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Sinner On Musetti: 'He Is A Big, Big Talent'

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Jannik Sinner is one of the ATP Tour’s brightest young talents, but he is not the only player from his country under the spotlight. Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini led Italy to the final of the ATP Cup last month, and on Tuesday evening #NextGenATP Lorenzo Musetti earned his first Top 10 win against Diego Schwartzman in Acapulco.

Sinner believes Italian tennis is on a “high”.

“Everyone is different, has different styles, so I think that’s very exciting,” said Sinner, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. “Musetti is a big, big talent. He can do everything with the ball already, so he’s already physically strong. I think he’s a great player like [Lorenzo] Sonego as well. He’s serving big and going for shots.

“I’m excited for Italian tennis and I think everyone can do well in every tournament.”

As far as the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion is concerned, Sinner is not resting on his laurels. The two-time ATP Tour titlist, who is at a career-high No. 32 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, is keen to continue raising his level.

“For me, the most important thing is always to improve,” Sinner said. “That’s for me the first thing.”

Despite the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sinner broke through last season to claim his first tour-level crown in Sofia and reach his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros. But the Italian feels more confident this year than he did in 2020.

“Last year was a little bit different, I would say. Players got to know me a little bit because I won the Next Gen ATP Finals. They were all new tournaments for me. It was not easy playing [with] a lot of changes, many, many great players I had to face,” Sinner said. “Now it’s a little bit different. I feel a little bit better on court, I would say more comfortable knowing my game a little bit more.”

Now Sinner is focusing on trying to understand where he must improve his game the most.

“Obviously I have to improve everything, but now I [am] starting to know a little bit how everything is working,” Sinner said. “I’m very happy with every progress we are doing. I have a great team behind me. They know how to make [practice] a tough life for me, so you always have to find a solution, how to react to every single thing.

“I would say this is for me the most important thing: trying to solve the problems I have on court and focusing day after day to improve.”

Sinner will continue his pursuit of a first ATP 500 title when he plays Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev. The Russian has maintained his Melbourne momentum, pushing Dominic Thiem to three sets last week in Doha and earning three solid wins this week.

Although Sinner has never played Karatsev in a match, he remembers practising with the Russian in early 2018 at a Futures event in Egypt.

“Obviously [the] next match is a tough one. He is confident, he was playing very, very great in Australia, [made] an incredible run,” Sinner said. “He’s very, very tough to beat, so I think it’s going to be a very different match than today. He’s a big server, playing very, very fast… I’m excited to get to know him in a tournament.”

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Rublev Races Past Fritz For 22nd Straight ATP 500 Win

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Taylor Fritz has been playing well lately, but the American had a big problem on Wednesday evening: he was playing red-hot Russian Andrey Rublev.

The second seed continued his impressive stretch with a 6-3, 6-1 victory against Fritz to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I’m really happy that I can win in straight sets, quite confidently. I know Taylor since [the] juniors and it’s always tough to play against him, because he has a huge serve and he’s playing really fast,” Rublev said. “The first set was not even rallies because everything was serve, winner or serve, mistake, so everything was so fast.

“In these conditions, it’s tough to find the rhythm. You don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s really not easy, but I’m happy that in the end I made it.”

Most Consecutive Wins At ATP 500 Events

 Player  Wins  Streak
 Roger Federer  28   2014 Dubai R1-2016 Halle QF (5 titles)
 Andrey Rublev  22  2020 Hamburg R1-Present (4 titles)
 Andy Murray  21  2016 Queen’s Club R1- 2017 Barcelona QF (4 titles)

Rublev has now won 22 consecutive matches at ATP 500 events, moving into second place for the longest winning streak at this level since the category’s inception in 2009. The Russian has not lost at an ATP 500 tournament since Hamburg last year.

“I think it’s not about 500s, it just happens,” Rublev said. “I’m really happy with my performance. I’m really happy that I’m playing and showing good results and we’ll see if I can keep working this way.”


The World No. 8 saved six break points in one game in the second set and he ran away with the momentum from there, blasting away at every opportunity to triumph after 64 minutes. Rublev will next play in-form Hungarian Marton Fucsovics, who ousted Serbian Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

Rublev defeated Fucsovics in straight sets in the Rotterdam final earlier this year and he leads their ATP Head2Head series 2-1.

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Cabal/Farah Begin Dubai Campaign; Krawietz/Struff Reach Semi-finals

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Top-seeded Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah wasted little time on Wednesday in sweeping past local wild cards Omar Alawadhi and Hamad Abbas Janahi 6-1, 6-0 for a place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals.

Germans Kevin Krawietz and Jan-Lennard Struff booked their places in the semi-finals with a 5-7, 6-3, 10-3 victory over third seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot.

Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic feature in doubles play at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Wednesday. Third-seeded Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, and fourth seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury also compete at the ATP 500 event.

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Challenger Chat: Former No. 31 Horacio De La Pena Leads South American Charge

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

On Tuesday, tennis in South America took a giant leap forward. It was announced that a new series of professional tournaments – the Circuito Dove Men+Care Legion Sudamericana – will be held, starting in April.

Founded and spearheaded by former World No. 31 Horacio De La Pena, the circuit is hoping to change the landscape of professional tennis across the continent and give players more opportunities to develop and grow. De La Pena is targeting 12 tournaments on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2021, kicking off with a four-week swing in Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Peru. It all begins in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra on 12 April.

Having enjoyed a successful 10-year career as a professional, De La Pena brings a unique perspective to his new role. He spoke to about this new endeavor…

Horacio, this is a very ambitious project. Why did you decide to embark on this journey?
I was talking with many players and they all told me that South American tennis needs help to continue to grow. In relation to the rest of the world, it is in a tough position. Until now, we did not have tournaments close to our home countries. If you’re a young player looking to compete in professional tournaments, you have to leave home for a long time. And coaches also have to travel long distances to be with their players. This is not easy.

Now, we are giving these players the opportunities to grow and develop while being close to home. We are making swings with easy flights, same conditions, same altitude, same balls, same surfaces. It helps them take many steps [in the FedEx ATP Rankings] and build their games. There are many players that have the tools and the drive to compete at the highest levels, but they just need some help with the right tournaments. I’m happy that the ATP understands the needs of South American tennis and recognized the importance of this initiative.

With this endeavor, you are working to grow the game in all of South America, not just your home country of Argentina. What is your motivation to that end?
I really think that being united makes us stronger. If we all spread our efforts, to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, it will be better. If we stand together as a group, it will help South American tennis as a whole. That is the main thing. We are a strong group, but only working together. We created a ‘legion’, where all federations in South America come together and think about growth for the whole region. It’s the first time that the continent is coming together like this.

One of the most unique aspects of this circuit is how you’ve involved former South American stars. How did you get them on board?
I spoke with guys like Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil), Nicolas Lapentti (Ecuador), Luis Horna (Peru) and Santiago Giraldo (Colombia) about organising tournaments in their countries. Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Hugo Dellien (Bolivia) are still playing, but they are helping too. Mariano Zabaleta and Agustin Calleri are going to run the tournaments in Argentina and Juan Monaco will help too. They all wanted to do something for tennis in South America, but they didn’t know how. We gave them a reason to stay in tennis, but with a purpose.

Our rising stars in South America don’t have connections and name recognition with the press and the public to promote these tournaments. Using the past champions and legends is important for that. We want these former stars to present the up-and-coming players. In that way, we have the older players involved in the growth of the newcomers.

Describe the structure of the Circuito Dove Men+Care Legión Sudamericana. How is the schedule organised throughout the year?
That’s another important thing. We are doing swings of tournaments before the qualifying of every Grand Slam. It starts with these four clay-court events before qualies of Roland Garros, then we will do a tournament on grass in Brazil right before Wimbledon and two more on hard courts ahead of the US Open. Going forward, we are looking to do the same on hard before the Australian Open. This is very important preparation for South American players before the Grand Slams.

There are many successful Challenger tournaments already in South America. In Guayaquil, Montevideo and Lima, they are each going for more than a decade now. What are you learning from those events in particular?
In Montevideo, Uruguay, the tournament run by Diego Perez, they have been on the tour for almost 20 years. We learn from every single one of them. This is the one thing we told everyone, that we are not coming to compete with other tournaments. We are giving more swings and more events in other parts of the calendar. They are all doing great work and have been for many years. We are building on that and hoping that sponsors will see this and want to invest in South American tennis even more.

You had a long career as a player. What is it like to see the tour from a different perspective?
It is a lot easier to help the players without doing many mistakes, because I’ve been there. I’ve been in the tour for 28 years in a row, as a player and as a coach. With most of the things that players ask of me, I know how to react and manage. I know what players need to be ready to compete. In our organization, we will try to give all the players to best possible accommodations and hospitality. There is a difference when you talk to someone you know has been there. I have a perspective that not many do.

De La Pena speaks at the Circuito Dove Men+Care Legion Sudamericana launch press conference. Photo: Prensa tenisconn/Sergio Llamera

Horacio, what are your memories competing on the Challenger Tour?
I won the title at the second Challenger I ever played. It was in Thessaloniki in Greece. The week before, I was playing in Italy and I got sick from drinking water from the sink. I didn’t know I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t play the last round of qualifying in Palermo. So, I looked at the map and saw another tournament was in Thessaloniki – on the other side of the Adriatic Sea – and said, ‘oh, this is very close!’. I had to fly all the way to Rome, then to Athens and then to Thessaloniki.

I spent all the money I had and when I finally got to the club, the taxi driver told me we had arrived. I said to him that it’s not possible, because this club only had hard courts. He insisted that this was club. I didn’t even know that it was a hard-court tournament. It was the first hard-court tournament of my life. I went through the qualies and won the title. So, what are my memories of the Challenger Tour? I loved it. They give you the opportunity of starting your career. At the time, I won $5,000 in cash. I was so happy.

You also won titles in Bahia, Brazil and Bucharest, Romania, right?
Yes, and Bahia was the best tournament ever. It was located in the town of Itaparica. That was a great Challenger, right on the water. Perfect conditions and very beautiful.

How has the Challenger Tour changed from your playing days?
Now that I am older, I can look back on all the experiences that I had as a player. Now there are a lot of guys that can play into their 30s. Their bodies stay pretty healthy. When I started on the tour and I’m facing a guy in his 30s, I knew that if I made him run a little bit, he’s going to get tired. Now, these guys they are very healthy and are in great shape. The tour is a lot stronger. You have newcomers, guys who hit the ball very hard and guys with a lot of experience. The tour is very difficult now and for sure much tougher than before.

In your opinion, what is the importance of the ATP Challenger Tour in the landscape of professional tennis?
The Challenger Tour makes you very strong for the ATP Tour. The level is a lot stronger than when I played. You have newcomers who hit the ball really hard and guys with experience who are tough to beat. It’s such an important stage to pass and you have to win many, many matches to move up. The Challengers really filter who can make it and who cannot. You need to always be improving here.

It’s the first step where you really test yourself. When you go to the pro tour as a junior, you don’t understand why the other player is fighting so much to succeed. You don’t realize that he’s trying to make a living, put food on the table for his family and just fighting for things that you’re not used to fighting for. When you’re a junior, there are no consequences for losing. But when you start playing for money, for your future and your family’s future, you start taking it more seriously. That learning curve is so important in life. You need to have an extra level of tennis.

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#NextGenATP Italian Sinner Upsets Bautista Agut In Dubai

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Jannik Sinner won a high-quality 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory over Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday for a place in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals.

The #NextGenATP Italian weathered a fight back from Bautista Agut in the second set and led 4-2 in the decider, before the experienced 2018 Dubai champion worked his way back. Sinner remained aggressive and once Bautista Agut hit his first double fault of the match at 5-6, 15/30, the 19-year-old secured victory with his 48th winner, a looping forehand.


“Roberto is an incredible player, very solid,” said No. 16 seed Sinner. “It was very tough, not going for too much or striking the ball too slow. I am looking for these kind of tough matches in order to improve. I am happy to have won and can play one more match here tomorrow. I tried to control my emotions as much as possible, which helped me a lot.”

Sinner, the youngest player in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, struck 16 aces and will now face fellow Italian Lorenzo Sonego, the No. 17 seed, or last month’s surprise Australian Open semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev of Russia on Thursday.

Sinner, last month’s Great Ocean Road Open champion (d. Travaglia), was impressive in the 42-minute opener, breaking Bautista Agut after a 24-stroke rally at 4-4 in the first set. Fourth seed Bautista Agut regrouped in the second set, breaking service for a 5-3 advantage when Sinner hit a backhand into the net. The decider was a battle of nerves and the encounter lasted two hours and 25 minutes.

World No. 11 Bautista Agut, who is now 9-7 on the 2021 season, has already reached two ATP Tour finals at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier (l. to Goffin) and at last week’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha (l. to Basilashvili) this year.

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Shapovalov Reaches Dubai Quarter-finals In 200th Tour-level Match

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Denis Shapovalov continued his strong start to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday in his 200th tour-level match (109-91).

The third-seeded Canadian beat former junior rival and No. 13 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4, 6-3 in 76 minutes for a place in the quarter-finals, where he will meet Jeremy Chardy of France.

“I definitely played some great tennis today,” said Shapovalov. “I’ve struggled against Hurkacz in the past, because he has great weapons and it’s definitely not easy to play against him. I’ve been playing well and took my chances. I was serving well today. I feel mentally fresh and I feel like I’m in great shape. It looks like everything is coming together.”


Third seed Shapovalov played smart tennis and used his left-handed swinging serve to dominate in the first set, which featured one service break. The Canadian returned consistently well in a polished performance, finishing with 26 winners for his first victory in their third ATP Head2Head meeting.

“I feel that I was able to play well yesterday and today,” said World No. 12 Shapovalov. “I’ve put in a lot of good work with Mischa [Mikhail Youzhny] in a training block after the Australian Open, and I do feel confident in my game and how I feel physically. But it’s impossible to say when everything will click together. It’s never guaranteed, and I am fighting for every point.”

Shapovalov will now play Chardy, who scraped past eighth-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 36 minutes. The World No. 53 has already reached two ATP Tour semi-finals this year at the Antalya Open (l. to Bublik) and the Murray River Open in Melbourne (l. to Evans).

“I am feeling really tired now,” said Chardy. “[It] was a big battle today and very intense. We were both serving really well and we had to be both stay focused. I think I gave everything on the court today. I will fight again as Denis is one of the best on the Tour. He has his whole future in front of him.”

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Murray/Soares Battle Into Acapulco Quarter-finals

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares began their quest for a third Acapulco title on Monday with a hard-fought 6-7(4), 6-2, 10-1 victory over Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. The 2017 and 2018 champions, who are now 9-1 on the 2021 season, could not convert one set point at 6-5, deciding point Deuce in the first set.

This year’s Great Ocean Road Open titlists will now challenge British brothers Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski, who defeated Diego Schwartzman and Joao Sousa 6-4, 7-6(7). The Skupskis recovered from 1-4 down in the second set and saved three set points at 4/6 and 6/7 in the second set tie-break.

Meanwhile, top seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos swept past Marin Cilic and Oliver Marach 6-2, 6-3 to set up a clash against Australian qualifiers Luke Saville and John-Patrick Smith, who beat German wild cards Alexander Zverev and Mischa Zverev 6-2, 7-5. Saville and Smith won the first four games of the match.

Thompson, Saville

At the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Frenchmen Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin saved one set point at 6/7 in the second tie-break en route to beating Marcus Daniell and Philipp Oswald 6-4, 7-6(7). Chardy and Martin will now look to record their second straight win over Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in the quarter-finals, having beaten the in-form second seeds at last week’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

Elsewhere, Germans Kevin Krawietz and Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Henri Kontinen and Jordan Thompson 6-7(7), 7-6(4), 10-6. Krawietz and Struff held two set points at 5/6 and 6/7 in first set tie-break and now challenge third seeds Wesley Koolhof and Lukasz Kubot..

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Musetti's Milestone Win: "I Am Expecting This"

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Lorenzo Musetti concedes the high of notching his first Top 10 victory may not subside in a hurry. Not done with his first tour-level hard-court victory in an upset of Diego Schwartzman on Tuesday night, the 19-year-old plans to ride that momentum in his Acapulco debut.

“Yeah I am expecting this,” Musetti said of beating Schwartzman in his Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC debut. “I was born on clay. [In Italy] most of the courts are on clay so we are specialists of clay, [but] the ATP Tour, most of the tournaments are on hard courts. And even losing a lot of matches on hard courts, I’m getting a lot of experience and I’m playing really good here.

Despite having grown up honing his skills predominantly on clay, it came as no surprise to the Italian he landed the milestone victory on a hard court. It took six match points to steady the nerves against the seasoned Argentine on Tuesday night for a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory.


“It’s not easy to describe. You have to live it to describe,” Musetti said. “The only thing that I’m sure [about] is that tonight it’s going to be tough to sleep, for sure. 

“I have a lot of adrenaline after the match. Even if I’m tired it would be really tough to sleep.”

It was an opportunity he was grabbing with both hands, following the stop-start season that was 2020. It was a year in which he still managed to slash his ranking from No. 360 to No. 128, despite the COVID-19 pandemic having wiped out five months. 

“Yeah I worked a lot. I’ve grown a lot in March, April of the last year,” he said. “I worked every day, like a routine to train because in one month we couldn’t touch the racquet.

“So I had some ways at home and … we were adjusting with my physical trainer via Skype and FaceTime. We did great work, but also in the pre-season we made a really intense workout and finally they paid [off].”

Now the World No. 120 has high hopes of joining compatriot Jannik Sinner as the second 19-year-old Italian in the Top 100. He would become the ninth current player from his country to occupy a place there.

“The start of the season is really good,” he said. “It’s not easy to rise because of the rankings now, it’s still a little bit frozen, but I’m playing good… I’m trying to reach them and break into the Top 100, that’s my goal.

“Now I’m here and I’m focused on the next match against Tiafoe. He won an incredible match against [Brandon] Nakashima. I won once and I lost once against him so let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

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After Ending Haircut Drought, Raonic Fires Into Acapulco Second Round

  • Posted: Mar 17, 2021

Milos Raonic defeated Tommy Paul 7-6(6), 6-4 on Tuesday evening to reach the second round of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC. Perhaps just as notably, the Canadian got a haircut!

Due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, the former World No. 3 had not had locks trimmed since before leaving for Australia last year.

“I actually felt safe to do it and I found somebody who had been as safe as me and I sort of went through with it,” Raonic said. “Sometimes I was a little bit too embarrassed walking out of the house the way I was, so I felt like it maybe it was time for a haircut.”


The fourth seed hit 13 aces and overcame 10 double faults to battle past Paul after one hour and 49 minutes. Raonic was broken twice, but he had enough firepower to move into the second round, in which he will play German Dominik Koepfer.

“It’s really good. I haven’t played since Australia, so to come here, play a good match against him and do a lot of things well, I have to be very happy with and it also gives me some things that I can do better for tomorrow,” Raonic said. “I look forward to the next challenge.”

In other action, sixth seed Fabio Fognini ousted countryman Stefano Travaglia 7-5, 6-2 in one hour and 26 minutes. The nine-time ATP Tour titlist went winless in two previous ATP Head2Head meetings against Travaglia, but he broke serve four times to advance.

Fognini helped Italy to the ATP Cup final last month and then reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, where he lost against Rafael Nadal. The World No. 17 will play Cameron Norrie for a spot in the quarter-finals, after the Brit’s 6-3, 6-3 win over Stefan Kozlov.

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