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Rublev Reflective After Dash From Desert: 'I'm Really Enjoying Tennis'

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

The last time Andrey Rublev competed at the VTB Kremlin Cup, he lifted the trophy as the sixth seed. But while his title aspirations remain the same, the magnifying glass has zoomed in closer on the Russian.

Rublev is the top seed at the ATP 250 this week, and instead of sitting at No. 31 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, he is a fixture in the Top 10, currently World No. 6.

“Of course it’s a lot of pressure, which is normal. Of course I think you cannot show your best performance every week and during 11 months, it’s super tough,” Rublev said. “I think only top players have enough experience, or [players] who are already a couple years in the Top 10, like Daniil [Medvedev]. They know how to handle these things better.

“Some months I am playing really well and am going really deep in tournaments. Some months I have not that great results and am losing a bit earlier. But still, I [have] managed to be all the year Top 10, which is the most important thing.”

The 23-year-old is constantly focused on improving his game, and that has helped put him in a good position to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year. But there is one thing in particular the eight-time ATP Tour titlist feels he needs to work on.

“For now, I would say the mental part. I think this is the main [thing] in my case, because the players who are better than me, they know how to manage all these moments much better than me,” Rublev said. “Game-wise since the Laver Cup, I am feeling really well. I am feeling that I am playing on a great level, I have great confidence.

“Maybe I didn’t do that well in Indian Wells, but still I feel that I am having a great level of tennis now and that is the most important thing.”

Rublev lost a tough three-setter in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open against Tommy Paul, but he battled hard alongside countryman Aslan Karatsev — the second seed in Moscow — to reach the doubles final in the California desert.

Three days on from that doubles final, Rublev will be back in match action on Tuesday 10 hours away alongside countryman Karen Khachanov against third seeds Luke Saville and John-Patrick Smith. Physically, it is a tough turnaround, but the two-time ATP Masters 1000 finalist is loving every moment of it.

“I’m really enjoying to play tennis, I’m really enjoying to travel, so for me mentally for sure it’s fine. But of course sometimes, especially now when I just arrived from the States here in Moscow and I have to compete already tomorrow, physically it’s tough, only because of the time difference,” Rublev said. “And this is normal, this is part of our sport sometimes and we cannot do anything about it. But the mental part I am okay, because I am really enjoying tennis.”

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Cilic Begins Moscow Campaign

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Two-time VTB Kremlin Cup champion Marin Cilic began his campaign for his third title in Moscow on Monday, moving past Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round.

The Croatian, who triumphed at the ATP 250 event in 2014 and 2015, won 12 of the last 13 games as he rallied to advance after one hour and 51 minutes and improve to 2-0 against Dzumhur in their ATP Head2Head series.

“It always feels great [to be here],” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “It is always a pleasure and it is great to see a nice crowd here. I know that Damir always enjoys these conditions where the court is a bit slower and the ball stays a bit lower, so I was having a little bit of difficulty on his serve in the first set.”


With his victory, the sixth seed has snapped a three-match losing streak. Cilic will next face American Tommy Paul or Winston-Salem finalist Mikael Ymer in the second round.

“In the second set I found a better rhythm and started to play great tennis and then the third set was really high quality and I could not be happier,” Cilic added.

Cilic won his 19th tour-level title when he downed #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in Stuttgart in June and has advanced to semi-finals in Singapore and Estoril this season.

John Millman also advanced after the Australian overcame Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes. The 32-year-old is making his debut in Moscow and will next meet fifth seed Alexander Bublik or Ukrainian qualifier Illya Marchenko.

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Botic Battles For Antwerp Win

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Botic van de Zandschulp captured the tennis world’s attention with his impressive run to the US Open quarter-finals, and the Dutchman has taken full advantage of his momentum.

After qualifying for his first ATP Masters 1000 main draw in Indian Wells, van de Zandschulp made a good start to his European Open on Monday in Antwerp, where he battled past Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 after one hour and 36 minutes.

“It’s still a little bit different, but trying to get used to it,” van de Zandschulp said in his on-court interview of the attention on him. “It’s going better every match.”

The 26-year-old will next play fifth seed Reilly Opelka or #NextGenATP American Jenson Brooksby.

In other action, Arthur Rinderknech’s career-best season continued he moved past Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round in Antwerp.

The Frenchman had not earned one tour-level victory before this year, but has now triumphed 15 times at this level in 2021. The 26-year-old won 85 per cent (29/34) of his first-serve points against Delbonis to advance after one hour and 31 minutes.

“I am really pleased with the win,” Rinderknech said. “There were some crazy points here and there and sometimes they didn’t go my way. These kinds of points can change the match but I really tried to stay focused and I am pleased I was able to close out the match.” 


Rinderknech, who is making his debut in Antwerp, now leads Delbonis 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head series. The World No. 65 will next face eighth seed Dusan Lajovic, who eliminated wild card Richard Gasquet 7-6(3), 6-1.

Earlier this year, the Frenchman reached the semi-finals in Kitzbühel and also enjoyed runs to the last eight in Marseille, Lyon, Bastad and Gstaad.

Also on Monday, #NextGenATP Americans Brooksby and Brandon Nakashima booked their places in the main draw in Antwerp. Brooksby overcame Norbert Gombos 6-4, 6-2, while Nakashima downed Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2, 6-4.

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Brain Game: Why Norrie's Backhand Was Basilashvili's Kryptonite

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Cameron Norrie’s blocking backhand versus Nikoloz Basilashvili’s free-wheeling forehand. This was the micro-battle that decided the fate of the BNP Paribas Open final.

Norrie defeated Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 Sunday evening in the desert by absorbing, redirecting, and ultimately dismantling the barrage of power that was thrown at his backhand wing through the Deuce court. It was a masterful display of counter-attacking that took time to develop, with Norrie trailing a set-and-a-break (6-3, 2-1) early on. But from 4-4 in the second set, Norrie reeled off eight of the next nine games and 70 per cent (37/53) of points to run away with a stunning victory.

Norrie’s backhand is a study in efficiency. His straight-arm technique starts with minimal backswing. It has no moving parts to break down. It devours power for breakfast, and it was the ideal kryptonite to disassemble Basilashvili’s flamboyant forehand.

Basilashvili committed 50 groundstroke errors (excluding returns, volleys & overheads) in the final, including 34 on his forehand and 16 on his backhand. If you dig a layer deeper and examine the preceding shot from Norrie before these errors, the real narrative of the match unfolds before your eyes.

50 Basilashvili Groundstroke Errors & Preceding Shot From Norrie

  • 21 forehand errors following a Norrie backhand
  • 13 forehand errors following a Norrie forehand
  • 10 backhand errors following a Norrie forehand
  • 6 backhand errors following a Norrie backhand

Norrie’s master plan of shoveling his backhand crosscourt and providing Basilashvili absolutely nothing to work with took time to mature. Basilashvili only yielded one forehand error in the opening set from a Norrie backhand. That grew to eight in the second set as Norrie wrestled control of the momentum and blossomed to 12 in the third set as the British lefty raced to the finish line. Basilashvili did accumulate 20 groundstroke winners (15 forehand / five backhand), but they were largely inconsequential, as were Norrie’s seven groundstroke winners.

Norrie was a dog with a bone, mining forehand errors as the sun set in the California desert.

The inner workings of this micro-battle uncover an unusual dynamic that almost always ends up with the forehand taking the honours. Not this time. Firstly, it’s important to recognise that Norrie is left-handed. If this was a righty-to-righty match-up, Basilashvili would be attacking his opponent’s backhand with a more potent run-around forehand through the Ad court. That’s typically right in the Georgian’s wheelhouse.

But to get to Norrie’s backhand, Basilashvili had to attack crosscourt through the Deuce court, which is where Norrie’s cunning trap was set. Normally you see a player under fire on the backhand wing try and redirect the ball away from the opponent’s more powerful forehand. Not Norrie. The Brit was steadfast going back crosscourt to Basilashvili’s forehand, and the more angle that developed in the rally the better. Basilashvili was constantly presented with a low, ultra-flat ball out wide in the Deuce court that he could do almost nothing with — except miss. It was about as far out of his strikezone as a ball could get, and extremely difficult to go down the line with because it was so low and short in the court.

Norrie fed off Basilashvili’s power, counter-punching his way to the biggest title of his career. Norrie normally looks for more forehands in a match, getting the ball up high to his opponent’s backhand wing, but that was not where the errors existed in this match. Norrie wanted backhands to break down Basilashvili’s forehand, and he hit more backhands in the final compared to his previous four rounds.

Norrie’s Backhand to Forehand Ratio Leading To The Final

  • Final v Basilashvili = 50% backhands (138 backhands / 136 forehands)
  • SF v Dimitrov = 41% backhands (147 forehands / 102 backhands)
  • QF v Schwartzman = 42% backhands (131 forehands / 93 backhands)
  • R16 v Paul = 32% backhands (244 forehands / 113 backhands)
  • R32 v Bautista Agut = 46% backhands (302 forehands / 259 backhands)

The bunt backhand bamboozled the swashbuckling forehand. Welcome to the Top 20, Cameron Norrie.

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Norrie Strengthens Nitto ATP Finals Bid

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Cameron Norrie has soared into contention for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals after he captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open, where he overcame Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final.

The Briton was in 14th position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin prior to the start of Indian Wells, but has surged to 10th (on 2,830 points) after he clinched the biggest trophy of his career. The 26-year-old is now just 125 points behind ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz, who occupies the final qualifying spot on 2,955 points. Rafael Nadal is currently eighth, but has stopped his season due to a foot injury.

Norrie, who won his maiden ATP Tour crown at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos in July, is aiming to make his debut at the prestigious season finale, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.

“Even before the tournament I was in the hunt. I think before I was 14 or 15 in the Race. I had a chance,” Norrie said in his post-match press conference in Indian Wells. “I was thinking about it. If you think about it too much, it can’t be good for you. I’m playing Vienna, Paris, and Stockholm, the last three events indoors. It would be nice to make it, but I’m going to keep going, keep taking care of what I can and handling what I can.

“I think even being in the conversation this late in the year, I think that’s impressive for me. If you would have told me before the year that would be the case, I would have been happy. I think that’s a lot of good progression.”

View Latest FedEx ATP Race To Turin Standings

Norway’s Casper Ruud has strengthened his bid to qualify, rising to seventh on 3,015 points after he advanced to the fourth round in Indian Wells. The 22-year-old has enjoyed a career-best season, capturing a tour-leading five titles this year. In July, he became the first player since Andy Murray in October 2011 to complete an ATP Tour hat-trick, triumphing in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel in three consecutive weeks.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini remains in sixth (4,000) and is close to securing his second qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals, having made his debut at the event in 2019. #NextGenATP stars Jannik Sinner of Italy and Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime are 11th (2,595) and 12th (2,330) respectively, and remain in the mix with less than one month to go in the regular ATP Tour season.

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Norrie Surges Into Top 10 Of 2021 FedEx ATP Race To Turin

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

No. 10 Cameron Norrie, +4
The Brit has soared into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Race To Turin after he clinched his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open. The 26-year-old, who had not won a match in two prior main draw appearances in Indian Wells, is the first British man to lift the trophy in California. The Los Cabos champion is aiming to make his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, which will be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November. Read Indian Wells Final Report & Watch Highlights

View Latest FedEx ATP Race To Turin Rankings

No. 7 Casper Ruud, +1
The 22-year-old has risen one spot to eighth after he enjoyed a run to the fourth round in Indian Wells. The Norwegian has won five tour-level titles this year and moved past Roberto Carballes Baena and Lloyd Harris, before falling to Diego Schwartzman in the desert.

No. 15 Nikoloz Basilashvili, +7
After advancing to his first Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells, the Georgian has climbed seven places in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. The 29-year-old upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals in what was his first Top 5 victory since he defeated then-World No. 5 Alexander Zverev in Hamburg in 2019.

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 23 Grigor Dimitrov, +15
No. 26T Taylor Fritz, +16
No. 49 Gael Monfils, +6
No. 59 Tallon Griekspoor, +21
No. 62T Tommy Paul, +10

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History For Hubi! Hurkacz Cracks The Top 10

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz on Monday became the second man from Poland to break into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings when he reached a career-high World No. 10. The 24-year-old is the 174th player to join the elite group and the second this year, alongside Norwegian Casper Ruud.

This year’s Miami champion is the first man from his country to accomplish the feat since Wojtek Fibak, who climbed to a career-high World No. 10 on 25 July 1977. Hurkacz began the season at World No. 34.

“We have been working with my coach, CB [Craig Boynton], for [a] couple of years already, but the work we have been doing every single day, last year as well, we have been working very hard,” Hurkacz said during a press conference in Cincinnati. “I think just that’s a process and I’m improving my game. I try to get better every single day.”

It has been a year of firsts for Hurkacz, who has become a contender at the biggest tournaments on the circuit. The Polish star won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami and advanced to his first major semi-final at Wimbledon.

Hurkacz has enjoyed good results this year, and he has also impressed his peers in the process. Former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov needed a final-set tie-break to claw past Hurkacz in the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals, and was quick to praise the Pole.

“He served amazing. I even told him after the match at the net. I think he’s improved amazingly on the serve. At some point I had to even guess where he’s going to go,” Dimitrov said. “He’s such a nice guy. It’s so nice to have him on Tour. Always very friendly, very easy to talk to. We’ve hit quite a few times against each other in Monaco. We have very friendly vibes all in all, which is great.”

As Dimitrov said, Hurkacz is known for his smile and kindness off the court. But on it, the winner of three trophies this season has been working hard alongside coach Craig Boynton to craft one of the most dangerous games on the ATP Tour.

“We’re always searching for improvements until he wants to put down the racquets and do something different. What you work on might change, because you sit down with a set of goals and once you achieve those goals, you need to replace them with new ones,” Boynton said. “The better you get, the harder you’ve got to work for the smaller improvement.”

This week four years ago, Hurkacz was outside the World’s Top 400. But the 6’5” right-hander steadily improved and in 2018 he competed in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

“I have been playing tennis since I was a young kid,” Hurkacz said in Cincinnati. “So now being able to play on the biggest stages, it’s a lot of fun.”

With Hurkacz up to No. 10, Roger Federer falls from No. 9 to No. 11. It is the first time Federer has been outside the Top 10 since January 2017.

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