Britain’s Katie Boulter loses in straight sets to Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round of the Monterrey Open.
Britain’s Katie Boulter loses in straight sets to Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round of the Monterrey Open.
Stefanos Tsitsipas first visited Mexico towards the end of 2014 for back-to-back junior tournaments. It was the first tournament trip during which his father, Apostolos Tsitsipas, travelled with him as his full-time coach. A few weeks later, Tsitsipas won the prestigious Orange Bowl, and the Greek has been on the rise ever since.
“That was my first elevation in tennis. Mexico is pretty much the place where it all started for me, chasing the dream,” Tsitsipas said. “I feel like Mexicans share a lot of common things with Greeks and I can see that from people and the food and the culture. There are many similarities and I really like Mexican people. They treat me really well and they’re very hard-working and humble and very ethical in many ways.”
Tsitsipas is back in Mexico this week to make his debut at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, an ATP 500 event. The players are not allowed to enjoy the beach and various water activities like they usually can in Acapulco, but Tsitsipas is happy to be able to see a stunning view of the water from his hotel room.
“It is definitely something refreshing and nourishing to have this. I feel much more energised, I feel much better being exposed to the sun and finally getting a tan, which I wasn’t given the opportunity [to do in] the past couple of weeks,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s a very nice setup and a very nice location for tennis.”
There are nine 23-and-under players in the Acapulco draw, with three more competing in the final round of qualifying Monday. Tsitsipas, the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals champion, is excited to be part of this young group of rising stars surging towards the top of the sport.
“I think that being part of the top three era is a great experience. The things that they have achieved is a great example for the younger generation to show what we can achieve as players and athletes on the ATP Tour,” Tsitsipas said. “We have players like Zverev, we have player players like Shapovalov, we have players like De Minaur, Tiafoe, Auger-Aliassime, so many great players that offer different kinds of personalities and charisma, I think. We’re going to have amazing battles against one another in the future, and I’m sure many of us will come close to Grand Slam opportunities and Masters 1000 opportunities.
“That’s what makes our sport so exciting in the future, to see all these different personas and all these different variations of players come out and promote the sport, elevate the sport in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Tsitsipas, who will begin his Acapulco run against Benoit Paire, is off to a 10-3 start in 2021. The Greek star, No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, reached his second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open. The 22-year-old is pushing to break through that barrier at the biggest events. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion is pursuing his first major trophy and ATP Masters 1000 crown.
“I’m really close. I think what lacks when it comes to my performance in order to make a [Grand Slam] final is probably a little bit more experience. I just think I need a little bit more confidence when I face these players,” Tsitsipas said. “I see no reason to not keep trying and make it again to a Grand Slam semi-final and learn from my previous experiences and take my chances and go for it without fear. I don’t have to overthink it.”
Seven months ago, Brandon Nakashima was invited to spend a week training with Novak Djokovic ahead of the 2020 US Open. The 19-year-old had made headlines earlier in the year as the youngest Delray Beach Open quarter-finalist since Kei Nishikori in 2008.
Nakashima’s week with the World No. 1 provided the San Diego native with an understanding of how the highest-ranked player in the FedEx ATP Rankings trained and prepared for one of the biggest events in the sport. It also gave him the confidence boost he needed to take his game to new heights.
“I was practising with Djokovic the week before the US Open started. It was great spending time with him on the court,” said Nakashima. “Obviously, he is a really good person and such a high-level tennis player. It is great to learn from him, see how he goes about things when he is on the practice court and how professional he is… It definitely gave me some confidence that I could hang with the best player in the world right now. It was definitely a great experience for me.”
Shortly after his training block with the 18-time Grand Slam champion, Nakashima earned his first Grand Slam victory in New York. The World No. 145 has since built on that achievement and captured the first two ATP Challenger Tour titles of his career. Nakashima earned the second of those crowns at his most recent event in Quimper, France.
“It was a great two weeks for me. We weren’t actually sure if I was going to play or not because of the trouble with travel restrictions. It was a long journey to get there, but I am glad we made it out there,” said Nakashima. “In the end, it turned out really well for me. I felt really comfortable out there and I thought I played a really high level both weeks.”
Nakashima will take added confidence into his next events. The two-time Challenger champion, who is currently competing in the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC qualifying draw, recovered from a set down in three consecutive matches to reach the final in Quimper, where he defeated Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3, 6-4.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence playing those three-set matches, especially coming from a set down. It shows how solid my mental game is and how well I solve problems out there,” said Nakashima. “It definitely gave me a lot of confidence throughout the tournament and I knew that if I lost the first set, I would always have a good chance of coming back and winning it in the third set. It definitely helps for future tournaments.”
Nakashima’s season started with defeat in the first round of the Australian Open qualifying event in Doha, but that loss did not lead to disappointment. Nakashima and his coach were both happy with the level he brought to the court during his 6-2, 6-7(4), 6-2 loss. The defeat was softened further by the success of the man who beat him that day: eventual Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev.
“Both my coach and I thought that it was really high-level tennis from both of us,” said Nakashima. “I remember my coach said after I lost that match that he’ll qualify and do well in the main draw. We both weren’t expecting him to get to the semi-finals, but I am sure he was playing with a lot of confidence. I was definitely really happy for him, but it was really good match for both of us.”
Nakashima’s success in Quimper capped a memorable two weeks for #NextGenATP Americans in the French city. One week earlier, Sebastian Korda also earned his second Challenger title in Quimper, as the city hosted back-to-back Challenger events. Korda (No. 4) and Nakashima (No. 7) are both currently in qualification positions for this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
“I know another American, Sebastian Korda, is in the running,” said Nakashima. “He has had a great start to the year, winning the [first Quimper title] and also making the final [in Delray Beach]. We weren’t really talking about qualifying for the tournament too much, but it obviously is in the back of our minds when playing all these events.”
Brandon Nakashima and Sebastian Korda played two doubles events as a team last year.
The pair are not alone in their 2021 Challenger success. Three #NextGenATP Americans have already claimed trophies at Challenger-level this year. Jenson Brooksby recently became the third member of the group by collecting the Potchefstroom title. Nakashima is proud to be a part of his nation’s success this season, but he is keen to continue to set his sights on bigger goals for the future.
“It definitely feels great to be a part of [this American success]. It is nice to see the Americans, especially the younger ones, doing well at these Challengers and improving their games to compete at ATP Tour events,” said Nakashima. “I think, for me, there is still a lot of growing to do, a lot of improving for my game, but it is nice to see my fellow Americans doing well. Hopefully we will have some good battles with each other in the future.”
Nakashima, Korda and Brooksby will all be attempting to join an exclusive group of Americans to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Across the opening three editions of the tournament from 2017-2019, three Americans qualified for the 21-and-under event: Frances Tiafoe (2018-’19), Taylor Fritz (2018) and Jared Donaldson (2017).
“It would mean a lot to me to qualify for that event,” said Nakashima. “It is obviously a really well-run tournament, as I have seen in the past. All the top younger players are a part of it, so it would be a real honour to qualify there and compete with all those high-level guys that are around my age.”
As a fan, Nakashima has watched past editions of the Next Gen ATP Finals. The 6’1” right-hander is hoping to get the chance to experience the tournament’s unique scoring format and make his mark on tournament this year.
“I have actually seen the tournament the past couple of years. I obviously watched some of the highlights of past players. It seems like a really cool and well-run event,” said Nakashima. “The format is a little bit different compared to what we are used to on the ATP Tour, but I think it is a good idea and I think it will be good for me to qualify there.”
When Nakashima is not on the court, he turns his attention to other sports. The San Diego resident is a keen golfer and also enjoys supporting his local football and baseball teams. Despite their relocation from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017, Nakashima remains an avid supporter of his local NFL team: the Los Angeles Chargers.
“On my days off, I like to play golf. I really enjoy spending time with friends and it is just fun and relaxing for me,” said Nakashima. “During tournaments, I usually spend time watching TV shows and reading articles and books that I enjoy. I just try to be an all-around person.
“I always liked to support my city teams in football and baseball. I still do right now, even though the Chargers moved to LA. It is always nice and fun to go to the games and just have fun out there.”
Back on the tennis court, Nakashima’s main goal for this year is to keep improving and developing his game. The World No. 145 hopes those improvements will help him to capture an ATP Tour title and compete at a high level across the remaining three Grand Slam events in 2021. If he can achieve those objectives, he will be one of the leading contenders to make a debut appearance in Milan.
“[I am trying to improve] a little bit of everything in my game. Adding some variety, developing my groundstrokes and my serve to make it more of a weapon,” said Nakashima. “[I am] just trying to be an all-around player who will do well on all the surfaces throughout the year.”
Britain’s former wold number one Andy Murray is handed a wildcard for this month’s Miami Open.
Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot bounced back from a lopsided second set on Monday to book their place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals.
The third seeds overcame Marcelo Melo and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 0-6, 12-10 to reach their third quarter-final of the season. Koolhof and Kubot, who joined forces at the start of the this year, are aiming to capture their first team title in Dubai.
Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek recovered from 3-6, 1-3 down and saved three match points in a 28-point Match Tie-break to beat Marcelo Arevalo and Matwe Middelkoop 3-6, 7-5, 15-13. The fourth seeds, who failed to convert three consecutive match points at 9/6 in the Match Tie-break, were a point from elimination at 9/10, 11/12 and 12/13.
Dodig and Polasek converted their fifth match point to keep alive their hopes of a second title run this year. Last month, the pair claimed their first Grand Slam title as a team at the Australian Open.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic did not require a Match Tie-break in their Dubai opener. The second seeds moved past David Goffin and Joran Vliegen 7-6(2), 6-2 in 75 minutes.
Former World No. 1 Andy Murray has been awarded a wild card for the 2021 Miami Open presented by Itau, which begins on 24 March.
The two-time former Miami titlist told People Magazine, “It’s a city I love, and I’ve spent a lot of time here over the last 15 years, I feel comfortable. But over the next few months, I want to play matches — especially against the top players — work on my game and climb the rankings. I want to get back playing a sport I love.”
Carlos Alcaraz, Michael Mmoh, Hugo Gaston and Jack Draper have also received wild cards into the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.
Happiest of Mondays! @andy_murray Can’t wait to see you on the court! https://t.co/AlJIqiLASB
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) March 15, 2021
British star Murray has not competed in Miami since 2016, undergoing hip surgeries in 2018 and 2019.
Murray also told People Magazine, “The last few years has been really hard. After the operation, there were no guarantees I would play again, but I’ve been working very hard on my conditioning and over the last few months I’ve felt the best I have for years. I’ll need to be mindful of my schedule moving forward but I’m excited to be back competing — with a metal hip.”
Murray and his wife, Kim, welcomed their fourth child on Friday last week. The 33-year-old last played on the ATP Tour at last month’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
Richard Gasquet was only 15 when he became the youngest match winner in ATP Tour history (since 1990) with his first tour-level win at the 2002 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The Frenchman reached another milestone on Monday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, when he defeated Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-2 to record his 550th tour-level win.
Gasquet dropped just two points behind his first serve (27/29) to become only the sixth active player to clinch 550 victories. The former World No. 7 joins the Big Four and Fernando Verdasco in the exclusive club.
Most Career Match Wins (Active Players)
Gasquet, a 15-time ATP Tour titlist, improved his tour-level record to 550-331 with his win against Cecchinato. The two-time Dubai semi-finalist (2009, ’11) will face 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz for a spot in the third round.
Jan Lennard-Struff landed 16 aces en route to a 6-3, 6-2 win against Mikhail Kukushkin. The World No. 39 will face third seed Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
Lloyd Harris also booked a second-round encounter against seeded opposition. The South African recovered from a set down to overcome Aussie Christopher O’Connell 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1. Harris will meet top seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.
World No. 8 Andrey Rublev says he plays tennis like he plays chess, “take a Queen, or a forehand in tennis, and dictate”. It’s helped him get off to another strong start in 2021.
Ahead of his second appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the chess fan said, “Chess can help tennis, maybe strategy wise. It gives you more patience, but I play chess like I play tennis. I try and take a Queen, or a forehand in tennis, and dictate. I prepare to attack.”
Only time will tell if the Russian can capture his fifth straight ATP 500 tournament crown this week at the Aviation Club in Dubai. Last year’s quarter-finalist expects the conditions to be tricky once again for his aggressive game.
“It’s always tough conditions to play here as the balls fly and it doesn’t suit my game style,” said Rublev. “It will be a great challenge for me, as I will need to find other ways to play matches.”[WATCH LIVE 1]
Rublev, who picked up five ATP Tour titles in 2020, has gotten off to a 13-2 start this year. Last month, he joined Daniil Medvedev, Aslan Karatsev and captain Evgeny Donskoy to help Russia capture the ATP Cup crown (d. Italy) and he also reached the Australian Open quarter-finals (l. to Medvedev). Earlier this month, he captured the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament trophy (d. Fucsovics).
“It’s tough to know what you need to do to produce good results,” admitted Rublev. “I’ve focused on myself to accept the things that I can’t change and do the best I can [each] today. This is the direction I am moving in and what has helped me. It also helped me to be better mentally.
“I feel like I am doing some things better than last year… I’ve always worked hard, it’s been a long journey of improvement. No one has ever told me to work or [needed] to motivate me. I was always doing things at 100 per cent and enjoying it. I then had some injuries [lower back stress fracture and right wrist] and stressful problems off the courts.”
“Little by little, things began to fix themselves. I knew I needed to focus on myself, be in the moment and just play tournaments. In the end, the puzzle came together and from last year, I have started to play better and better.”
Rublev, the second seed in Dubai, will face Australia’s Jordan Thompson or Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori in his opening match.
No. 73 Pierre-Hugues Herbert, +20
The Frenchmen rises 20 places to No. 73 in the FedEx ATP Rankings after reaching his fourth ATP Tour final at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (l. to Medvedev). The 29-year-old beat Kei Nishikori and World No. 5 and two-time defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the title match.
View FedEx ATP Rankings
No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, +1
The Russian has become the first player outside of the Big Four — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — to occupy the No. 2 position in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time since July 2005. Medvedev captured his 10th ATP Tour title on Sunday in Marseille. The 25-year-old has compiled a 14-2 match record so far in 2021, which includes helping Russia capture the ATP Cup title and also a run to the Australian Open final (l. to Djokovic).
No. 20 Cristian Garin, +2
The Chilean returns to the Top 20 for the first time since 12 October 2020 after capturing his fifth clay-court crown on Sunday at the Chile Dove Men+Care Open in Santiago (d. Bagnis).
Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 11 Roberto Bautista Agut, +2
No. 30 Taylor Fritz, +3
No. 36 Nikoloz Basilashvili, +6
No. 42 Aslan Karatsev, +3
No. 56 Frances Tiafoe, +8
No. 79 Federico Delbonis, +7
No. 96 Andreas Seppi, +11
The picture that stayed with us was that of Daniil Medvedev, index finger to ear, inviting, no, urging the Arthur Ashe Stadium assemblage to shower him with boos. But by then, he’d already won them over, a brazenfaced upstart who, after pushing their buttons for days, had come this close to toppling Rafael Nadal in a five-set final.
When Nadal fell to the court, the 2019 US Open title finally secured, it wasn’t so much out of jubilation as it was pure exhaustion. Up two sets and a break, it looked like the Mallorcan would be back in Midtown at a decent hour, maybe settling into a celebratory plate of pasta y gambas. But it took everything he had and more to hold off a Medvedev comeback, eking out a 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory in just under five hours.
“The way that he fought, the way that he played, is a champion’s way,” Nadal told the gathered media that evening.
That ‘champion’s way’ has paid off for Medvedev. Today, the Russian leapfrogs Nadal to seize No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, becoming the first player not named Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray to occupy that spot in more than a decade-and-a-half.
For good measure, Medvedev celebrated the milestone one day earlier by winning his 10th title at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille. “I am really happy,” he said. “I knew that I would become No. 2… [but] it is always better when you step up the rankings when you do something great… it is great for the self-esteem that just before becoming No. 2 on Monday, I win a tournament.”
It’s a historic achievement, the breakup of a stranglehold that traced back to Lleyton Hewitt in July 2005. Did anyone, maybe not even Medvedev himself, truly see this coming? Didn’t tennis fans envision someone like Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych or Dominic Thiem getting there first? All came close. But it took Medvedev to make it happen.
“He’s just so solid,” observed Novak Djokovic, who’s thrice been on the losing end against Medvedev, but who last Monday become the longest-reigning World No. 1 in FedEx ATP Rankings history [read immersive tribute]. “I heard Jim Courier calling him a master chess player because of the way he tactically positions himself on the court, and it’s true. He’s definitely a very smart tennis player.”
Countryman Andrey Rublev said, “He reads the game really well and it’s amazing the patience he has to stay so long in the rallies, to not rush, to take his time, and these things are amazing because, in the end, these little details, they make him who he is. You need to be focused 100 per cent every point, because as soon as you relax or something, then he will use this opportunity.”
Has Medvedev now set a precedent? Will his ascension give belief to those who follow him?
Back at the 2019 US Open, New Yorkers were just as impressed by the first-time Slam finalist as Nadal, though it was perhaps Medvedev’s moxie, not his unorthodox game, that resonated most. In the third round, he had shown some stubbornness in his four-set dismissal of Feliciano Lopez, at one point snatching a towel from a ball kid a bit too hastily and, after a subsequent warning from the chair umpire, tossing his racquet. The fans, in turn, showed their disapproval with a chorus of boos.
Medvedev was all too happy to play the villain, telling fans, “Thank you all, guys, because your energy tonight gave me the win. If you were not here, guys, I would probably lose the match… So I want all of you to know, when you sleep tonight, I won because of you.”
Wait, did that really just happen? Did this Medvedev kid, who remained relatively unknown outside Russia despite playing consecutive finals in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati, just out-Gotham Gotham City? These are the folks who invented The Bronx Cheer. Nobody, I mean NOBODY calls out a stadium-full of New Yorkers.
“I actually have no idea why the demons go out when I play tennis,” said Medvedev.
But Medvedev seemed to revel in his role as chief mischief-maker. He just kept on winning, taking out 2016 US Open champion Wawrinka in the quarter-finals and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals, extending his winning streak to 12 consecutive matches.
By the time he reached the final against Nadal, something remarkable had happened: He’d won the crowd. You just had to admire the gumption, the gall to stand up to them like that. He might have been born in Moscow, but deep down he was one of their own.
“DANIIL MEDVEDEV IS MORE NEW YORK THAN MOST NEW YORKERS,” the New York Post called out.
Medvedev’s coach, Gilles Cervara, tried to shed some light on his gifted charge with the eccentric groundstrokes.
“His game is like his personality — very different,” explained the Frenchman, as Medvedev surged toward the final. “It’s like coaching a genius. Sometimes a genius, you don’t understand them. It’s like this. They’re different. And you have to connect to this guy like he is.”
By the end of 2019, Medvedev was no longer an unknown. He led the ATP Tour in wins that year with 59, highlighted by a 29-3 run that included six straight finals and his first ATP Masters 1000 crown (Cincinnati). Rising to No. 4 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, he became the highest-ranked Russian since Nikolay Davydenko in 2008.
Medvedev would carry that momentum into 2020, claiming wins in his last 10 matches of the year, including seven Top-10 victories. En route to the title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the baseliner defeated No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Thiem, becoming the first player to sweep the Top 3 in a single edition of the season finale.
Few were surprised when Medvedev, after helping lead Russia to the 2021 ATP Cup title, knifed his way through the draw at the Australian Open and reached the second major final of his career. Not even Stefanos Tsitsipas.
After falling to Medvedev, 7-6(5), 7-5, in the 2019 Rolex Shanghai Masters semi-finals, the Athenian had been dismissive of his opponent’s game. “I don’t mean to be rude at all, but it’s just boring,” said Tsitsipas. But prior to their semi-final clash in Melbourne, he was nothing but complimentary: “I might have said in the past that he plays boring, but I don’t really think he plays boring. He just plays extremely smart and outplays you. He’s somebody I really need to be careful with and just take my chances and press.”
Medvedev prevailed in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.
Only days after his 25th birthday, he would come up short in the final against Djokovic, who captured his record ninth Australian Open title. But the 6’6” Muscovite had taken another step in his maturation, further establishing himself among the game’s elite. Beginning with his title run at the Rolex Paris Masters last November, through the Australian Open semi-finals, Medvedev won 20 consecutive matches and ran up a 12-match winning streak against Top-10 opponents.
That disrupter so many of us were first introduced to at the 2019 US Open? The one who welcomed the boos? He’s an established presence now, as formidable an opponent as they come. As the new World No. 2 continues his pursuit of his first Grand Slam crown, he’s given us so much to cheer for.