.

“It is very difficult to compete at this level and sometimes when you are beginning to play such tournaments, you have this disbelief,” said Andreev. “But when I won the match, it proved to myself that I can play at this level and the third set proves to me that I can compete if I have the right mindset.”

Andreev will face Alexei Popyrin for a place in his maiden ATP Tour quarter-final. Popyrin held his nerve to claim a 7-6(5), 7-6(5) win over American qualifier Christopher Eubanks.

Adrian Andreev saves 12 of 15 break points to overcome Lloyd Harris at the Singapore Tennis Open.

Taro Daniel withstood 15 aces to beat India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3. The 28-year-old will meet third seed Marin Cilic in the second round.

“Cilic has a huge game, big serves and ground strokes,” said Daniel. “I think that there [will] be more high-paced rallies, so I definitely need to be on top of my service game. I will be looking to pressure him with my serves and also move him around because that’s probably his weakness if there is one. Either way, he is a Grand Slam champion [and a] two-time [Grand Slam runner-up], so I have to be on top of my game. I have nothing to lose and I’m pretty excited to be playing him.”

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Djokovic On Crowd Support: ‘It Always Gives You Wings’

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

On the morning after his record-extending ninth Australian Open final victory, Novak Djokovic visited Brighton Beach to reflect on his 18th Grand Slam triumph.

The World No. 1, who joined 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal as only the second man to win nine or more titles at the same major championship, took the time to thank the fans who supported him inside Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night. Djokovic was backed by not only the Australian fans, but also a strong contingent of Serbian supporters during his 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 triumph against Daniil Medvedev.

“I had great support last night. I thought it was fantastic to play in front of the people,” said Djokovic. “We probably had more than half the stadium full and I thought the atmosphere was electric. Serbian supporters were really loud and brought a lot of energy to the stadium and to myself.

“[They] backed me from the very first point. Playing in such an atmosphere always gives you wings, it gives you wind in the sails, in a way. I started off the match very strongly from the first point and I kept that momentum going all the way through. They were one of the biggest reasons why I played the way I played last night.”

Novak Djokovic extended his ATP Head2Head advantage against Daniil Medvedev to 5-3 with victory in the Australian Open final.

In the hours after lifting the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup for the ninth time, Djokovic celebrated his victory with his closest friends and family and began to pack for the trip home.

“I had a late, late dinner, had a little chat with the team, listened to some music and started packing,” said Djokovic. “I went to bed, called my family and tried to share the adrenaline and great feelings that I have been experiencing with the closest people in my life. I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep much. The adrenaline has settled in a little bit now, but it still feels great. I am obviously very fulfilled, happy and joyful to be holding this trophy again.”

Since his first major triumph, Djokovic’s post-final celebrations have evolved over time. The 18-time Grand Slam champion was just 20 years old when he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win his maiden major title at this event in 2008 and, back then, his celebrations were more extravagant. These days, as a husband and father to two children, Djokovic’s priorities have changed.

“There is always a way to celebrate and it is just different every time… When I go back home, I will definitely celebrate with my family, with my friends,” said Djokovic. “I used to go wild and go to discotheques and nightclubs… Now, it is a bit different. [It is] a different kind of celebration, more of a homely celebration with family and the closest people.”

Prior to his visit to Brighton Beach on Monday, Djokovic visited his doctor for an update on the abdominal oblique muscle tear he suffered during his third-round victory against Taylor Fritz. The Serbian played through the pain in his next two matches against Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev, before he recorded back-to-back wins against Alsan Karatsev and Medvedev to win his third straight trophy in Melbourne.

“I just actually came from another MRI that I had done this morning. The damage is bigger than what it was when it happened, when I did the first MRI after the third round,” said Djokovic. “It is not too bad, judging by what the doctor said, but I will have to take some time off and heal. The tear is bigger. It is 2.5 centimetres, 25 millimetres. It started at 1.7 [centimetres].”

Djokovic may be one of the most successful players in Grand Slam history, but he is still learning new lessons in each major championship he competes at. The 6’2” right-hander’s injury struggles in Melbourne provided him with crucial experience in how to manage any similar issues at future events.

“[The biggest lesson I learned was] resilience and the ability to deal with an injury mid-way through a tournament. It is something really that I haven’t really, to that extent, experienced before,” said Djokovic. “I definitely have been tested a lot, mentally and physically, and just managed one day at a time. [I] understood that if things are done really properly, regardless of what kind of circumstances you are in, you can still manage to find a way out and go all the way.”

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Karatsev Surges Into Top 50, Mover Of Week

  • Posted: Feb 22, 2021

No. 42 Aslan Karatsev, +72 (Career High)
The Russian rose 72 places to break into the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time at No. 42 after a run to the Australian Open semi-finals (l. to Djokovic). The 27-year-old, who qualified for his first Grand Slam championship and beat eighth seed Diego Schwartzman, No. 18 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 20 seed Grigor Dimitrov in Melbourne, was ranked No. 262 just 12 months ago. Karatsev, who was the first man in the Open Era to reach the semi-finals on his major championship debut, joined Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev in Russia’s ATP Cup-winning team earlier this month.

View FedEx ATP Rankings

No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, +1 (Career High)
The Russian claimed five straight-sets wins en route to his second Grand Slam championship final (also 2019 US Open), where he saw his 20-match winning streak come to an end at the hands of Novak Djokovic, who won 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. The 25-year-old, who beat Top 10 opponents Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the Australian Open title match, rose one spot to a career-high No. 3.

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 11 Denis Shapovalov, +1
No. 17 Grigor Dimitrov, +4
No. 24 Casper Ruud, +4 (Career High)
No. 55 Pablo Andujar, +4
No. 57 Feliciano Lopez, +8
No. 65 Cameron Norrie, +4
No. 76 Radu Albot, +9
No. 81 Soowoo Kwon, +16
No. 82 Lloyd Harris, +9

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