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Scouting Report: Alcaraz & Musetti In Action In Marbella & Cagliari

  • Posted: Apr 04, 2021

Two ATP 250 events on single-year licenses will be contested this week on clay in Europe. Daniel Evans and a slew of Italians will lead the way at the Sardegna Open in Cagliari, and Pablo Carreno Busta will try to triumph on home soil at the AnyTech365 Andalucia Open In Marbella. looks at five things you should know before each event.

Draws: Cagliari | Marbella

1) Lorenzo Squared:
Two Lorenzo’s — Lorenzo Sonego and Lorenzo Musetti — will lead Italian hopes at the Sardegna Open. Although Sonego has not received nearly as much attention as Musetti and Jannik Sinner, the 25-year-old has proven himself a tough foe on clay. He reached the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters quarter-finals in 2019 and won the Antalya title later that year.

Musetti, the youngest player in the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, has taken the ATP Tour by storm with runs to the Acapulco semi-finals and the Miami third round. The #NextGenATP star will open against Austrian Dennis Novak.

2) Excellent Evans: Daniel Evans has proven himself one of the trickiest opponents on Tour with his all-court game, which features plenty of variety in spins and pace. Will that prove the case on the Cagliari clay? The Brit is the top seed at the ATP 250 tournament, where he will play Musetti or Novak in the second round. Earlier this season, Evans earned maiden glory at the Murray River Open in Melbourne. He also reached the doubles final last week in Miami alongside Neal Skupski. 

3) American Charge: Two of the eight seeds in the singles draw are from the United States: second seed Taylor Fritz and eighth seed Tommy Paul, who are close friends. Fritz will play Andrej Martin or Jiri Vesely in his opener, as he tries to pick up on clay where he left off at Roland Garros last year. In Paris, he made the third round. Paul, who pushed Dominic Thiem to four sets at the clay-court major in 2019, will play Yannick Hanfmann.

4) Clay Stars: Other players to watch include fourth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who has won two ATP 500 titles on clay (both in Hamburg), seventh seed Guido Pella, 2018 Roland Garros semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato and big-hitting fifth seed Jan-Lennard Struff. Gilles Simon, who will play home favourite Stefano Travaglia, is the only former Top 10 player in the field.

5) Melo/Rojer Search For Form, Berrettini Brothers In Action: Veterans Marcelo Melo and Jean-Julien Rojer are the top seeds in the Cagliari doubles draw. They will try to find their form in Italy after losing three of their first four matches as a team. Although Matteo Berrettini is not playing singles this week, he will compete in the doubles field alongside his brother, Jacopo Berrettini.

1) PCB Title Hunting:
The top seed in Marbella is Pablo Carreno Busta, whose lone clay-court title came in Estoril in 2017. The Spaniard earned two victories for his country in this year’s ATP Cup and made the third round of the Australian Open. Now Carreno Busta, who will open against a qualifier, will try to surge to his fifth ATP Tour title and his first on home soil.

2) Fabulous Fabio: Few players strike the ball as cleanly as Fabio Fognini, and the second seed will try to show some of that this week at this ATP 250. The Italian, who will start his run against Jaume Munar or a qualifier, has enjoyed success in Spain before. In 2015, Fognini upset Rafael Nadal in Barcelona. He also lifted the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters trophy in 2019.

3) #NextGenATP Stars To Watch: The #NextGenATP will try to make an impact in Marbella with wild cards Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune. Alcaraz continues his climb towards the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings after a strong start to the season, in which he beat World No. 14 David Goffin at the Great Ocean Road Open before making the second round of the Australian Open. The 17-year-old, who begins his tournament against a qualifier, might face 39-year-old countryman Feliciano Lopez in the second round.

Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, another 17-year-old wild card, qualified in Santiago, where he made the quarter-finals. Rune will try to upset seventh seed Soonwoo Kwon.

4) Ruud On Clay: Casper Ruud, armed with his devastating forehand, has won 65 per cent of his tour-level matches on clay. The Norwegian, seeded third this week, will try to continue excelling on the surface in Marbella, where he will play third seed Gianluca Mager or Mikhail Kukushkin in the second round. Mager has found form at this venue, where the Italian won an ATP Challenger Tour title on Sunday.

5) Belgians The Top Seeds: The top seeds in the doubles draw are Belgians Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen. The longtime partners have won five ATP Tour titles together since the start of 2019, and they will try to add a sixth in Spain. Their first-round opponents will be home favourites David Marrero Adrian Menendez-Maceiras.

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Pole Position: Hurkacz Claims First Masters 1000 Title In Miami

  • Posted: Apr 04, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz became Poland’s first ATP Masters 1000 champion on Sunday after taking down 19-year-old Jannik Sinner 7-6(4), 6-4 in the Miami Open presented by Itau final.

The 24-year-old needed one hour and 45 minutes to clinch the biggest ATP Tour title of his career, and his second of the year after lifting the trophy at the Delray Beach Open by The victory extended Hurkacz’s unbeaten 2021 run in South Florida to 10-0.

“Last year I spent here almost half a year,” Hurkacz said in an on-court interview. “I was practising in the hottest weather during the spring and summer here, so I think that helped me a lot playing now in Florida, especially in these pretty tough conditions here, because it was a little bit slow here. The wind was blowing from side to side sometimes, so it’s huge.” 

His opponent and occasional doubles partner Sinner, the 21st seed, was trying to become the youngest Miami men’s champion in history at 19 years and seven months. The pair have teamed up to play doubles twice this season – including a quarter-final appearance at last month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – but on Sunday they faced each other in singles for the first time.

“Hubi, many congratulations for this week and a half,” said the #NextGenATP Italian. “I think you showed what talent you have. I’m more proud what kind of person you are. I have to say [you are] maybe my best friend on Tour. Maybe we should play more doubles together.”

It was the Polish player’s experience that ultimately made the difference, with 26th seed Hurkacz looking calm as he powered his way to an early break in each set. Hurkacz dictated with his forehand and forced errors off the Sinner racquet as he took a 3-0 lead. Sinner needed a few games to settle into the contest, but he lifted his level emphatically to get the break back.

Hurkacz kept Sinner under pressure, creating 11 break opportunities throughout the match, and converting on seven occasions. One of those breaks came at 6-5: with Sinner serving for the set the Pole broke to love as he outlasted Sinner from the baseline to send them into the tie-break.

It would prove to be a pivotal game for Sinner, who racked up 39 unforced errors throughout the match, including 28 in the first set alone. The Italian was never able to bounce back after dropping the first set, and Hurkacz powered his way to a 4-0 lead in the second set with a double break.

Although Sinner managed to fight back one of the breaks to narrow the gap to 4-3, he was unable to make any more inroads against the big Hurkacz serve. The Pole didn’t face a break point for the next three games as he served out his third ATP Tour title in Miami.

“The balls felt slow when I went to serve,” Hurkacz said of the final game. “Obviously a tough point. You really want to get a couple of free points and Jannik’s an amazing returner. It was a tough game.”

With the victory, Hurkacz will break into the Top 20 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time, moving from No. 37 to a career-high No. 16 on Monday. Sinner is also projected to reach a new career-high of his own, rising to No. 23 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

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Fashion Photographer Captures Miami Moments With Tsitsipas, Rublev & More

  • Posted: Apr 04, 2021

Los Angeles-based Czech fashion photographer Radka Leitmeritz turned her lens to the tennis courts throughout the Miami Open presented by Itau for a series of behind-the-scenes portraits featuring ATP Tour and WTA Tour players. 

Leitmeritz’s evocative work has previously featured in the pages and covers of international fashion magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel and Elle. Now, ATP Tour stars like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Grigor Dimitrov, Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman (pictured above) have been her muses in South Florida.

“I think the misconception coming from the fashion world is that everyone I photograph is going to look like a top model,” Leitmeritz said of working with tennis players. “Everyone is beautiful and I like to capture something really personal about them in a different environment.

“I’m free from the history or knowing too much about them. This is a privileged situation. Shooting a person who is very famous that you don’t know is the best. I just see them, I feel a certain energy.”

Her keen lens caught players like Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov on their way to the practice court, and also captured quiet moments with Daniil Medvedev, Tommy Paul, Aslan Karatsev and more around the Hard Rock Stadium grounds.

Leitmeritz also photographed WTA Tour stars including Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu and Coco Gauff. See more images at

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Secrets To Sinner's Surge: Dinner With Sharapova, Quarantining With Rafa

  • Posted: Apr 04, 2021

Jannik Sinner is the hottest young star in men’s tennis. On Sunday, the 19-year-old will have a chance to become the youngest champion in Miami Open presented by Itau history when he plays Hubert Hurkacz. To understand the teen’s rise, you must know that winning has not been his priority.

In September 2019, the #NextGenATP star was eating dinner a restaurant in Dolceacqua, Italy, less than an hour’s drive from Monte Carlo. Also at the table was his coach, Riccardo Piatti. More notable attendees were former World No. 1s Maria Sharapova and Marat Safin. Sharapova had recently started working with Piatti.

It was a night of friends sharing stories and simply enjoying the evening. But Sinner, who was two when Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004, was in attendance by design according to Piatti.

“I wanted Jannik to understand the mentality of a No. 1. Maria has priorities,” Piatti told “When she is on the court, she is watching the ball, hitting the ball and doing everything perfect. When she plays points, she’s focussed to play the points. When she’s off the court, she’s focussed on the fitness part, physical part. When she finishes everything, she’s social.

“Maria is an example that she has a great mentality to be a champion.”


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Up until that point, Sinner was still relatively unknown outside of hardcore fans. The teen had not yet cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, nor had he competed in the Next Gen ATP Finals. But Piatti was desperate for his charge to spend as much time around champions as possible to learn even the smallest lessons from them.

“It’s not me explaining [a lesson], but another one like Nadal or Maria,” Piatti said. “He saw the mentality from these players. Maria was very, very important for me and for him.”

Less than two months later, Sinner captured the Next Gen ATP Finals trophy as a wild card and then won his third ATP Challenger Tour title the following week in Ortisei. Although he enjoys winning, that has never been his biggest focus. In nearly every press conference he participates in, Sinner tells reporters about how he is focussed on improving and the “long road” ahead of him.

That is why Piatti, who has worked with the likes of Ivan Ljubicic and Richard Gasquet, was so excited when he got a call from Carlos Moya ahead of this year’s trip to Australia. The Spaniard wanted to see if Sinner would be Nadal’s quarantine practice partner.

“Of course I was very happy, because you need to live with these guys. These guys are quite simple and focussed about what they are doing and Jannik likes [this] and he understands that Rafa is quite similar to him. The only difference is he won 20 Slams. Small difference,” Piatti said, cracking a laugh. “He understands, ‘Okay, if I do everything correct and I’m young and I need to continue like this, I can reach some of my dreams.’ It was in the perfect moment of his career.

“I think that these 14 days for Jannik were perfect to understand Rafa’s mind.”

However shocking it is, the Italian has only been fully focussed on tennis since he was 14. It wasn’t until then that he moved to Piatti’s academy in Bordighera from San Candido — which is near the Austrian border — and moved on from skiing.

“That was kind of a life-changer for me, because I never played tennis. I only played two times a week tennis. When I came there, I practised every day, morning and afternoon,” Sinner said. “For me, that was very tough in the beginning, so that’s what helped me, just working hard every day and [trying not to] lose energy on court, because [your day is] already tough. If you lose extra energy without any sense, it’s even tougher.”

Sinner is a sponge. If he wins, great. If he learns, even better. That is part of the reason Sinner has quickly become one of the calmest players on Tour, showing great maturity despite his age. Another reason behind this, according to Piatti, is his skiing background.

“If you ski or you make some race, you understand immediately that you need to be concentrated and if you make a mistake, you are out. In tennis, he was thinking that was the game,” Piatti said. “He liked tennis because he can make a mistake and then immediately come back and play again… he’s coming from a small village and his parents are good workers. He knows that everybody needs to work and if they want something, they need to do very well.”

Sinner comes from a humble family. Both of his parents work in a restaurant. His father Johann is a chef, and his mother Siglinde is a waitress.

“I saw that he was playing well, but what took my attention was outside the court. He was a 14-year-old kid, but he controlled the mind of a young man of 17, 18, 19,” Piatti said. “Immediately you see these kinds of kids. Jannik was like that. He has the personality to stay with everybody, so he was quite mature. I was focussed on that and after that I tried to help build his game.”

During professional tennis’ five-month suspension last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Piatti would choose at least two matches per week for Sinner to watch. He didn’t want his charge to want the world’s best playing well, though.

“I showed not when Novak was playing well, but when Novak was playing badly. That was important for me,” Piatti said.

It was about figuring out how champions manage their tough moments and still win. Sinner has already learned from some of his own experiences. At last year’s US Open, the Italian let slip a two-set lead against Karen Khachanov, falling in a fifth-set tie-break. In the second half of that clash, he was clearly cramping. Afterwards, he called Piatti to ask what went wrong and if he wasn’t fit enough. Piatti believes it was the mental stress and hydration — or lack thereof — that led him to cramp, not his fitness. Sinner still managed to find a way to nearly win the match, and he learned from that.

A similar situation happened in Miami when he played Khachanov again. After losing a physically gruelling first set in the Florida heat, Sinner appeared headed out of the tournament. Instead, he found a way to win. Now, he is on the verge of becoming just the sixth teen to lift a Masters 1000 trophy. Win or lose, though, Piatti’s goals are much bigger.

“Of course, winning Slams and becoming No. 1. I spoke with him already that I already had two players, Milos Raonic and Ivan Ljubicic No. 3. Now the goal is different,” Piatti said. “I want someone [to accomplish] more and this project started many years ago. It is not just what is going to [happen] tomorrow [in Miami].”

Sinner is beginning to lose the element of surprise on Tour. Although he clearly has the game to compete against the world’s best — in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals, the Italian even went blow for blow in many rallies against Nadal before losing in straight sets — opponents will begin to learn his tendencies.

“Roger Federer when he won Milan the first time is not the Roger Federer playing now and it’s the same for Djokovic and Rafa. They’re improving a lot and they are changing a lot,” Piatti said. “I think Jannik has this kind of potential.”

Tomorrow, the world will see if Sinner is ready for Masters 1000 glory. But only time will tell just how many titles the Italian will rack up. For now, Piatti just wants his player to continue learning everything he can, even if it’s just by sitting at a dinner table.

“[This final is] an important moment, but not the last moment. It’s part of what he needs to do,” Piatti said. “I’m very happy that it came now, but the season is long and the process is long.”

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Fibak On Hurkacz: 'The Whole Of Poland Is Living His Adventure'

  • Posted: Apr 04, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz is making waves in Poland during the Miami Open presented by Itau, where the 24-year-old is into his first ATP Masters 1000 final. That means Wojtek Fibak, a Pole who cracked the world’s Top 10 in singles and doubles, is a busy man.

Fibak, the only other player from their country to win an ATP Tour singles title, has been getting 100 calls a day with requests to speak about Hurkacz. While talking to on Saturday, the 67-time tour-level titlist (singles and doubles) said his two phones buzzed 10 times with calls from newspapers, radio bookers and TV stations.

“The whole of Poland is living his adventure,” Fibak said. “It’s thrilling for Poland.”

It’s been an exciting time for tennis in the country, and not just because of Hurkacz’s dream run in Florida. Last year, Polish WTA Tour star Iga Swiatek lifted the trophy at Roland Garros.

“Each time when we were talking about Iga last year, I always mentioned Hubert in all the interviews. I always said Hubert is equally talented,” Fibak said. “He moves like Iga on the court. He’s the fastest, he’s the best mover. He has a great forehand, great backhand. All the characteristics of Iga fit Hubert. I’ve always said Hubert has the same potential as Iga, so it doesn’t come as a big surprise.”

This is not the first time Hurkacz has shown his skills. He competed in the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals and has won two ATP Tour titles — at Winston Salem in 2019 and Delray Beach earlier this year. But Fibak first saw him play as a junior at Roland Garros.

“I remember just the way he walked, like a basketball player a little bit. I thought of Andy Murray and I thought he had great defence and great hands, but he wasn’t as consistent then,” Fibak said. “It’s difficult to be consistent with his tennis because he hits so flat, he doesn’t have any reserves. He doesn’t use topspin.

“With time, he became more consistent and then he became really dangerous.”

Fibak admitted that he doesn’t “pretend to do anything” officially for Hurkacz, but he keeps in touch with his countryman. Last December, he invited “Hubi” to his home in Poland.

“We spoke for a couple of hours and I told him to be more aggressive, more offensive and slightly cocky,” Fibak said. “He will never be cocky, but to have that nerve. Maybe that was what he was lacking and now he is a bit tougher. Not all the way, but that helps a lot.”

Fibak did not mean that in a negative way. Hurkacz is known for always smiling regardless of the situation, and the Polish legend loves that about him. But he noticed the rising star was “slightly shy, slightly not so sure of himself”.

“He didn’t have the tough side. He didn’t have what McEnroe and Connors succeeded with. He was almost too nice of a guy over the past two, three years and I think he didn’t have that killer instinct,” Fibak said. “Of course he’s been winning, he beat many good players. But I thought his potential is higher, that he has more potential to win tournaments and not only to be in the quarter-finals.”

The former singles World No. 10 and doubles World No. 2 believes Hurkacz is one of the most talented players on the ATP Tour. His career-high FedEx ATP Ranking is World No. 28, and he is projected to crack the Top 20 with a victory against Jannik Sinner in Sunday’s final.

“He should be in the Top 10 if not the Top 5, and now he’s proving it,” Fibak said. “He’s an all-around player, he doesn’t have any weaknesses. A lot of players these days don’t know how to react at the net and he’s a great net player.”

Recently, Fibak has started thinking of another comparison for Hurkacz besides Murray: former World No. 4 Miloslav Mecir, who is affectionately known as the “Big Cat”.

“He was so subtle, moved so well, he had great hands and he would hit flat shots always and now the speed everybody is playing faster, but he was playing in Hubert’s way,” Fibak said. “It was tennis that was full of imagination, innovation, very precise. We all admired it.”

That is a lofty comparison for Hurkacz. Mecir won the singles gold medal at the 1988 Olympics and reached two Grand Slam singles finals. But the Pole is making steady progress under the tutelage of Craig Boynton, for whom Fibak has much praise.

“He has done a wonderful job with Hubert in terms of his composure, that he is so patient. They never rushed,” Fibak explained. “Obviously he did have a lot of success. Considering his talent and the shots he has and the way he moves, he could have achieved some more success a bit faster.

“It has to be recognised that Craig was always so patient, tolerant and forgiving in a way and always stood by Hubert in the good moments and disappointing moments and now it’s all glory, they can celebrate being in the final.”

Hurkacz can take it one step further on Sunday when he plays for the biggest trophy of his career. But to Fibak, this is just the beginning, and he is proud to have Hurkacz represent Poland.

“My dream is he will become Top 5 and possibly even higher, Top 3, maybe a leader, and he will stay the way he is [in terms of his personality]. That’s what I would like,” Hurkacz said. “Some people proved it [is possible], like Federer, Raonic is a gentleman, he always loses the same way he wins. He’s playing another gentleman, Sinner, tomorrow. They are two young people who are excellent players for their sport and their followers the way they behave on the court and off the court.”

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