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The Endurance Of Feliciano

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

It’s 12:30 pm on Monday 20 September 2021 and Feliciano López is waiting at Madrid’s Barajas Adolfo Suárez airport for a flight to Boston to play in the Laver Cup on Friday. The interesting thing about the journey is that the Spaniard is making it on the day of his 40th birthday, and he is still competing with the ATP Tour elite.

“I didn’t imagine myself competing at this point of my career, and I’m not talking about at 40, I mean a few years ago, that’s why I’m enjoying myself so much. I didn’t expect it at all,” admits the Toledo native before jetting off to the USA to form part of Team Europe.

Feliciano is one of the few players of his generation that are still active on the ATP Tour, joining Roger Federer and Ivo Karlovic (42) in their forties. “Federer was the torchbearer for this generation and then, of the players who have been able to compete at a good level at this age, perhaps I come after him. There’s nobody that was born in 1981 or 1982 still playing at this level.”

There is no doubt that his extra years on Tour have been fruitful. The best seasons of his career have come in the latter stages. He reached his peak FedEx ATP Ranking (No. 12) at 33, while five of his seven titles came this side of thirty.

At the age of both 35 and 37 he won Queen’s. “It’s true that once I turned thirty, I said to myself ‘I feel great’ and it was a surprise, but then I realised it was a reality and that I might even be able to play more years,” Lopez said. “When I was 35, I won Queen’s for the first time, it was a surprise to win at that age. Then I realised that it was no flash in the pan, that I was feeling physically very fit and I could keep going for a few more years.”

Such has been his tenure on the ATP Tour that he is one of only eleven active players to have surpassed the 500-match barrier, while he alone holds the record for consecutive appearances in majors with 78.

“In the beginning, when I started to play tennis, we all had the idea that after 30 professionals started to think about retiring,” remembers Feliciano. “You always have that in mind and it generates a lot of uncertainty. But when I turned 30, I was also uncertain, but those were good years. They were the best of my career, so it stopped being a surprise.”

The passing of the years on the ATP Tour has meant that nowadays he plays opponents who are half his age or that were not even born when he won his first professional match in 1998.

“It’s tremendous,” he says of this stat. “Some of the people I play against weren’t even born when I started as a professional, like Carlos Alcaraz, for example. I also played with De Minaur, who is half my age. It’s logical when you’re 40 and you play with young players, because the best 18 or 19-year-olds are already at this level. Apart from the numbers, I’m happy to have had so much enjoyment from such a long career.”

It is this enjoyment that dominates Feliciano’s memories on his 40th birthday as he looks back: “Apart from the fact that I’m still competing, which is really amazing, good things have happened to me in recent years: I’ve won Queen’s twice, I’ve won the Davis Cup in Madrid, in my city, now I’m going to play the Laver Cup, who knows, maybe I’ll be able to play the Davis Cup at home again… So many good things have happened to me in recent years, that’s why I’m enjoying it so much.”

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Murray Aiming For 'Robust' Finish To Season

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

Andy Murray feels he is ready to finish the season strongly as he looks to continue to improve his game and fitness, starting at the Moselle Open in Metz this week.

The Brit found his best level against World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round at the US Open last month, pushing the Greek to five sets. The 34-year-old is now keen to maintain his form for the rest of the season.

“I played a good match there [at the US Open] in terms of the level,” Murray said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I didn’t get the outcome I wanted, but I played well so it is good to know that level of tennis is still there against the best players.

“You need to try to maintain that. I need to be playing matches and want to compete as much as I can between now and the end of the year. I won’t have a few weeks to prepare for each tournament, but it will be more like a few days. But that is the challenge. I have to do my best in these next couple of months.”


Murray has competed in seven tour-level events this season, but has played in four tournaments in the past month at all levels, including an ATP Challenger Tour event in Rennes last week as he tries to build up his consistency.

“I want to be winning matches but just build up some robustness and get my body used to competing again on a regular basis,” Murray said. “If I win four or five matches in a week, then I might have to take a break the following week, but that hasn’t been the case the last few tournaments, so while I am feeling good physically, I just want to try and play.”

The former World No. 1, who is making his second appearance in Metz, having reached the final in 2007 (l. to Robredo), will begin his campaign in northern France against home favourite Ugo Humbert.

Murray is impressed with the sixth-seeded Frenchman’s game and expects a difficult test tomorrow as he continues to adjust to the conditions following the North American hard-court swing.

“We played once a couple of years ago in Antwerp and I thought back then he was a very good player and would go onto compete at the top of the game,” Murray said. “He is serving well, he strikes the ball very cleanly and is a very good player.

“It is different going back to playing indoors again, different conditions in comparison to playing three or four weeks in a row on the outdoor hard courts. That is the challenge I guess.”

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Djere Moves Through In Nur-Sultan

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

Laslo Djere snapped a four-match losing streak Monday at the Astana Open as he moved past Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach the second round in Nur-Sultan.

The seventh seed was making his debut at the ATP 250 event and had to battle against Galan, recovering from a dip in the second set, before regaining momentum in the decider to advance after two hours and 17 minutes.

“I am very happy I won here,” Djere said. “I am really tired and I was really really nervous, especially at the end. I just wanted to win. I was playing a bit stiff. I had a huge desire to win the match and it was a huge fight until the last point.”

The World No. 49 will next play #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti or Australian qualifier Marc Polmans. Earlier this year, Djere enjoyed a run to the final on clay in Cagliari, before reaching semi-finals in Hamburg and Gstaad.

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In other action, Kazakhstan wild card Timofey Skatov upset Italian Andreas Seppi 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 after two hours and 59 minutes to record his first tour-level win. The World No. 280 will face qualifier Elias Ymer or Winston-Salem champion Ilya Ivashka in the second round.

Miomir Kecmanovic defeated Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-2 victory to claim his first win since the Tokyo Olympics in July. The World No. 60 broke four times to advance after 83 minutes and will next play second seed Alexander Bublik.

“It feels great, especially since I haven’t really won anything recently, so it feels great to get a win against such a dangerous player,” Kecmanovic said. “It is not fun when you have a losing streak so I am definitely happy that I was able to come out on top. I played solid the whole match. I didn’t make many mistakes.”

Spaniard Jaume Munar also advanced, overcoming Jiri Vesely 6-3, 7-6(6) to level their ATP Head2Head Series at 1-1. The 24-year-old will next meet fifth-seeded Australian John Millman or Dmitry Popko.

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ATP Stars Support Homeless Pets In Nur-Sultan

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

After spending the past six months abroad chasing success on the court, reigning Astana Open champion John Millman was happy to spend some time relaxing with man’s best friend on Sunday.

The Australian joined Spaniard Jaume Munar, Kazakh legend Andrey Golubev and local hopeful Timofey Skatov to donate food for shelters that look after homeless pets in Kazakhstan. They are hopeful the pets they met on Sunday will soon be able to find new homes.

Millman, who has been unable to return to Australia due to Covid-19 border restrictions, grew up in a household of pets and loved the opportunity to promote a worthy cause.

“I grew up around pets and I have always had some cats and dogs at home, so I think it is really important that we look after our animals and we look after our pets,” Millman said.

Munar, who will play Jiri Vesely in the opening round of the 2021 Astana Open, is another who enjoyed the company of pets when growing up in Spain. The 24-year-old, who won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Turkey in February and reached the final of an ATP 250 in Spain in April, said they provided great comfort. Joining the trio of tennis players on the court were dogs Belka and Knopka, along with feline friends Ryzhik, Bagira and Gracey.

“I think it is very important to do this kind of event,” Munar said. “I have pets at home. I love them so much. I have an emotional (connection) with them. I spend a lot of time at home with my dog, also my cat. It is important to let everyone know how they feel and they are almost human beings. This kind of thing, I feel really grateful to have the chance to help out and to spend some time with them.”

Jaume Munar
Photo Credit: KTF

Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev developed a draft law in 2020 aimed at ensuring the public was aware domesticated animals are dependent on humans.

Munar’s compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has launched a program in Spain in a bid to protect animals from mistreatment, stating he was motivated by his despair at pets being abandoned.

“I think he is doing a great job and, of course, I would like to let everyone know here and also in Spain the importance of being respectful to the pets and to give a hand if you can,” Munar said.

Kazakhstan Tennis Federation vice-president Yuriy Polskiy said the willingness of players to engage in activities that helped promote local charities and also the Astana Open was welcome.

He cited the example of Millman during the inaugural Astana Open last October when stating it helped to engage crowds and also inspire the nation’s younger players


Millman, who is No. 43 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, said engaging in activities such as the homeless pets project during the tournament was a way to stay relaxed and reflect tennis in a positive way.

“For me, this tennis caper, a big part of it is having new experiences and building good relationships with people from all over the world,” Millman said. “That is the most rewarding thing.”

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Kazakh Tennis United & Building Fast

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

Kazakhstan is busy carving out its own pathway to become a tennis powerhouse.

Scanning through the FedEx ATP Rankings you can see the gregarious Alexander Bublik up at No. 34, while Elena Rybakina is flying the flag on the WTA up at world No.17.

With four men and four women in the Top 300, Kazakhstan tennis is thriving, but it’s been an incremental process. An effort requiring unity and steely determination.

“Nothing happens by chance, the work has been done,” former World No. 33 Andrey Golubev said at the ATP 250 Astana Open.

“The feeling I have, with the Kazakh Federation, we act as one team. Of course, everyone has their own coach and team, but the federation is united and one. We are all moving in the same direction.”

That direction has seen the Kazakh Tennis Federation provide the platform for players from toddlers all the way to the professional circuit.

So much so, that in 2021 Kazakhstan has hosted a plethora of professional tournaments including 27 weeks of ITF Futures, seven ATP Challenger events and now a festival of tennis with back-to-back weeks of ATP 250 and WTA 250 tournaments.

Golubev is urging any Kazakh youngster to take advantage of the support he wished he had en route to the top.

“It’s a very, very good starting point. It comes from our President, who is so involved in every aspect. He wants to help, but also to create and build up,” continued Golubev, competing in the doubles in Nur-Sultan this week.

“People like me, my age, we were coming from places where there were no courts, no money, no help, just doing our best with parents.

“Only with desire, the will to get out of, let’s label a ‘bad’ life, we could achieve something. Imagine this alongside the infrastructure here and the federation support. They just need to take it.”

The Tennis landscape in Kazakhstan has blossomed since businessman and philanthropist Bulat Utemuratov took over the helm as President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation in 2007, investing his own resources and earning government funding.

It’s been quite the accomplishment, building the infrastructure for 35 indoor tennis centres within the largest landlocked country in the world, which has 18 million people and two time zones.

Step forward Kazakh Tennis Director Dave Miley, who was previously in charge of player development and the junior circuit at the ITF over a 25-year stint.

“We know every player, their coach, how many hours they’re playing, whether they are doing fitness. We are able to give them the tournaments to develop,” said Miley. “We can boost their resources whilst making sure they are doing the right things that all over countries are doing.”

Each tennis centre has a solid 10-and-under programme, festivals of tennis and the element of competition is essential from an early age. For example, there are 14 ‘Masters’ events for the best 10-and-under prospects, where each kid plays five matches, every one counting to their final position.

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Miley’s colleagues are identifying the top talent and funneling them into targeted programmes at the federation’s Nur-Sultan based academy. Twenty hours of tennis a week, elite coaching, 33 courts across the surfaces, on-site accommodation, it’s a world class operation.

The infrastructure is there, the competition is there, simply put Kazakh children from all age groups can take part.

Due to these foundations, Kazakhstan is starting to have an impact on the junior circuit, with three girls in the Top 200 and two boys in the Top 400 – which has been boosted by 24 junior ITF events across central Asia. Each junior is set a season ranking goal in January. Standards are high.

“We work with the coaches to establish what technical, tactical, physical and mental work do they need to get there,” continued Miley. “This is how we work. We want the competition and the ranking to drive and the coaching and fitness to support. Its systematic, but we know we have to be flexible.”

There is an abundance of competitive opportunities, the players are appearing in Kazakh colours at all levels on the international scene.

“Everyone knows the structure, that if you start as a 10-and-under kid, you have a chance of eventually be in the Davis Cup or Billie Jean King Cup team,” stated Miley.

“One of the targets is within three years is to have at least two boys and two girls playing junior Grand Slams and we think that’s pretty realistic. “The eventual goal is more players and better players. We want participation to grow, but also better players to see there is a pathway to the top, to have really good players representing the national teams at junior and professional levels.”

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Sonego Begins Metz Campaign

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

Fifth seed Lorenzo Sonego’s career-best season continued Monday at the Moselle Open as he defeated Marton Fucsovics 6-3, 6-2 to secure his 25th tour-level win of the year and reach the second round in Metz.

The Italian, who was competing for the first time since a first-round exit at the US Open three weeks ago, hit with consistent depth and won 73 per cent (19/26) of his first-serve points to advance after 73 minutes.

“I was really focused today,” Sonego said in his on-court interivew. “Marton is a great player and it was a tough match today. I liked my tennis and I am really happy. I am confident because this year has been my best. I am now No. 24 in the world, which is my best ranking. I have played my best tennis this year.”


Sonego has now levelled his ATPHead2Head Series with Fucsovics at 2-2 and will next face Danish qualifier Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune or Singapore champion Alexei Popyrin.

“I like the atmosphere here because it is dark and it is nice,” Sonego added. “I like playing here, this is my second time. Two years ago I lost in the second round and I want to do better.”

The World No. 24 captured his second ATP Tour title on home soil in Cagliari in April, before advancing to the final on grass in Eastbourne. The 26-year-old’s previous best season was in 2019 when he notched 20 tour-level victories.

Fucsovics, who was making his third main draw appearance in Metz, advanced to his first ATP 500 final in Rotterdam in March and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in July.

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Bonzi Claims Record-Tying Sixth Challenger Title Of 2021

  • Posted: Sep 20, 2021

Benjamin Bonzi is redefining what it means to be ‘on fire’. There’s hot and then there’s Bonzi scorching hot.

The Frenchman is etching his name in the ATP Challenger Tour record books in September, dominating the circuit with authority. On Sunday, he lifted the trophy on the indoor hard courts of the Open Blot Rennes, sprinting through the draw for his third consecutive crown. That is, three titles on home soil in three weeks and just three combined sets lost. He is the first player to go back-to-back-to-back on the circuit since Mikhail Youzhny in 2016.

“This was incredible,” said Bonzi, who defeated Mats Moraing 7-6(3), 7-6(3) for the Rennes crown. “I knew it was not going to be easy against Mats, but I hung on. I was able to commit to my plan today and get an early lead in both tie-breaks. I thank my coach Lionel who has been with me all year. And I thank the audience here in Rennes. The atmosphere was sick all week.”

The victory not only gave Bonzi his third straight title, but a historic sixth overall in 2021. He joins Facundo Bagnis (2016), Juan Ignacio Chela (2001) and Younes El Aynaoui (1998) as the only players to lift six singles trophies in one season in ATP Challenger history.

Photo credit: Remy Chautard

The Nimes native has been one of the breakout stars of the year on the circuit. He credits his stunning surge, which has seen him crack the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings last month, to the work he and coach Lionel Zimbler have put in, both on and off the court. A ‘more serene’ Bonzi admits that improving his mentality between the lines has made the difference.

Now, following his maiden title in Potchefstroom, South Africa, in February, and subsequent victories on the clay of Ostrava, Czech Republic and hard courts of Segovia, Spain, Bonzi entered the month of September poised for a big breakthrough. But not even he expected what would come next, as the Frenchman completed the trifecta on home soil in Saint-Tropez, Cassis and Rennes.

The 25-year-old is projected to rise to a career-high No. 61 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on Monday.

In other action… Zdenek Kolar has quietly put together a breakthrough campaign of his own, as the rising Czech star continued his ascent with a third ATP Challenger crown of the year. He prevailed in the 28th edition of the Pekao Szczecin Open, refusing to drop a set all week en route to the title. Also the champion in Oeiras and Iasi, Kolar is the first player from the Czech Republic to lift three trophies in a season since 2013.


Two months after claiming the title on the hard courts of the Atlantic Tire Championships in Cary, it was Mitchell Krueger who added yet another crown to his haul – also in Cary. Krueger completed the sweep in the North Carolina city, dropping just one set all week to lift the trophy. It was the third of his career on the ATP Challenger Tour, rising to a career-high No. 156 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

At the 34th Istanbul Challenger TED Open, World No. 80 James Duckworth streaked to the title. It was ATP Challenger title No. 12 for the Aussie star, who rallied from a set down to defeat Quentin Halys in the semi-finals and sprinted past Tung-Lin Wu 6-4, 6-2 in Sunday’s championship clash. Duckworth rises to a career-high No. 65 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

The feel-good story of the week, if not the year, came from Quito, where Facundo Mena paid tribute to his late father with a run to the title. The Argentine lifted his second ATP Challenger trophy and first since 2019, kicking off the South American swing in style. An emotional Mena dedicated the victory to his father Gabriel, who passed away last year.

“It’s an incredible feeling to win this title,” said Mena. “I didn’t know if I’d get back to this moment and it is very emotional for me.”

ATP Challenger Tour 

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