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The Pride Of Uruguay: Montevideo Celebrates 20 Years On ATP Challenger Tour

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

This week, South American tennis celebrates a historic milestone on the ATP Challenger Tour. For the first time, a tournament on the continent is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Welcome to the Uruguay Open in Montevideo, where they have been perfecting the ‘world-class tennis plus premier entertainment’ formula since the tournament’s inception in 1998.

In addition to the action between the lines, an integral aspect of many successful Challengers involves entertainment beyond the courts. It is the notion that premier tennis and off-court entertainment create a first-rate experience with a festive atmosphere. In the smaller, more intimate settings on the Challenger circuit, this is especially effective in building popularity for the tournaments and creating buzz throughout the city.

In Montevideo, they have been doing exactly that since 1998. Led by tournament director and former World No. 27 Diego Perez, nightly concerts, food trucks, a premier VIP area and activities for fans of all ages have contributed to the vibrant soul and identity of the event.

This week, the Uruguay Open is in the spotlight, as Perez and his dedicated team welcome players and fans for the tournament’s 20th edition. It is an unprecedented milestone anniversary, marking the first time a tournament in South America has reached two decades on the ATP Challenger Tour.

The tournament is the pride of professional tennis in Uruguay and was its lone ATP Challenger event for many years, prior to the recent arrival of the Punta Open in Punta del Este. It is a party all week at the famous Carrasco Lawn Tennis Club, with the adjacent Arocena Street a vibrant scene with food trucks, live music and games in the sponsor village, accompanying the world-class tennis on the courts.

“I had very beautiful moments there, winning the tournament,” said World No. 13 Diego Schwartzman. “It’s always a pleasure to play in Uruguay. Every moment I was there I enjoyed it to the fullest. Many people in the organization I have a great relationship with. Despite not having gone in recent years because I am playing other tournaments, I always enjoy it from a distance. I hope they continue to enjoy it there and celebrate many more anniversaries.”

Schwartzman, the champion in Montevideo in 2016, is one of many past winners and finalists that would go on to the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Former World No. 3 Guillermo Coria won the title in 2000 and was followed by another eventual No. 3 in David Nalbandian in 2001. Nalbandian defeated future World No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez in that final. Also, Juan Martin del Potro launched his career with his maiden ATP Challenger title in Montevideo in 2005.

The Uruguay Open is held at the Carrasco Lawn Tennis Club, a historic facility founded in 1943. Located in the residential neighborhood of Carrasco, the award-winning club has been recognized internationally for its excellence in hosting world-class sporting events. It consists of 22 clay courts, two football fields, one hockey field, four Olympic-sized swimming pools, three gyms and a cultural and social centre featuring a theatre room and art space.

Former World No. 27 Diego Perez has run the tournament since he retired in the late 1990s. The Uruguayan won his lone ATP Tour title in Bordeaux in 1985 and earned more than 200 match wins at the tour-level. He is one of many former players who have become Challenger tournament directors, especially in South America, along with Luis Horna (Lima), Andres Gomez (Guayaquil) and Nicolas Lapentti (Ambato).

Perez spoke with during the Uruguay Open’s 20th anniversary celebration…

Diego, congrats on 20 years. How proud are you to reach this milestone?
I’m really proud and happy. I really love my job. I love doing what I do. Last year was tough not to have the tournament. I missed it a lot. Since we knew that it was going to happen this year, it was a big satisfaction. My team is not big, but we are many good ones. In terms of, they really do the best work and they always do what’s best for the tournament. Every year we try to do it better. The copy-and-paste is only for things that really works. If it doesn’t, we change it. If something isn’t our best, we try it another way. We always try to improve, especially the little details.

You’ve been a part of this tournament for all 20 years. Not many directors stay for that long. What has this experience been like for you?
For a long time, Uruguay didn’t have any other tournament. We were the only one. Now, in recent years we’ve also had the Punta Open in Punta del Este, but this is still a big event for our country. What keeps me going is that this is an important event for Uruguay. We’re the Uruguay Open. It’s the No. 1 tournament in this country with the ATP. The site is beautiful and we try to make this an ATP Tour event on the Challenger Tour. I always say that in order to make a tour event here, you only need money, because the rest is already there. It’s the main event in Uruguay and that’s what keeps me going.


Speaking of that, how rewarding is it to give back to tennis in your country?
That’s what it’s all about. That’s my side of helping tennis in Uruguay. I don’t like to be in the court anymore and I haven’t been playing much since I retired 25 years ago, but I’ve wanted to stay in tennis. That is, outside the court. I’m really happy with what I do and the kids are really happy to see these players coming every year. We’ve had really well known players these last 20 years.

I remember when it started as the Copa Ericsson, the winners were David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria and we had Fernando Gonzalez reach the final. Gaston Gaudio was playing here and also Juan Ignacio Chela and Nicolas Massu. We’ve had very big names. And of course the very first tournament won by Juan Martin del Potro was here. And after that we had guys like Pablo Cuevas and Diego Schwartzman winning, not too long ago. And of course, the fans want them to come back, but you have to wait until they retire for them to stop by Montevideo again.

For you, how important is it to grow the game in South America?
In Uruguay, it’s a small number of people playing the game. We’ve been trying to work on that for a long time. In the region, I’m sure having these Challengers has helped a lot. In Argentina and Chile there are very good players and the same with Ecuador now. In Peru too with Juan Pablo Varillas coming up. I’m sure these tournaments have helped a lot in the region. In Uruguay, you have to be really lucky to make it to the Top 200. That’s what’s missing here. We are missing more tennis players to inspire the others, but that’s why this tournament is so important.

How has the tournament grown and evolved over the years? What is the biggest change and improvement?
We try to grow and improve the event every year. You know, it’s the VIP area that is so important for us. It’s important to have a nice place for the people to come and have dinner, a few drinks, a DJ playing some nice music and make a nice atmosphere. We spend a lot of money on that. We make that money back. Over the years, we started to make it a better experience. Do you like champagne? Sure. Do you like paella? Do you like tennis? Ok, come on over. We have a very nice VIP area and every year it’s getting better. I think that helps raise the money. We sell it to different companies and they bring their clients. For my Challenger, this is the formula to keep on going and get more sponsors.


That said, the Uruguay Open has an incredible fan experience. It really seems like a party every day. How important is that?
We try to help the fans also. What we’ve done in the past few years is to close off the street that is next to the club and have food trucks and live music and some kind of games for the people to play around. For tennis, either you live in a country like Argentina where there are 2 million people that play the game, or you live in Uruguay where tennis is very small. People want to see Nadal and Federer come here, but you have to make them understand that having 13 or 14 players in the Top 150 in the draw is really good. We’ve also had many Top 100 players in the draw. We do all this with a lot of passion.

Being a former player gives you a unique perspective. How has that helped you in this role?
I would love to do more for the players. I would love to raise the prize money. But I know they enjoy the transport, the hotel, the food, the club is really wide open for them. The area is really nice and friendly. You have the beach that is really close. The hotel is nearby. I think all that helps to make the players feel more comfortable. As a former player, I know there are a few things to provide a better service and that’s what I’m looking to do.

What are your memories competing on the Challenger Tour? How important was that part of your career?
It was always important, but my career was not conventional. I won my first [FedEx ATP Rankings] points in Rome, at the Masters 1000 event. I was playing a junior event there and I got to the semi-finals. The top four juniors got wild cards for the qualifying. That’s how I qualified and won my first points there. I was always mixing my time between tour events and Challengers. I have the biggest respect for Challengers. I think it really helps the players as they move up the rankings.

ATP Challenger Tour 

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Alcaraz Sets Korda Showdown In Milan

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

Top seed Carlos Alcaraz is the youngest player competing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals this week. But the 18-year-old continued to impress Friday as he cruised into the final in Milan.

The Spaniard went 3-0 in the round-robin stage and produced another ruthless performance, soaring past Argentine Sebastian Baez 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 to advance after 62 minutes in their first tour-level meeting.

“It was a really good match from my side,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “I knew I had to play really well and aggressively. He is playing at a great level and had a great week. I always think in the tough moments I have to be aggressive and have no nerves in that moment. If I lose that point in the tough moments it is because I have gone for it.”

Alcaraz imposed his aggressive heavy-hitting game on the World No. 111 from the outset at the Allianz Cloud. The Spaniard demonstrated great footwork, which allowed him to run around and dictate on his forehand, striking with vast amounts of power to outmanoeuvre Baez.

The World No. 32, who has just dropped one set en route to the championship match, will face second seed Sebastian Korda in the final after the American defeated countryman Brandon Nakashima 4-3(3), 2-4, 1-4, 4-2, 4-2. If Alcaraz wins the title, he will become the youngest player since Andrei Medvedev, 18, to record 32 wins in a season, after the Ukrainian went 32-11 in 1992.

“The final is going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said. “Sebastian is playing great tennis and I am really excited to play against him for the first time. It would be amazing to win the title, but I am going to be facing a really good opponent, so we will see.”

In a strong serving display against Baez, Alcaraz won 32 of 37 of points behind his first delivery and saved all three break points he faced. The Spaniard hit 16 winners and committed just 11 unforced errors to end Baez’s hopes.

Earlier this year, under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, Alcaraz made headlines when he upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the quarter-finals at the US Open. The Spaniard also captured his maiden tour-level title in Umag and recorded Top 10 wins against Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner in recent weeks.

Baez had never played a tour-level hard-court match before this week. But the 20-year-old, who won five ATP Challenger Tour titles on clay this year, overcame home favourite Lorenzo Musetti and Hugo Gaston to reach the semi-finals at the 21-and-under event.

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Paul Reaches First ATP Tour Final In Stockholm

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

Tommy Paul booked a place in his first ATP Tour final on Friday at the Stockholm Open, snapping a three-match losing streak against Frances Tiafoe with his first victory over his fellow American since playing juniors.

One day after beating Andy Murray, the American backed up the performance with a high-quality performance to overcome eighth-seed Tiafoe 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-4 in two hours and 30 minutes.

“I haven’t got a win over Frances since juniors, so that was a big win for me,” said Paul. “That was the best level I’ve played all year long. He was playing amazing tennis for the first two sets, and I played my highest level in the third set.

“It wasn’t fun to be broken at 5-5 in the second set, again, but I knew if I stayed tough he may give me a couple of looks. I tried to have fun, and I ended up playing my best tennis. The more matches I’ve played, the more comfortable I’ve played in pressure situations. I’ve enjoyed playing in front of the big crowds.”

Paul will now prepare to challenge a Canadian, second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime or third seed and 2019 defending champion Denis Shapovalov, on Saturday at the Kungliga Tennishallen in Stockholm.

Tiafoe’s movement up the court put Paul under pressure in the latter stages of the 50-minute first set, which turned at 5-5. Paul jumped to a 2-0 lead, courtesy of a lapse in concentration from Tiafoe in the second set, but the World No. 53 was soon pinned back. The pair again exchanged service breaks prior to a high quality tie-break with Paul striking a forehand winner down the line at 5/5 on Tiafoe’s serve.

Paul’s patience was rewarded in the third game of the decider, when he chased down a drop shot for a winner on his fourth break point at 1-1. Paul remained focused and lost just two of his next 16 service points.

Tiafoe, who reached the Erste Bank Open final (l. to Tiafoe) two weeks ago, drops to 32-24 on the season. He’d beaten Paul in February 2020 at the Delray Beach Open by and in two other matches on the ITF Futures and ATP Challenger Tour in 2015 and 2016.


Stockholm Doubles Final Set
Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer booked their places in a 10th team final (4-5 record) on Friday with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Swedish wild cards Markus Eriksson and Elias Ymer. They will face Santiago Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, winners of the Astana Open in September, who defeated Emil Ruusuvuori and Botic van de Zandschulp 7-6(2), 6-2.

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Korda Downs Nakashima To March Into Milan Final

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

In a battle between two of America’s brightest prospects, Sebastian Korda came out on top Friday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, overcoming Brandon Nakashima 4-3(3), 2-4, 1-4, 4-2, 4-2 to reach the final in Milan.

The 21-year-old finished the round-robin stage with a perfect 3-0 record and played with such confidence against Nakashima, thundering serves and crushing forehands to advance after one hour and 54 minutes.

“Brandon was playing some unbelievable tennis but I stayed with him and had some chances in the fourth and five sets and took them and ran,” Korda said in his on-court interview. “I got more aggressive. I tried coming into the net more and placing my serves more, and that opened up the court for me.”

The pressure has been on Korda this week as the second seed at the 21-and-under event. However, under high expectations, he has coped well, adjusting to the first-to-four, best-of-five set format to secure his place in the final, where he will either face World No. 32 Carlos Alcaraz or Argentine Sebastian Baez.

In their first ATPHead2Head meeting, Korda quickly found his rhythm from the baseline and on serve in front of a lively crowd at the Allianz Cloud, hitting five aces in the first set. But Nakashima grew into the match as it went on as he targeted Korda’s backhand to pin the American behind the baseline. The World No. 63 won all nine of his first-serve points in the second set and committed just one unforced error in the third set.

However, Korda stormed ahead in the fourth set, winning 10 points in row as he struck with great depth to break and force a decider. He then demonstrated his grit in the fifth set as he played aggressively and bravely, closing the net effectively to secure victory.

In a standout season, Korda defeated then-World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman en route to the quarter-finals in Miami, before he captured his first tour-level title in Parma. The World No. 39 also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon.

With his victory against Nakashima, Korda has now earned 31 tour-level wins this season. He had just three at this level prior to 2021.

Nakashima earned a vital victory against Holger Rune as he went 2-1 in the round-robin stage to qualify for the semi-finals. Earlier this season, the 20-year-old became the youngest American since Andy Roddick in 2001-02 to reach back-to-back tour-level finals when he advanced to championship matches in Los Cabos and Atlanta.

Did You Know?
With 13 Americans inside the Top 100, Korda and Nakashima, aged 21 and 20 respectively are two of the youngest, alongside 21-year-old Jenson Brooksby.

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Coach Devoty On Korda: 'He Is A Big Fighter'

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

Sebastian Korda began the season ranked No. 118 in the FedEx ATP Rankings having earned just three tour-level wins. Now the American – who has captured 30 victories at this level in 2021 – is inside the Top 40 and is set to face countryman Brandon Nakashima on Friday in the semi-finals at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.

This year, Korda lifted his maiden tour-level trophy in Parma and clinched his first Top 10 win in Miami when he overcame then-World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman en route to the quarter-finals at the ATP Masters 1000 event. These results helped Korda secure his place in Milan.

While the focus has been on the 21-year-old, the foundations that have been put in place for Korda have been a crucial factor behind his success. Czech coach Theodor Devoty is a prominent member of his team and has known the World No. 39 since he was 11 years old.

Devoty worked closely with the American’s father Petr Korda, who won the Australian Open in 1998, when the pair trained former World No. 8 Radek Stepanek. After joining Korda’s team in 2020, Devoty’s relationship with his charge has continued to flourish.

Ahead of Korda’s semi-final against Nakashima, Devoty spoke to about the 21-and-under event in Milan, Korda’s development, his personality and more.

How have you found the tournament in Milan so far?
This tournament was a big goal for Sebi at the beginning of the season and we are here. It is our last tournament, and we are here all as a team except Petr and Dean [Goldfine]. We are enjoying it a lot as this has been a big goal. We are so proud of him and he deserved it. To make the semi-finals is a bonus for us. We have just taken it step by step this week and we are supporting him.

Korda is the second seed here in Milan, what has been the crucial factors behind his rise this year?
He is a big fighter. He played really good matches this season against the top players and beat them. It was key as it gave him the belief he could beat really good players on the Tour. Here he is the second seed and playing players who are around No. 60, 70 in the World, so he sees it as he has to win, and we are doing well so far. But no match is easy here.

He always seems very focused on court and keeps his emotions in check, is this something that comes naturally to him or have you instilled this in Korda over time?
We have been working on his mentality to stay calm. He used to be crying and screaming, but against Musetti on Thursday, I had never seen him so calm. In front of the Italian crowd also. With [Brandon] Nakashima, there are no emotions. Nothing. He has a poker face like Ivan Lendl used to. Sebi was similar on Thursday. I told him he was looking like Lendl. It helps a lot to have this front on court.

How have you found the courtside coaching rule in Milan?
Sebi is not a huge fan of courtside coaching because the whole season, you are fighting on court alone. He is a very smart player and a great player. We are helping him. I am just trying to give him a few small things during the matches. Little comments, but he does not want to talk too much during the matches. These players are gladiators, and it is good when they battle between them. For the fans it is interesting, though.

This year has been pretty special for Sebastian. What do you think of the whole experience considering you have known him since he was young?
I remember when I met him for the first time when he was 11 or 12 and I was working with Radek [Stepanek] and he was the ball kid for us! Now he is two meters tall and 80 kg, and he is where he is and it is an amazing story. It is the whole family. His parents are doing an amazing job and the children are all great.

Korda won his first tour-level title in Parma in May, how proud were you of him then and how important was that week and experience for you guys as a team?
It was a complicated start to the season. We were in Belgrade, Munich and Madrid and he lost in the first round each time. Then we came to our base in Prague and we talked and did two weeks of practise and went to Parma. First round he played [Andreas] Seppi, a tough match. He won in three sets and then it started. That was the first tournament with his girlfriend and he lifted the trophy. He beat [Lorenzo] Sonego and in the final, he beat [Marco] Cecchinato. It was an amazing week and we enjoyed it a lot and it was great. It helped with his confidence.

Korda also enjoyed a run to the fourth round at Wimbledon, how was that for you?
If you asked Sebi, I don’t think he would say he was in shock, but I think he was. The fourth round at a major is amazing. During the match against Karen Khachanov, I was almost crying. In that fifth set, both players lost their serve about eight times. I don’t think this would have happened in history before. You can’t imagine how he was feeling after this defeat. He was very sad. He needed a few days to relax and reset. There is always next week and a new challenge.

Following such a strong season, they is a lot of expectation around him. How as a team are you dealing with this and how important is it to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead?
We are like a family. The fitness guy Marek [Vseticek] was working with Petr for 10 years, Radek for 13 years and now Sebi. I have known Marek for at least 10 years. I have known Petr and Sebi for more than 10 years. We are all friends and like a family together as a team. We have great respect for each other. You can’t focus even three months ahead. You need to focus and get him ready for the next week. He will lose one week and then he will start a new tournament on Monday, which is a new challenge. The short term has to be the focus.

Looking ahead to preseason, what are your plans?
During preseason we will be based in the United States. He wants to stay in Europe for one or two weeks and have some rest after Milan. Then he will come back and after Christmas, we will go to Australia. When Marek saw Sebi for the first time he didn’t have much muscle or anything. But he knows Sebi doesn’t like to spend much time at the gym. He is not that type of guy. Sebi prefers to be out of the gym, but to be able to fight against these top guys he has to do this work. He just has to work hard.

Next season, are there any main goals you have in mind for Sebastian and how will you go about achieving them?
We will talk as a team and then set some goals. We just have to see how he plays. The most important thing is that he is healthy. We will work hard and support him as always as a team, we will do everything. But it is up to him. I hope and believe he can be Top 10 in the future because he has the potential to be there, but we will see.

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Berrettini: 'I Feel The Pressure, But It's A Good Pressure'

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

Novak Djokovic is a five-time Nitto ATP Finals titlist and Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion, but all eyes will be on another player at the season finale next week: Matteo Berrettini. The 25-year-old is the lone Italian competitor in Turin.

“I feel the pressure, but it’s a good pressure. It’s so nice to be here,” Berrettini said. “I know that the crowd is going to be on my side, and I really cannot wait to step on the court.”

When the sixth seed enters the Pala Alpitour on Sunday evening for his clash against 2018 champion Alexander Zverev, all of Italy will be with Berrettini. He is making his second appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals, but his first on home soil.

But the five-time ATP Tour titlist is well aware that he will have not just the pressure of Italy on his shoulders, but the Tour’s toughest foes across the net.

“Obviously on the other side of the net there are going to be the best players in the world, so it’s not going to be easy. But I am one of them, so that helps,” Berrettini said. “I think it’s special. I think that the atmosphere is going to be special. The site and everything, how it’s organised is really nice. I think Italy deserved such an event. Hopefully it’s going to be also good on court.”

Matteo Berrettini
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/Getty Images
The crowd has been raucous all week at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. Expect the Italian fans to be even more excited in Turin, since this is the first time the year-end championships have been held in the country.

“It means a lot. I think it’s one of the best events that we have on Tour and to have the chance to have it in my home country is something unbelievable,” Berrettini said. “At the beginning of the year, it obviously was a big goal, but it was too soon to even think about it. And then match by match, I think I earned it and I’m really happy to be here.”

Berrettini is inspiring people throughout his country. One of the players following in his footsteps is Jannik Sinner, who is the first alternate at the Nitto ATP Finals.

“I think the more Italians there are on Tour, the better it is for everyone. For the crowd, for the fans and for us,” Berrettini said. “Between me and Jannik, there is a really good relationship. We push each other to get better and he’s five years younger, I’m sure he’s going to qualify in the next years.

“But he had an incredible year, so it was really a few points a way, but I think this experience this year is going to help him in the next years.”

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Medvedev After Another 'Confidence Boost' At Nitto ATP Finals

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

Low on confidence, Daniil Medvedev was unsure of how he’d fare at the final two tournaments of 2020. But there is a fine line between winning and losing in professional sport and the Russian clinched the Rolex Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals titles to finish the year on a high.

Speaking ahead of his title defence, this time at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Medvedev admitted, “It was very important [for 2021].

“Tennis is so much about ups and downs, gaining of confidence. Coming into Paris last year I felt completely out of shape, low on confidence and not sure what I could achieve in the last two tournaments of the year. I found my tennis and confidence to win both of them, and of course I beat Novak [Djokovic], Rafa [Nadal] and Dominic [Thiem] at the [Nitto ATP] Finals. Three really tough match ups.

“It was amazing, and that gave me confidence in Australia. After you re-watch [matches] on YouTube, your confidence is back. You think, ‘I’m still able to do it.’

“We had the pandemic when we didn’t play for a long time [in 2020 and] I had some problems with my body. So coming back was not easy, but these two tournaments last year brought back my confidence. It was enough for all this year, knowing that I could beat the best players in the world.”

As second seed, Medvedev leads the Red Group at the Nitto ATP Finals, alongside 2018 titlist Alexander Zverev, home favourite Matteo Berrettini and first-time qualifier Hubert Hurkacz.

Medvedev has been practising with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in recent weeks, and they have done so at the Pala Alpitour in Turin. The 25-year-old lost to Djokovic in last week’s Rolex Paris Masters final, but isn’t fazed by training with his rival.

“You have to practise with other players,” said Medvedev. “I think if you think, ‘Oh my, he’s going to see my weak side’, your life in tennis will be too tough. You’d only be able to play with your sparring partner. You also need to play with the best players in the world to improve. We were the only ones yesterday that knew we wouldn’t play each other in the group stages.

“The level of our matches will always be high, but you will try to adapt your style. I tried to re-watch the Australian Open final for the US Open final, and Novak watched the US Open match to change things [in Paris]. We both did the right things [in Paris], but he played better on the day. You know nothing will ever come easily and you need to fight throughout the match.”

Medvedev begins his Nitto ATP Finals campaign on Sunday afternoon against Hurkacz.

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Ferrero: The Art Of Building Alcaraz

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

Juan Carlos Ferrero is in no rush with Carlos Alcaraz. In the run up to the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the innovative tournament in Milan that brings together the Tour’s best 21-and-under players, everything seems to be going in slow motion. The Spaniard is flying through the ranks of professional tennis with a career built on the foundations of the calm instilled in him by his coach, who is determined to build a rock-solid player.

At the players’ hotel, just 500 meters from the Allianz Cloud stadium that is hosting the competition, the former World No. 1 spoke to about one of the most exciting prospects on Tour.

Do you view Milan as the reward for a great season?
Of course. He has his sights set very high and he also had an eye on the other tournament [the Nitto ATP Finals], because he was No. 20 in the [FedEx ATP] Race [To Turin]. Without a doubt, he was very excited to come here and it was one of the goals at the start of the season. We haven’t spoken much about it because you pay more attention to the normal ranking. Since he qualified, he has been looking forward to playing the tournament even though there are no points available. Because of the characteristics of the tournament: the singles court, the eight best players.

Also, the standard here is very high, there are players that are in the Top 30 like him and [Sebastian] Korda, [Holger Vitus Nodskov] Rune, who just won several Challenger events, is here, [Sebastian] Baez, who has also won quite a few tournaments, [Hugo] Gaston is also closing in on the Top 60… The standard is very high here and it’s not a minor tournament by any means. It really is a source of motivation.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Carlos is the highest ranked player, as well as being the youngest, what have you made of his rise?
Carlos’ rise has been very fast this year. I already thought he was precocious at 15 or 16 years old. At that age he beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rio de Janeiro. I told myself that when he turned 18 he could be around the Top 50. 

I think it’s very positive. Of course, we’ve never been in a hurry. We’ve always tried to make him grow and invested a lot in his tennis and paid very little attention to his ranking – always focused on improving his game and as a player, and gaining more experience with how young he is. The ranking came because of the results. We really value it because it’s very difficult to do. Even more so with the situation created by COVID-19, which has meant it was even harder to climb up the rankings.

A few days ago Carlos said: “I’ve exceeded my expectations this year.” Has he exceeded yours?
Ferrero: Yes, one of the expectations we had was to be ranked around No. 50. In terms of that number, he has exceeded expectations. We could also mention that he has played against top players and been able to compete on their level – and even beat them, as was the case with [Stefanos] Tsitsipas and [Matteo] Berrettini, even [Jannik] Sinner, who is another of the most promising young players. It’s true that he has exceeded those expectations and shown that his game peaks at a very high level that we have to try and maintain so that he can play like that continuously.

Carlos will continue to climb. Right now, he’s a bit like Son Goku [from Dragonball Z], when he started to transform and then lost power. It’s a little joke I have with him. But it’s true that those peaks at such a high level are because he’s a very dynamic player who can do a lot of things on court and on any surface. 

Many of his peers call him ‘mature’ for his age. What is maturity?
Ferrero: Recognising what is happening on court, knowing when you are doing things well or badly. Often players obsess over something, and don’t realise what they’re doing wrong. Carlos started to realise increasingly quickly what he was doing wrong, and what he actually has to focus on, above all on a mental level.

Since he was little, he has been an inconsistent player: he would play very well, then he would play very badly. It still happens to him on occasions, but he’s much more stable now. He has placed a lot of importance on working hard on the mental side. It’s something that I’ve always mentioned to him over these three years, that it was very important to progress little by little. He has also upped his work with his psychologist Isabel Balaguer. He knows perfectly well that it is one of the most important things, because in terms of fitness and his tennis, his progress is very fast at the moment. 

I think the most important thing at the moment is to continue growing as a player on a mental level in order to keep getting stronger for situations like those he has been through or the many more he may experience.

What are you most proud of when you think about Carlos?
He’s very loyal to the people he loves. The people that work with him really recognise that, because of how he is now and not because of who he is becoming. I really value what a great kid he is. From the start I think we connected very well. I really value that it’s a simple relationship and that the daily work between us is easy. Ultimately, so much travel and so much time together requires peaceful relationships. I really value that loyalty and that trust.

Then we get to the question of whether or not he is a hard worker, if he is dedicated or not. I’m a very strict person when it comes to work and he has gradually had to incorporate things that he didn’t have and that I told him were very important. At first, he found it tough but then he understood that in the end it’s a way of life. He gradually learned these things and there is merit in that because that wasn’t the case at the beginning.

What’s the one thing you’ve tried to instill in him the most?
Humility and consistent hard work. I think it’s very important. Then there have been other details. He was a person who, when he was tired, really dropped his level of training and I’ve always been consistent in telling him that you have to work during those times. The importance of intensity on court… There are many small things, but I have highlighted humility and being a hard worker on court. That’s something that he absolutely had to have.

Even well-established players have recognised his progress, how has that influenced Alcaraz?
He absorbs it very well, without added pressure. Since everyone has started saying that he is the new player who could go right to the top, he has tried to stay in a small bubble. Above all, to try and stay on his own path. Carrying the burden of comparisons with a player like Rafa [Nadal] is difficult for such a young boy. 

He is very mentally strong but he still has a lot to learn – we saw it last week [he was in tears against Hugo Gaston in the last 16 of the Rolex Paris Masters]. There are things that he is unable to control. The fact that they compare him with Rafa is difficult but we have always handled it well. Him best of all. He wants to do things his own way and so far, he really is coping very well. We haven’t noticed more or less pressure because of this.

Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Does it take someone special to maintain that?
I’d say you have to be very clear about it. We talk about it, not much, but sometimes we’ve talked about it. And we’re very sure of the road he wants to follow. So they compare him with Rafa? Great, that means that people think he has a lot of potential. But he has to be very clear, and other people do too, that he has to stay on his own path. I won’t say that Rafa’s career is unrepeatable, but almost. Carlos has to have his own career and keep looking forward.

You’ve been World No. 1 in the past. Do you remember yourself at his age?
I think we’re similar in that we are both very emotive on court. That’s positive, because it means you don’t lose your identity or your style of play. If you’re truly good, you’re able to keep your head in difficult moments, tough matches, moments of tension. A player with character will always push forwards. A player who shrinks from those situations will find it difficult to win big tournaments. In that respect, he is very good.

Making comparisons is difficult. Something else about Carlos is he always wants to improve. That’s very important. I’ve spoken to him a lot about wanting to be better every day. You can’t train for the sake of it, that’s a waste of time. You have to do quality training, to know what to train, you have to know what needs improving, where your weaknesses are, which moments you need to improve in, and in which moments you need to read the game. He has been improving in all of those aspects.

At some tournaments we’ve joked around, ‘Now you have to tell me what you’re doing wrong in this match.’ To explain to me exactly what he should have done differently, doing role plays like that. It might not seem like it, but it really helps him a lot.

Is he good at those analyses?
Yes. We tend to talk about what has happened. More than about statistics, or what he should have done. I talk more about mental moments on court than tennis tactics. He is quite open to that and it’s wanting to improve constantly that’s the most important thing.

If we were to speak in one year’s time, what would Juan Carlos Ferrero be happy with?
If Carlos has managed to continue growing naturally and in the way I have in mind, I have a very clear idea of what next year could be. As he progresses, he will turn 19, he’ll be more mature, have more experience on court, and play a lot of quality matches against very good players. If everything continues as I think it may, I think next year will be… interesting.

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10 Years Ago: Federer's 6th Title 'One Of My Greatest Accomplishments'

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2021

A decade ago, it wasn’t looking too good for Roger Federer.

When he turned 30 in August, he was still without a title in 2011. Federer fell to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals, to Rafael Nadal in the final at Roland Garros and to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals of the venue that had produced his most celebrated accomplishments, Wimbledon. And it was the heartbreaking way he lost there to the Frenchman, in five sets after winning the first two.

It happened again in the US Open semi-finals, when Djokovic dropped the first two sets, then came back to hand Federer a stunning loss. For the first time since 2002, Federer had failed to win at least one major tournament. It was a disturbing trend and the whispers that he was no longer a dominant champion began in earnest.

Not to worry. Back at home in Basel, Switzerland, Federer’s championship form kicked in with a vengeance. He won 10 of 11 sets, defeating Andy Roddick, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori to take the title, his fifth in Basel. A week later, Federer was hoisting the trophy again, at the ATP Masters 1000 in Paris, winning all 10 sets – the last two, perhaps appropriately, over Tsonga. 

Thus, Federer came into the Nitto ATP Finals with some late-season momentum, looking for what would be a record sixth year-end finals crown. Still, the overwhelming favourite was Djokovic, who had put together a remarkable 2011 campaign, including three major titles and four Masters 1000s. The Serbian star had accumulated twice as many ranking points as the No.4-seeded Federer and had a comfortable margin over No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Andy Murray.

Group B featured round-robin competition between Federer, Nadal, Tsonga and Mardy Fish. Nadal, whose collective record against the other three was a robust 30-11, was the leading light, followed at a distance by Federer (20-21). Nadal’s 17- 8 head-to-head record against Federer – 3-0 in 2011 – seemed to be the telling statistic.

Digging a little deeper, however, Federer was extremely comfortable in this sparkling venue, The O2 in London. In the year-end event’s second season in Great Britain, 2010, he took home the title for a record-tying fifth time, beating Nadal in a memorable three-set match. Considered by many to be the greatest indoor player ever, Federer’s unprecedented skill set was on display; the ludicrous hand-eye coordination, hitting the ball so early that groundstrokes sometimes looked like half-volleys, drop shots so sublime it was almost surprising when they didn’t evaporate.

On the opening day of action, Federer defeated Tsonga 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 for the second consecutive Sunday. Two days later, ignoring that daunting head-to-head disadvantage, Federer mastered Nadal 6-3, 6-0. His three-set win over Mardy Fish sent him soaring into the semifinals. That’s where he met David Ferrer, who emerged from the Group A round-robin matches after beating Murray, Djokovic and Tomas Berdych. Federer dispatched Ferrer in straight sets, setting up his third encounter with Tsonga in as many Sundays.

Roger Federer
Photo Credit: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

The Nov. 27 championship result: Federer, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3. It was the Swiss maestro’s 100th ATP-level final and his 70th title. London Mayor Boris Johnson and Real Madrid soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo were among those packed into The O2.

“It feels very special, indeed,” said Federer afterward. “I’ve been trying to sort of block it out for the entire tournament, the entire time I’ve been here in London. I just tried to recuperate from Basel and Paris and hopefully get through the round- robin.”

“I was extremely relieved. I can’t wait for the beach, I’m exhausted.”

Not only did Federer become the oldest year-end champion, surpassing Ilie Nastase by a year, but he broke a three-way tie with Ivan Lendl (1981-82, 1985-87) and Pete Sampras (1991, 1994, 1996-97, 1999) to become the first six-time winner of the tournament.

Djokovic will attempt to tie that mark this year at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy.


Federer – who won in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011 – won six in a remarkable span of nine years. His 59 year-end match wins, earned across three continents, is another ATP standard, well ahead of Djokovic in second, with 38. To date, he has qualified a record 17 times, including 14 straight, from 2002-15. The win over Tsonga elevated his ranking to No. 3, marking the ninth consecutive time he was in the year-end top three.

His 59-17 record – playing against the finest in the world – works out to a winning factor of 78 per cent, surpassed only by Lendl’s (39-10) 80 per cent, and ahead of Sampras (71 per cent), Djokovic (70 per cent) and Nadal (56 per cent).

After an uncertain beginning (by his supreme standards), Federer won his last 17 matches in 2011.

“This definitely is an amazing finish, again, to the season,” he said. “I’ve never finished so strong.

“So now it’s finally sort of reality that I’ve been able to win six World Tour Finals. It’s an amazing feeling. I know it’s one of my greatest accomplishments.”

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