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#NextGenATP Stars Alcaraz, Gaston & Nakashima Break New Ground

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

#NextGenATP stars Carlos Alcaraz, Hugo Gaston and Brandon Nakashima have all been highly touted, and last week they showed why as all three players broke new ground.

Eighteen-year-old secured the biggest breakthrough of the group on Sunday at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag by lifting his first ATP Tour trophy in a fitting triumph against Richard Gasquet, a veteran who knew only too well that hype, having been a teenage star himself.

As Alcaraz made waves on the Croatian coast, his fellow #NextGenATP hopes were making sizable inroads of their own at concurrent ATP Tour events. On Saturday, American Nakashima appeared in his first tour-level final in Los Cabos, where he came up short against top-seeded Briton Cameron Norrie. In the Swiss Alps, Frenchman Gaston was attempting to become the lowest-ranked Gstaad champion since the FedEx ATP Rankings began in 1973. But in his first tour-level final, the lefty found third seed Casper Ruud too tough.

Nevertheless, it was a memorable week for all three talented players.

Alcaraz’s 6-2, 6-2 victory over former world No. 7 Gasquet made him the youngest ATP Tour titlist since an 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach 13 years ago. Alcaraz became the youngest tour-level winner from Spain since countryman Rafael Nadal, who was eight days younger when he won in Sopot 17 years ago. 

“I had a lot of good moments in this tournament. I beat five great tennis players,” Alcaraz said. “I think that I grew up a lot in this tournament and I keep a lot of experience from this tournament. It’s going to be useful for the future.”

The teenager first announced himself last February, when as a 16-year-old ranked outside the Top 400, he stunned countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rio de Janeiro on his ATP Tour main draw debut. He again defeated his fellow Spaniard in the Umag semi-finals on Saturday – one of three top-four seeds he defeated on his title run.

Victory over former Top 10 star John Isner on Friday made the 19-year-old Nakashima the youngest American to reach an ATP Tour final since an 18-year-old Taylor Fritz in Memphis five years ago. Having failed to win a tour-level match all season entering the week, he fell one victory shy of becoming the youngest man from the United States to win a trophy outside his home country since 19-year-old Michael Chang in Birmingham in 1991.

“Making a first ATP final is a great accomplishment for me, but obviously we want to be on top at the end of this week. I know now from this week and this loss what I need to work on to bring home that title next time,” Nakashima said following his 2-6, 2-6 defeat against Norrie. “Hopefully in these next couple of tournaments in the U.S. before the US Open I’ll be able to get some good results and hopefully be able to pick up my first ATP title as well.

“I definitely learned a lot from this week – both positively and negatively – what I need to work on, specifically my fitness needs to improve, playing all these tough matches this week.”

At Roland Garros in 2020, Gaston made an emphatic Grand Slam debut before his home crowd when he defeated former champion Stan Wawrinka en route to the fourth round. It took two-time finalist Dominic Thiem to stop him in five sets, but he had done enough to boost French expectations. Nine months later, the 20-year-old beat three seeds in succession to reach the championship match in Gstaad, before Norwegian Ruud ended his run 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday.

“I tried to do my best, but I am happy overall with my week,” Gaston said. “I hope I can continue like this. It is amazing to play in an ATP Tour final. Now I need some rest for my body, but I feel good.”

Alcaraz’s breakthrough lifted him to No. 5 in the ATP Race to Milan, where he has his sights set on making his Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals debut. Gaston rose two places to eighth place, while Nakashima is now nipping at his heels in ninth.

“For me it’s incredible. It’s a goal,” Alcaraz said of his Milan prospects. “It would be amazing to play the [Intesa Sanpaolo] Next Gen ATP Finals against the best Next Gen [players] of the year. I would enjoy that moment.”

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Giddy Up! Bautista Agut Ready To Roll In Kitzbühel

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

It’s time for Roberto Bautista Agut to giddy up in more ways than one.

The Spaniard is the second seed at this week’s Generali Open in Kitzbühel. But before his run begins, the nine-time ATP Tour titlist rode a Lipizzaner horse at the Stanglwirt Hotel.

“I have horses at home,” Bautista Agut said. “It’s one of my favourite hobbies, and hopefully my kid likes it as much as me and we can both enjoy the experience with animals.”

Roberto Bautista Agut
Photo Credit: Generali Open/Alexander Scheuber
Bautista Agut has greatly enjoyed having his family in Austria. His wife Ana and 10-month-old son Roberto joined him for the experience in the mountains.

“We are having very nice days before Kitzbühel,” Bautista Agut said. “We are practising hard and we can also in the afternoon have time with my family and enjoy the facilities of the hotel. It’s very good.”

The World No. 16 will play countryman Pedro Martinez as he begins his chase for his first trophy of 2021.

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Ymer Clutch Under Pressure To Advance In Kitzbühel

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus Mikael Ymer is fresh off a quarter-final showing in Gstaad. Could the Swedish star go even further this week in Kitzbühel?

The 22-year-old battled past Uruguayan veteran Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 7-5 after one hour and 35 minutes on Monday to reach the second round of the Generali Open.

“I try to take one day at a time and just focus on what I’m working on. Today, it went very well and I was able to commit to what I was trying to do, even though it was tough in some parts of the match,” Ymer said in his on-court interview. “That’s the most positive [part] of the day and that I managed to win in the end is also a big bonus.”


Ymer saved five of the six break points he faced against his 35-year-old opponent. Next up will be #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won his first ATP Tour title on Sunday in Umag, or wild card Alexander Erler of Austria.

In other action, Spaniard Pedro Martinez clawed past former Top 10 stalwart Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4 after two hours and 43 minutes to set a second-round clash against his countryman, second seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Czech lefty Jiri Vesely and Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik will play in the second round after winning their openers Monday. Vesely ousted 2014 Roland Garros semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-1 and Kovalik upset ninth seed Jaume Munar 6-4, 6-4.

Lucky loser Carlos Taberner beat #NextGenATP Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, and he will next challenge third seed Filip Krajinovic.

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Don't Let Your Guard Down! Sock Pranks Kyrgios In Atlanta

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

Never let your guard down around Jack Sock! Nick Kyrgios found this out the hard way after getting quite the scare from his good friend – and doubles partner this week – during Media Day at the Truist Atlanta Open.

The Aussie, who won the title here in 2016, was gamely answering questions from press ahead of his return to the ATP 250 event. But just as Kyrgios was getting comfortable, Sock spotted him from across the way. 

Creeping up behind his doubles partner while Kyrgios was reflecting on the great fan atmosphere in Atlanta, Sock waited for his moment to strike. Check out the video above to see Kyrgios’ hilarious reaction!

Sock and Kyrgios have taken a wild card into the doubles tournament in Atlanta, and the pair are gearing up for their first event as a team since the Laver Cup in 2019.

“We’ve played together a bunch before and we’re close friends,” Sock told later. “I actually haven’t seen him in about 18 months since the pandemic hit. We actually all had dinner in Indian Wells right before they announced the whole Tour – and the whole world, really – was shutting down. We all had dinner there, and then we all flew to our separate homes the next day. That was the last time we saw each other. 

“But I knew he was playing here, and this was the first tournament that we actually played together since that time. I figured we’d lace them up and see what happens.”  

Sock and Kyrgios will be going for their second doubles title together after claiming the ATP 250 trophy in Lyon in 2018. That is Kyrgios’ lone doubles title, while Sock amassed 15 in his career. The American, who won here in 2014 with Vasek Pospisil, added to his haul after winning the Hall of Fame Open title with William Blumberg in Newport two weeks ago.

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McLachlan/Nishikori Reach Tokyo QF

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

Japanese pair Ben McLachlan and Kei Nishikori reached the quarter-finals on home soil on Monday at the Tokyo Olympics as they overcame British team Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski 6-3, 6-4.

McLachlan and Nishikori, who are playing together for just the second time this week, broke twice and won 88 per cent (30/34) of their first-service points to advance in 81 minutes.

They will next face top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic after the Croatians battled past Italians Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Sonego 7-5, 6-7(5), 10-7. Mektic and Pavic have won eight tour-level titles this year, including three ATP Masters 1000s and Wimbledon.

The top seeds, who also became the first team to qualify for the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals earlier this month, saved both breaks they faced to claim victory in two hours and six minutes.

Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah also booked their spot in the last eight with a 6-4, 6-1 truimph over Austrians Oliver Marach and Philipp Oswald. The third seeds have lifted two tour-level titles this season at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

After advancing in 86 minutes, Cabal and Farah will next play Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus after the New Zealand duo received a walkover from Dutchmen Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer.

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Djokovic Marches Through In Tokyo

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

Top seed Novak Djokovic cruised into the third round on Monday at the Tokyo Olympics as he defeated German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-3 to keep alive his hopes of a historic Golden Grand Slam.

The Serbian hit 14 aces and broke Struff three times to advance in 76 minutes. The World No. 1 will continue his quest for a first Olympic singles gold medal against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after the Spaniard beat Australian John Millman 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3.

View Order Of Play | View 2020 Tokyo Olympics Results

Having claimed the first three major championships of the year, drawing level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slams after his Wimbledon triumph, Djokovic is aiming to become the first man to win all four majors and a gold medal in a season. WTA legend Stefanie Graf completed this achievement in 1988.

Second seed Daniil Medvedev, who is making his Olympics debut, produced a dominant display to overcome Indian Sumit Nagal 6-2, 6-1. The ROC’s Medvedev did not face a break point on his way to victory in 67 minutes.

The World No. 2 will next face Fabio Fognini after the Italian saved two set points in the second set as he downed Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 7-6(4).

Germany’s Alexander Zverev also moved through safely with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Egyptian Daniel Elahi Galan in 71 minutes. The World No. 5 won 87 per cent (26/30) of his first-service points and will next face Nikolaz Basilashvili after the Georgian moved past Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta battled back to beat Marin Cilic 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 25 minutes. The sixth seed next plays Dominik Koepfer after the German beat Australian Max Purcell 6-3, 6-0.

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Alcaraz Jumps To Career-High After Umag Title, Mover Of Week

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

No. 55 Carlos Alcaraz +18 (Career-High)
The #NextGenATP 18 year old jumped 18 places to No. 55 in the FedEx ATP Rankings after lifting his first ATP Tour title on Sunday at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag. The Spaniard is the youngest tour-level champion since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori emerged victorious in Delray Beach in 2008. Read Umag Final Report & Watch Highlights

View Latest FedEx ATP Rankings

No. 29 Cameron Norrie, +1 (Career-High)
The Brit captured a maiden ATP Tour title at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos (d. Nakashima) on Saturday evening to move up one place to a career-high World No. 29. The lefty was competing in his fourth final ATP Tour final of the season, after enjoying runs to the championship match in Estoril, Lyon, and The Queen’s Club. Read Los Cabos Final Report & Watch Highlights

No. 53 Richard Gasquet, +6
The Frenchman reached the final in Umag on Sunday to move up six spots. It was the 35-year-olds first ATP Tour final since he advanced to the championship match in Bastad In 2018.

No. 115 Brandon Nakashima, +19 (Career-High)
The 19-year-old #NextGenATP star enjoyed a dream week as he claimed a career-best victory over World No. 35 John Isner in Los Cabos as he advanced to his first ATP Tour final (l. to Norrie).

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 35 John Isner, +4
No. 80 Steve Johnson, +3
No. 88 Stefano Travaglia, +3
No. 91 Arthur Rinderknech, +9

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Challenger Q&A: Krueger Cruises To Cary Crown

  • Posted: Jul 26, 2021

On the ATP Challenger Tour, players strive for consistency above all else. That is, steadily moving up the FedEx ATP Rankings while building momentum and confidence from tournament to tournament, week after week. Seeing the fruits of their labour realized on a consistent basis, after months of hard work, can flip the switch for many players striving to take that next step.

Mitchell Krueger is hoping that this moment provides that spark. The 27-year-old American put together a comprehensive performance on the hard courts of Cary, North Carolina, to claim his second Challenger title and first of the year. An efficient 7-6(4), 6-2 victory over Ramkumar Ramanathan clinched the crown for the Dallas native on Sunday, returning to the winners’ circle for the first time since 2019.

Krueger has been building towards this moment all summer. A semi-final finish in Little Rock in early June was followed by a successful run through qualifying at the Hall of Fame Open in Newport last week – his first at the ATP 250 level. He would put it all together in Cary, not dropping a set in the semis and final to lift the trophy. The Texan rises 19 spots to No. 175 in the FedEx ATP Rankings with his victory at the Atlantic Tire Championships.

The American spoke to broadcaster Mike Cation following his latest title in Cary…

Congrats Mitch. This was a very efficient performance all week. You were completely dialed in from the start. Is that something you have been focusing on?
It’s always something you ideally want to happen. It’s a running joke with the guys that I play a lot of three-set matches. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, when I’m down I always try to fight back, there’s always a lot of three-setters. This time of year, when it’s super hot and humid, you want to spend as little time on court as possible.

It’s toeing that fine line of expending as little energy as possible, while not rushing through the match and make some bad errors and mistakes. I found that line really well this week. I also served really well and it was clicking all week. Today, I dug out a few close holds that could have potentially changed the match.

A second title is a big one.
I tell you, it’s hard to come by. Some of these guys out here seem like they’re winning titles every week. They make it look easy, but it’s definitely not. This time of year, with the US Open coming up, it’s important.

You’re going through a good stretch now. How do you maintain that from tournament to tournament, especially trying to peak around the US Open?
I think the biggest thing for me is getting that consistent match play. It’s been so hard for me this year to get consistent tournaments. It’s been tough to travel, especially earlier in the year, but even this summer it’s not ideal. After Lexington, I could very well be done until the US Open. Who knows what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. At the end of the day, I can only control what I can control.

Last week in Newport was a good first week, qualifying for an ATP 250 for the first time. I completed the full set, qualifying for a Slam, Masters 1000, ATP 500 and the 250 was the last one I needed. I carried that into Cary and I’m looking forward to Lexington and hopefully I’ll get into [the ATP 500 in] Washington, D.C. qualifying. We’ll see from there.

You have your family traveling with you now, to almost every tournament. Your wife Jeannie, your coach David O’Hare, your parents and Brad Stine is looking after you as well. Can you talk about how everyone is coming together for you and what that means both on and off the court?
You nailed it. That was one of the toughest things with all the COVID restrictions, having one guest week-to-week. The last three years or so, Jeannie has been traveling a lot with me. She loves to come and support and do her part. She makes a big difference for me and having that familiarity is important. And having Dave too, coming over here from the U.K., it’s been tough with all the restrictions but I’m lucky we communicate really well.

Dave, Dave Licker and Brad all know each other well and stay in touch. One guy is the U.K., one in California and one in Dallas, but we have a pretty active group chat when it comes to game plans and strategies. I have a lot of people supporting me and it makes a big difference, whether they’re actually there or not.

You have a long trip to Lexington now… in a minivan. Who’s driving?
Hey, the minivan is actually really comfortable. The setup in there is nice. My wife Jeannie will drive for sure. She loves to drive. She loves a road trip. I wasn’t too big on driving at first, but she and Dave talked me into it. It’s nice to have a car and have the freedom. Having the car in Lexington as well to move around as you need takes the pressure off as well.

Finally, a question about the fans. For you, how much of a difference does it make to have people in the stands at these tournaments?
I’m not lying when I say it makes a complete 180-degree difference, when it compares to playing with nobody there. I was talking to someone earlier in the week that playing in Little Rock there were hundreds of people having a good time and enjoying the tennis. Then the next week in Orlando you were playing in front of airplanes flying overhead. I didn’t have anyone with me that week. Especially at this level, it’s how you manage those ups and downs. Who knows what things will be like in the next few months, but hopefully they start trending towards this direction.

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