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Five Challenger Stars To Watch At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

For the next fortnight, all eyes will be on the stars of the ATP Tour as they battle for glory at Roland Garros. But as hungry as they will be to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires, there is another group of competitors that are just as motivated to make a splash at the clay-court Grand Slam. They are the players competing throughout the year on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Securing entry into a Grand Slam is no simple task. It requires year-round focus, hard work and consistency to arrive at this moment. For players grinding on the Challenger circuit, this is the reward. Having the opportunity to test their talents against the best players in the world, and with coveted FedEx ATP Rankings points and prize money at stake, is what drives these players from January to November.

Roland Garros 2021 is no exception. A platform to showcase their skills and eventually take the next step on the ATP Tour, it presents a huge opportunity on a global stage. A strong performance on the terre battue can prove to be career-altering for many Challenger stars, as they target the Top 100 and beyond. So, which players are poised to wreak havoc on the draw? We look at five to watch in Paris…

Benjamin Bonzi (FRA)
The 2021 match wins leader on the ATP Challenger Tour is making his third appearance at his home Grand Slam. If his first two bids on the Parisian clay are any indication of how his 2021 campaign will go, Bonzi will enter with plenty of confidence. In 2017, the Frenchman defeated Daniil Medvedev to reach the second round in his major debut and just last year he upset Emil Ruusuvuori in four sets.

Bonzi, who turns 25 next month, is peaking at the right time. Up to a career-high No. 115 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, the Nimes native is soaring towards the Top 100. He owns a tour-leading 25 match wins this year on the Challenger circuit, including titles on the hard courts of Potchefstroom, South Africa, and clay of Ostrava, Czech Republic. Having previously never lifted a Challenger trophy, Bonzi’s double has made him one of the more feared players this year.

The Frenchman will face Argentine veteran Facundo Bagnis in the first round on the terre battue. A potential second-round date with seventh seed Andrey Rublev looms large.

2021 Challenger Wins Leaders

Player Match Wins
Benjamin Bonzi
25 2
Kacper Zuk 20 1
Jenson Brooksby 19 3
Sebastian Baez 16 3
Alessandro Giannessi 16 0

Jenson Brooksby (USA)
Brooksby enters his first Roland Garros main draw as one of the hottest players on the planet. The #NextGenATP American’s physicality and unrelenting mental drive will be on full display on the red clay. In just his first few months since turning pro, the California native reeled off 19 wins from 21 matches on the ATP Challenger Tour. That included titles on the hard courts of Potchefstroom and Orlando and clay of Tallahassee.

At the age of 20, Brooksby will look to carry the momentum from a stunning run through qualifying that included a comeback from a set and a double break down on Friday. He brings a 13-match win streak into a first round clash with another red-hot player – Aslan Karatsev. It will be the first meeting between the American and the Russian.

Bjorn Fratangelo (USA)
The former World No. 99 Fratangelo is quietly mounting a charge up the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2021, as the American continues his quest to return to the Top 100. After struggling with various injuries in recent years, the 27-year-old is finally healthy and picking up where he left off. A first Challenger title since 2018 came on the hard courts of Cleveland and was followed by a clay-court championship clash against Brooksby in Tallahassee.  

Fratangelo would fall to his countryman in the Tallahassee final, but will take great confidence from an impressive 11-3 mark to open the year. The Pennsylvania native also qualified at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami and reached the second round behind an upset of Fernando Verdasco. It was his first match win at the Masters 1000 level in two years.

The 2011 junior champion at Roland Garros returns to Paris for his third appearance in the big show (2016 & 2017). After dropping just one set in qualifying, he will open against Cameron Norrie. A potential third-round encounter with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal looms in the third round.

Arthur Rinderknech (FRA)
Take your pick from the French wild cards. Bonzi is joined by fellow Challenger star Rinderknech, last year’s Roland Garros teen sensation Hugo Gaston and February’s Gran Canaria champion Enzo Couacaud.

It is the former Texas A&M University standout Rinderknech who is Top 10 among Challenger match wins leaders in 2021. Boasting a 15-6 record, his title to open the season in Istanbul set the tone for a strong first quarter. And the 25-year-old hasn’t limited his success to the Challenger circuit. A first ATP Tour match win came in Marseille in March, where he reached the quarters, and just two weeks ago he would streak to another quarter-final in Lyon. It was in Lyon that he scored the biggest win of his career, stunning World No. 17 Jannik Sinner in a deciding set.

Now, Rinderknech is hoping his 2021 tour-level breakthrough will translate to the Grand Slam stage. A first-round meeting with Marin Cilic awaits in Paris, with 2009 champion Roger Federer a potential second round opponent.


Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP)
One of the more intriguing under-the-radar match-ups at Roland Garros sees two Spanish qualifiers do battle: Bernabe Zapata Miralles vs. Carlos Alcaraz. We all know about Alcaraz, the 18-year-old setting the professional circuit ablaze with his charge to the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

But don’t sleep on countryman Zapata Miralles. The Valencia native defeated Alcaraz for his maiden Challenger title last year in Cordenons, Italy, and is making his Grand Slam debut on the heels of a second crown in Heilbronn, Germany. Sitting just shy of his career-high No. 126 in the world, Zapata Miralles is making a strong push towards the Top 100. A run to the Round of 16 at the ATP 500 event in Barcelona, where he stunned Fabio Fognini, has him soaring with confidence entering Roland Garros.

Zapata Miralles reeled off six sets in a row from qualifying to punch his ticket to the main draw.

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Preview: Can Tsitsipas Spring His Biggest Surprise Yet In Paris?

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

Stefanos Tsitsipas wants to be ‘the surprise of the tournament’ at Roland Garros. But the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion and FedEx ATP Race To Turin leader will have a hard time flying under the radar in Paris as one of the clay-court season’s standouts.

The real surprise might be that fifth seed Tsitsipas, who starts against a home favourite in Jeremy Chardy, still views himself as an underdog in Paris – despite owning 16 clay-court wins on the season, ahead of Geneva champion Casper Ruud (15) and 13-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal (14).

“Whenever I play, I want to be the surprise of the tournament,” Tsitsipas told press before the tournament. “That’s what I like most about it. Same thing when I played in Toronto [in 2018]. I really enjoyed that week and enjoyed that no one even considered me as the favourite, and it was a great week [defeating Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to the final].

“I guess I surprised everyone. I just had to play my tennis and think about nothing else and just felt great overall.”

The Greek will aim to do the same against Chardy on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the opening round. Tsitsipas owns a 2-1 lead in their ATP Head2Head record, but the pair will be contesting their first meeting on clay. The winner could face Parma champion Sebastian Korda, who starts against Pedro Martinez, in the second round.

Tsitsipas seeks to reach the championship match at a Grand Slam for the first time after three semi-final appearances – two at the Australian Open and one at this event last year.

“Anything better than semi-finals, I guess that would be a surprise,” Tsitsipas smiled. “Yeah, why not? Like it’s totally normal, I find it.”

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem also headlines a busy Day 1 at the second Grand Slam of the year. The two-time Roland Garros finalist arrives in Paris still searching for his best clay-court form, and he’ll get a big test in his opening match against Pablo Andujar. The Austrian will aim to play his way into form against the Spaniard, whom he leads by 3-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head. 


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“That’s my hope… to work myself into that tournament,” Thiem said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I’m practising and working hard to [at least] give myself a chance to play well. I hope I can do that in the match, as well.

“It’s definitely a little advantage for me, as I’m sometimes a little slow starter, that I have at least three sets instead of two.”

None of Thiem’s previous meetings with the Spaniard have gone to a deciding set, but Andujar will be high on confidence after claiming a career victory over Roger Federer in Geneva two weeks ago.


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A post shared by Alexander Zverev (@alexzverev123)

Mutua Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev will close out the action at Court Suzanne-Lenglen as he takes on qualifier Oscar Otte in an all-German clash. It will be the two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalist’s first meeting against Otte, who is seeking his first tour-level win of the year (6-7 at ATP Challenger Series level).

Grigor Dimitrov, Roberto Bautista Agut and Karen Khachanov are also among the seeds in action on Sunday. Dimitrov, the 16th seed, will take on Marcos Giron in the opening round as he seeks to reach the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time. Bautista Agut, seeded 11th, will face Spanish qualifier Mario Vilella Martinez in his first match, while Khachanov, the 23rd seed, starts against Czechia’s Jiri Vesely. 

Click here for the full Day 1 Order Of Play.

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Scouting Report: As Nadal Chases History, Can Djokovic Or Tsitsipas Stop Him?

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

The world’s best players are ready for Roland Garros, the season’s second Grand Slam. Rafael Nadal will chase more history at the tournament where he has rewritten the record books, while World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be among the leading players trying to stop him.

Before play gets underway, looks at 10 things to watch in Paris.

View Draw

1) Will Rafa Overtake Roger? Nadal and Roger Federer are tied for the most Grand Slam titles with 20 each. After missing out on an opportunity to pass the Swiss at the Australian Open, Nadal has another chance to stand alone atop the major record books at the tournament he has already won 13 times.

The legendary lefty brings momentum to Paris after winning his record-equalling 36th ATP Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Nadal, who is 18-3 on the season, will try to improve his 100-2 record on the terre battue. The third seed will play Alexei Popyrin, whom he defeated in Madrid earlier this year, in the first round.

2) Going For No. 14: Nadal has lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires 13 times, and he is the favourite to do so once again this year. The 34-year-old was victorious here last October, when he bulldozed through the field without dropping a set. To put what he is trying to do in perspective, if Nadal triumphs this fortnight, he will have the same number of Roland Garros titles as former World No. 1 Pete Sampras owns major crowns (14). When Nadal won in Paris last year, he became the first player in the Open Era to win 13 tour-level singles title at one tournament. The most trophies any other man has captured at a Slam is nine by Djokovic at the Australian Open.

3) Djokovic The Top Seed: While Federer and Nadal will be battling at the top of the Grand Slam leaderboard, Djokovic will be trying to reel them both in. The 2016 champion, who is the top seed, will pursue his 19th major trophy. The Serbian star, who triumphed at the Australian Open earlier this year, will attempt to complete the Melbourne-Paris double for the second time (also 2016).

Djokovic has only lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires once, but he has tallied 74 match wins at Roland Garros, ranking second behind Nadal (100). The World No. 1 will carry momentum into France, as he clinched the Belgrade Open title on Saturday.

4) Tsitsipas In Form: The Big Three take many of the headlines, but Tsitsipas arrives in Paris as the leader of the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. The Greek star captured his first Masters 1000 crown at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, and he added another trophy in Lyon. At the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, the 22-year-old held championship point against Nadal before the Spaniard rallied for the win. Tsitsipas will have good memories from his efforts in Paris last year, when he pushed Djokovic to five sets in a memorable semi-final thriller. The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion also lost a heart-breaking five-setter in 2019 against 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.

5) Roger Back In Paris: Federer, the 2009 Roland Garros titlist, will return to this event for the first time in two years. The eighth seed is seeded lower here than he has been since 2002 (also eighth), but he remains a tough opponent. The 39-year-old’s .759 winning percentage is good for third among active players. If he advances to the quarter-finals — a stage of the tournament the Swiss has reached 12 times — Federer could play Djokovic in a blockbuster showdown. Nadal is also in their half of the draw. 

6) Thiem Time: Fourth seed Dominic Thiem has twice made the Roland Garros final, but will this be the year he goes one better in Paris? The 27-year-old knows what it takes to win at the Grand Slams, having lifted the trophy at the US Open last year. Thiem can become the first Austrian player to claim two major titles. His countryman, Thomas Muster, won Roland Garros in 1995.

Thiem has not found his best form this clay-court season, losing three of his past four matches. But starting with his first-round match against Pablo Andujar, the 17-time tour-level champion will try to unlock the top levels of his game throughout the tournament.

7) Medvedev Leads Russian Contingent: Team Russia won the ATP Cup earlier this year, and members of that team have played a major role on the ATP Tour this season. Reigning Nitto ATP Finals titlist Daniil Medvedev reached his second Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, but he has only tallied a 1-2 record on clay. The second seed has never won a match at Roland Garros, but he will attempt to turn that around this edition.

Seventh seed Andrey Rublev is second on the ATP Tour this year with 29 wins, trailing just Tsitsipas, who has 33. The 23-year-old made the quarter-finals on the Parisian clay last year. Entering this year’s Australian Open, Aslan Karatsev was relatively unknown, with his ATP Cup team calling him their “secret weapon”. The Russian broke free of that “secret” label quickly by qualifying at Melbourne Park and surging to the semi-finals. Karatsev has maintained his momentum, most notably lifting his first ATP Tour trophy at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and beating Djokovic on clay at the Serbian Open. This is his Roland Garros debut, and he is the 24th seed. Another Russian, Karen Khachanov, is the 23rd seed.

8) #NextGenATP Stars: Two of the 32 seeds in the singles draw are #NextGenATP stars: 18th seed Jannik Sinner and 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. Last year, Sinner made an impressive run to the quarter-finals, where only eventual champion Rafael Nadal was able to stop him. It was a straight-sets match, but the Italian held up well in baseline rallies. Auger-Aliassime lost his main draw debut here last year against Yoshihito Nishioka. Two #NextGenATP players advanced through qualifying, with both Carlos Alcaraz and Jenson Brooksby set to compete in the Roland Garros main draw for the first time.

9) More Players To Watch: Norway’s Casper Ruud, the 15th seed, has quietly become one of the most dangerous clay-court players on the ATP Tour. The Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus is playing the best tennis of his career, making Masters 1000 semi-finals on clay in Monte-Carlo and Madrid this year. He has made the third round here the past two editions.

For unseeded players, British left-hander Cameron Norrie is third on the ATP Tour with 23 victories this season. Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who claimed his third tour-level title at the Millennium Estoril Open, leads the Tour with 17 clay-court wins in 2021.

10) Can Anyone Stop Mektic & Pavic? The favourites in the doubles draw are Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, who have earned six crowns together this season, including three at Masters 1000 events. The team that has won the past two Roland Garros titles is Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies. Mies is recovering from right knee surgery, so Krawietz will try to triumph with Horia Tecau. Other pairs to watch include Colombian stars Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, 2018 champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, and Australian Open titlists Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Sebastian Korda

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

#NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda did not drop a set all week (10-0) en route to his first ATP Tour title at the Emilia-Romagna Open on Saturday.

The 20-year-old, who is now 16-7 on the season, reached his first final at the Delray Beach Open by (l. to Hurkacz) in January and beat Fabio Fognini, Aslan Karatsev and Diego Schwartzman at the Miami Open presented by Itau, where he advanced to the quarter-finals (l. to Rublev). caught up with the World No. 63 after his maiden title in Parma, and discussed the rapid rise the American has made up the FedEx ATP Rankings over the past 12 months.

What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
It was a super long week with a really tough draw. I played three Italians, which in Italy is not easy at all and the crowd was really pumping their players up. But I just stayed calm and I am super proud with how I dealt with them.

Earlier this year you reached the final at Delray Beach. What did you learn from that experience that helped you get over the finish line today?
I think at Delray Beach I got ahead of myself, thinking too much and I kind of lost my head a bit and got a bit negative after being up a break [against Hubert Hurkacz], so today was really important for me. I really did learn a lot from that final, and I kept repeating to myself what I should and should not do.

It’s the first title for any American on European clay in 11 years. What is the secret to your success on clay, and how did it become your favourite surface?
It was my favourite surface when I was younger, but now I have definitely shifted towards the American hard courts. Having two European parents helps, as they grew up playing on the red dirt and I am super thankful.

At this time last year, you had not yet won a Tour-level match. Now you are closing in on the Top 50 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and are a first-time titlist. How happy are you with your progress since the ATP Tour’s restart?
Exactly a year ago I was World No. 220, so it is definitely a massive jump and sometimes you do not realise how big of a jump it is. I sometimes got down on myself a little bit after having a rough first part of the clay-court season and did not really put it into perspective what I achieved in the past year. Taking a couple days off, being with my parents and putting in the work again really helped me. It made me realise how far I have come, and I am really enjoying myself on the court now.

You’re currently in fourth position on the FedEx ATP Race To Milan. How big of a target is the Next Gen ATP Finals for you and what would it mean to qualify?
It would be massive. If you qualify for it, you would be among the eight best #NextGenATP players, so it is a really big thing for me and I really hope to play in Milan in November.

Could you take a moment to acknowledge some of the key figures in your life and career who have helped you to reach this milestone?
Definitely my parents and both of my sisters. They are such big helps and the support system I have, I have incredible people around me. I will never take it for granted and I know how lucky I am.

How would you describe yourself as a player, and how would you describe yourself off the court? Does your on court ‘calm’ extend off the tennis court as well?
I completely change personalities when I am off court. When I am on court, I try to be as quiet as possible and have a poker face and not give anything away to my opponent. Then, when I am off court, I am always trying to smile and mess around with the people I am travelling with.

What do you consider to be your biggest passion outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about that interest?
I played ice hockey until I was 10 and I am still super passionate about hockey. I have a lot of NHL players that I am friends with and whenever I am home, I play a lot of hockey and also golf. I am a passionate golfer and whenever I am home, I play with my sisters. Anything sports related I am very passionate about.

This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory?
[Laughs] Get on a flight and go to Paris and play my match in two days. But it is special, and I do not think it will sink in until after Paris.

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Brooksby's Breakthrough: Meet The #NextGenATP Star Who Refuses To Lose

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

Jenson Brooksby expects to win every match he plays. That is no exaggeration.

Whether it be in his Grand Slam debut against a former World No. 4, in front of a packed crowd at the 2019 US Open, or his first tournament after missing 14 months with a toe injury, the American refuses to be rattled by any opponent and any situation he encounters.

So, when the 20-year-old had his back against the wall in Friday’s final round of Roland Garros qualifying, facing a set and a double break deficit, it was business as usual. A self-described ‘physical player’, Brooksby isn’t afraid to show his emotions on court and takes pride in his ability to dig in the trenches and fight for every point. Nothing comes easy against the California native, even when he’s staring down three match points with a spot in the Roland Garros main draw on the line.

When Brooksby completed the 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 6-4, comeback against French wild card Evan Furness to punch his ticket in Paris, it confirmed what the American had believed all along: that he is ready for the game’s biggest stages. The moment was greeted with a subtle fist pump to his longtime coach Joseph Gilbert. Despite the magnitude of what had just transpired, he has his ambitions set much higher.

“I always knew I could do this, but I’m definitely proud of myself for showing the consistency so far,” Brooksby told “I’ve played four Challenger finals already, and that was only a few tournaments in, after missing 14 months. I know I’ve had the level. The consistency from match-to-match is something that wasn’t there a few years ago, but there’s a lot of the year left so I’m hoping to keep getting better.”

A historic start to the season on the ATP Challenger Tour has Brooksby firmly in contention to make his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in November. Up to seventh in the ATP Race To Milan, he is an integral member of the #NextGenATP American trio that also includes Sebastian Korda and Brandon Nakashima. In just his first year as a professional, one of 2021’s hottest players is expecting all the success that comes his way.

“I didn’t think I’d be close at the start of the year, but I saw where I’m at now and it would be cool,” Brooksby said of his Milan prospects. “It looks like a fun tournament and it’d be great to play it. It would show my consistency is high and that I’m getting better and doing a lot of the right things.”

To open a Challenger campaign with three titles from four finals is impressive, but to also do it to launch a professional career is unprecedented. As fearless a competitor as they come, Brooksby’s physicality and mental drive have been on full display since he turned pro in January. He would soon lift his maiden trophy in Potchefstroom, South Africa, followed by back-to-back crowns on home soil in Orlando and Tallahassee. In doing so, the American became the youngest player in Challenger history to win three titles in the first four months of a season. He is up to a career-high No. 163 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Brooksby’s story is a fascinating one. A former USTA junior champion, he sent shockwaves throughout the tennis world with an upset of former World No. 4 Tomas Berdych at the 2019 US Open. At the age of 18 and with no experience on the professional stage, he would earn the biggest win of his young career.

Hoping to continue developing his game at the college level, Brooksby enrolled at Baylor University later that year. But the American would suffer a significant setback as he prepared for the next step in his journey. A debilitating ‘turf toe’ injury would derail his college tennis ambitions. It kept Brooksby on the sidelines and prevented him from practising and training amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to step on a court for the first half of 2020, the California native says he hobbled around his home with a boot strapped to his foot. A total of 14 months would pass before the American finally returned to a match court to open the 2021 season.

“Last year was not easy for me, but it’s only made me tougher and more motivated,” Brooksby reflected. “At the 2019 US Open, I hurt my arm and then I had the turf toe that kept me out for a while in 2020. That was a tough injury, because it was hard for anyone to know what it really was. You’d do what the doctor says and try to go back on court and you’re always readjusting. That just confirmed in my mind that while my level was ready, my body wasn’t.

“Those moments made me hungry to go out there and compete. I was slowly improving physically and had a lot of motivation from those struggles. I’m always going to stay hungry and remember that.”


An only child, Jenson was born to Glen and Tania Brooksby on 26 October 2000. Named after former Formula One driver Jenson Button, it was his father’s passion for auto racing that led to the unique name. Glen, an anesthesiologist, used to race for fun in California and has been a longtime F1 fan.

Brooksby has speed in his DNA. One of the more vocal and energetic players on tour, the American is also an agile mover known for his unrelenting defence. That mentality of fighting for every ball has been engrained in Brooksby since he first joined forces with Gilbert at age seven. As he says, it’s a reflection of the culture at the JMG Academy in Sacramento.

“I started playing when I was four,” Brooksby said. “My parents both got me into tennis and they played quite a bit in the past. I remember back in the day I would hit a Nerf ball against the garage door every day before school, for like an hour. I just always loved playing tennis. I’ll never forget how my mom would drive me to the academy for practice when I was younger. I couldn’t have done this without my parents’ support.

“I’ve been with the same coach since I was seven and my parents actually used to have lessons with him long before me. He only coached adults but my mom and dad asked him if he would try teaching me. He said ‘yes’ and here we are 13 years later. I think it’s a cool story that I’ve been with him for so long. He knows me as a person. We have a basis of how we train and we’re just constantly fine tuning things. There are no surprises, so it makes it easier. It’s about learning new things as you go along and fine tuning things as you can. It’s great that I’ve had so much consistency with him. I’m very thankful for that.”

It’s no wonder that Brooksby says that Rafael Nadal is his biggest inspiration. That relentless aggression is not only the culture established by Gilbert, but his philosophy modeled after the former World No. 1.

“His mentality and consistency is just so amazing for me to see,” Brooksby said of Nadal. “And how he’s done that for so long. I love the intensity and discipline he brings every time… I’m just trying to be more physical. Competing day-in and day-out and being physical every day on the court. That’s what we focus on before anything else.”


With Milan on his mind, Brooksby says he is looking forward to having Gilbert in his corner at the Allianz Cloud, if he qualifies for the innovative 21-and-under event. One of the unique aspects of the Next Gen ATP Finals is the ability for players and coaches to talk, via headset, at certain moments of matches.

“I’ve seen it on TV a few times and it’s pretty cool. The different rules are fun too. Joseph and I always talk about how hilarious it would be if people saw us chatting on changeovers. The way we talk to each other is naturally different than usual, but it would be great to get some coaching during matches.”

A deep run at Roland Garros will go a long way towards Brooksby’s bid to qualify for Milan. He carries a 13-match win streak into his first main draw appearance on the terre battue. It will be the 2021 Challenger breakout star against one of the circuit’s breakthrough performers from a year ago, as 24th seed Aslan Karatsev awaits in the first round.

Get To Know Jenson
Favourite hobby: I love playing piano. My parents have a piano at home and my dad played some in the past. I started when I was nine or 10 years old and I had some lessons back then. Even now, when I’m at home, I’ll go for more lessons. I really enjoy it. It’s just a relaxing and fun skill to have.

Superstition: Nothing crazy, but I always warm up earlier than most players for a match. So I have more time to go the locker room and go to the gym. I do that consistently.

Favourite home-cooked meal: I love how we grill salmon. My dad does it really well. I live pretty close to my parents, so I love going over there and we’ll have a nice meal like that. Also, we’ll have a big salad with it, with a lot of toppings like carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, and usually I’ll put some cranberries in there too. I always love having that when I go home.

Three famous people to meet: Will Smith. I love his movies and he seems really cool. Jenson Button too, just to be able to meet the guy I was named after. And the third would have to be a tennis player. Rafa.

Can’t travel without: My music speaker. In South Africa, we were always at the outside pool and had the music on. If we’re at a hotel and it’s not too busy, I like listening to music a lot. Rock is my favourite genre, but EDM and rap are solid too. I’d say my favourite band is the Arctic Monkeys.

Favourite vacation spot: Hawaii. I’ve been there with my family a few times and it’s just a relaxing place to go on vacation. Going around the islands and enjoying life.

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Djokovic: 'I Am Ready' For Roland Garros Challenge

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is hoping to use the confidence he gained by lifting the Belgrade Open title on Saturday at Roland Garros, where he lifted the 2016 trophy.

“It definitely gives me a great feeling and boost of confidence for flying into Paris,” said Djokovic, who beat qualifier Alex Molcan in the Belgrade final. “I am thrilled with the way I have been playing this week, very satisfied with the way I have been feeling on the court and striking the ball.

“I am ready. Paris is definitely one of the highest goals of the season and hopefully I will be able to kick start that tournament in the best possible way and work my way deep into the tournament.”

The 34-year-old believes that he made a turning point in his clay form at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, where he lost to Rafael Nadal in the final.

“I feel that from the Rome tournament I have just been striking the ball better, finding my timing, using the court better, moving actually better,” said Djokovic. “Not being a half a step late as I was in Monte Carlo at the beginning of the clay court season.

“I feel like Rome and this tournament have been really important for the confidence and for Roland Garros. I am ready, I’m fit and I’m motivated. I am just very happy with the lead up to Paris.”

Djokovic is in the same quarter of the Roland Garros draw as 2009 champion Roger Federer, and the same half as 13-time titlist Nadal. Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said this week that he felt that facing Nadal before the final was a positive for the Serbian. But the 34-year-old does not see it as an advantage.

“I don’t know, to be honest,” admitted Djokovic, who faces American Tennys Sandgren in the first round. “I don’t think it makes a significant difference playing him (Rafa) in the semi-final or final. Playing him, whether it is the first round or in the final on clay at Roland Garros, is the highest challenge you can have.

“I did face him many times on centre court at Roland Garros and know how it feels to play him there, but I feel after our match up in Rome that I have a good chance playing him or anybody.”

With more than 5,000 spectators allowed at the tournament each day, Djokovic will hope that this support will help him, as it has done on home soil in Belgrade.

“Playing in front of quite a big crowd today and feeling that energy and support was something I was looking forward to,” said Djokovic. “Winning the [Belgrade] trophy is the best possible farewell for me ahead of Paris.”

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#NextGenATP Korda Claims First Title In Parma

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

#NextGenATP Sebastian Korda capped off a great week at the Emilia-Romagna Open with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over home favourite Marco Cecchinato on Saturday to win his first ATP Tour trophy.

With the victory, Korda became the first American since Sam Querrey in 2010 Belgrade (d. Isner) to lift a trophy on European clay.

The son of former World No. 2 Petr Korda, Sebastian’s win also makes the Kordas the third father-son duo to win tour-level singles titles in the Open Era. They join Ramanathan Krishnan and Ramesh Krishnan, and Phil Dent and Taylor Dent on the short list. 

“This is something that I’ve dreamed of,” Korda said in his post-match press conference. “I really thought I was going to get it done in Delray Beach [earlier this year], and I was a little heartbroken.

“But I stayed positive, even with such a bad first part of the clay-court season. I took a couple of days off, recharged my batteries, and had a really good practice week in Prague with my dad and my coach. I came back hungrier, and I’m playing some really good tennis now.”

The 20-year-old quickly found his footing on the surface with wins over Andreas Seppi, top seed Lorenzo Sonego, eighth seed Yoshihito Nishioka and countryman Tommy Paul without dropping a set.

Contesting the second ATP Tour final of his career – and his first on clay courts – Korda showed no signs of nerves against Cecchinato. He faced only one break point in the match, coming late in the second set as the Italian rallied his home crowd, but he responded with confident first serves to see off the challenge.

“Today I played a really tough opponent and the crowd wasn’t easy,” Korda said. “They kept cheering him on, but I’m really proud of myself and how I handled it.”

Korda won 82 per cent of points behind his first serve (31/38) across one hour and 15 minutes against the Italian. He converted three of the six break opportunities he created, including the decisive break at 5-4 on Cecchinato’s serve to clinch the title.

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Djokovic Wins 83rd Career Title In Belgrade

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic captured the 83rd title of his career on Saturday with victory on home soil at the Belgrade Open.

The Serbian superstar lost his serve three times in the first set before changing his game to defeat Slovakian qualifier and first-time ATP Tour finalist Alex Molcan 6-4, 6-3 in 88 minutes at the Novak Tennis Center.

Open Era (Since April 1968) Singles Title Leaders

Player Titles
Jimmy Connors 109
Roger Federer 103
Ivan Lendl 94
Rafael Nadal 88
Novak Djokovic 83

Djokovic, who captured a record ninth Australian Open crown in February, has now won three titles in Belgrade, including two at the Serbian Open in 2009 and 2011. The 34-year-old improves to a 20-3 record on the season and will next travel to Paris, where he will play American Tennys Sandgren in the Roland Garros first round.

Molcan, currently No. 255 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, won six of the first seven points and broke Djokovic’s serve, forcing the home favourite to fight. In a 45-minute opening set of cat-and-mouse, featuring seven breaks of serve, Djokovic was forced to change his game, but it was his greater weight of strokes and experience that counted.

After a frenetic start, the second set went with serve until the sixth game, when Djokovic stepped up to break for a 4-2 lead after Molcan hit a backhand wide. But Molcan responded immediately with a backhand winner, only to drop his serve for a sixth time in the match after hitting a backhand volley wide.

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Coco 'Starstruck'; Swiatek Shares Court With Nadal

  • Posted: May 29, 2021

When Rafael Nadal gives you praise, it would be hard not to smile. Even the mention of his name can bring about a grin. This was the case for WTA stars Coco Gauff and Iga Swiatek on Friday who were overwhelmed when the Spanish superstar was mentioned.

The 17-year-old Gauff has had a remarkable rise since winning the 2018 Roland Garros junior title. This has has understandably led to recognition from those within the sport, with 13-time champion Nadal the latest to compliment the American, deeming her “great with aptitude”. This news brought a beaming smile to the teenager’s face who is in awe of the Spaniard.

“Oh, that’s pretty cool to hear, to be honest,” said Gauff. “It feels pretty good. Obviously, [he is] somebody [that] I look up to, and walking around I still get starstruck by him, like it’s Rafa Nadal. So, it’s pretty cool that he said that about me.”

Nadal’s success and reputation is so great that leading stars in their own right still struggle to muster up the nerve to even say “Hello” when they cross paths with the 34-year-old. This has been the experience for Swiatek, the 2020 Roland Garros champion and World No. 9, who grinned and admitted she had not yet had the confidence to approach Nadal and discuss the sport.

“Maybe we’re going to have a chance to do that later, but we just had like a quick small talk last year, and yesterday he said ‘Hi’ to me,” Swiatek smirked. “For now, I’m too overwhelmed to even say ‘Hi’. I’m a big fan of his, and if I’m going to have a chance to ask him some stuff and also learn from him, it would be great, but we are both busy, so I know it’s going to be hard to schedule that.”

But as luck would have it, Swiatek and Nadal met on the practice court Saturday, exchanging a fist bump and even hitting some balls.


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A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

During Roland Garros, Nadal and Swiatek will celebrate their birthdays, while in Rome, they saved match points on their way to the title. They also both won their first Grand Slam trophy aged 19. When asked about these connections with her idol, Swiatek confessed that she has thought about these parallels, but it unsure of what to make of them.

“I thought about it, but I also think it’s kind of weird,” Swiatek said. “I don’t know what to say, because it’s also some kind of superstition when you look at that stuff and try to compare each other. But, yeah, I know it’s weird.”

Meanwhile for Gauff, Nadal is insistent that she does not need advice from him. The American, who will be looking to reach the third round in Paris for the first time in her career, is not so sure though.

Gauff said: “I know [that] he says I don’t need advice, but anything from Rafa would be great (smiling).”

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