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Alcaraz Soars To Milan Title

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Carlos Alcaraz finished his breakthrough 2021 season in style Saturday at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, downing Sebastian Korda 4-3(5), 4-2, 4-2 to win the title in Milan.

The 18-year-old is the first Spaniard to triumph at the 21-and-under event and is the youngest player to earn 32 tour-level victories in a year since Andrei Medvedev, 18, went 32-11 in 1992.

In a high-quality match, Alcaraz hammered his groundstrokes with his usual deadly precision, stepping inside the baseline to target Korda’s backhand as he pinned the American back. He broke twice and fired 15 winners to secure victory after 84 minutes.

“It is amazing,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. “To be able to win this tournament means a lot to me. I am so excited right now and emotional. I was very, very nervous at the start. I had to be calm to save the break points. I know Korda is serving very well, so I had to play my best in those moments.”

The top seed was in ruthless form at the Allianz Cloud throughout the tournament, dropping just one set en route to the title as he dispatched Holger Rune, Brandon Nakashima and Juan Manuel Cerundolo in the round-robin stage, before cruising past Argentine Sebastian Baez in the last four.

“It went 0/30 on my serve [when serving for the match],” Alcaraz added. “So I had to be focused in that moment and I had to stay calm. It was really, really tough.”

After beginning the year at No. 141 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Alcaraz has soared to a current career-high No. 32 under the guidance of coach Juan Carlos Ferrero. In a standout season, the 18-year-old clinched his maiden tour-level title in Umag and upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas as he reached the quarter-finals at the US Open.

Alcaraz also advanced to tour-level semi-finals in Marbella, Winston-Salem and Vienna, where he defeated World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini. He showcased the experience he has gained this season against Korda, remaining focused in front of a lively crowd in Italy to become the fourth Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion, joining Hyeon Chung, Tsitsipas and Jannik Sinner.

In a tight first set, Korda quickly found his rhythm, striking his flat groundstrokes with great depth. But the American was unable to convert any of the five break points he had as Alcaraz showed his fighting skills to force a tie-break. From 4/5 in the tie-break, Alcaraz won both points on Korda’s serve as he outmanoeuvred the 21-year-old, before sealing the set with a forehand volley winner.

Alcaraz continued to play aggressively in the second set as he closed the net effectively to further impose himself on Korda. The Spaniard did not face a break point in the second set, sealing it with one of the four aces he hit in the match. Fuelled by momentum, Alcaraz put his foot down in the third set, forcing Korda into mistakes with his depth to secure the title. 

Korda, who also earned a perfect 3-0 round-robin record in Milan, captured his first tour-level title in Parma in May and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in July. The World No. 39 defeated countryman Brandon Nakashima in five sets in the semi-final to become the first American to advance to the championship match at the 21-and-under event.

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First-Time Winner Spotlight: Tommy Paul

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Tommy Paul saved his best result of the season for its final week as he triumphed at the Stockholm Open.

A semi-finalist at the Emilia-Romagna Open in May, Paul made the last 16 at the BNP Paribas Open with a win over Andrey Rublev. Unseeded in Stockholm, the 24-year-old American rose to the occasion in his first final, outlasting defending champion Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. sat down with the World No. 52 right after he captured his maiden title in Stockholm to find out more about the significance of this milestone achievement for Paul.

What does it mean to you to win your first ATP Tour title?
Everything. I’ve been working very, very hard. The first one obviously means the most and I’ll remember this one the most but hopefully I’ll have many more. It just motivates me to try to go out and try to get more now.

You’ve beaten Leo Borg, Taylor Fritz, Andy Murray and Frances Tiafoe this week, often saying you’re “playing some of your best tennis”. What’s been the key or the difference this week?
I’ve played very good matches. I think it’s been because I’ve had a lot of matches in a row in the past seven weeks, gaining confidence every week, and then also the vibes in Stockholm are amazing. I’m just having a lot of fun out on court, a lot of fun.

Of all the things you’ve achieved this year — Top 50 breakthrough, first Top 5 win and now your first ATP Tour title — what will encourage you to push even harder in the 2022 season?
I think, honestly, I don’t need too much extra motivation. I’m a very motivated guy, even if I’m, like, quietly motivated. I know my goals and I’m pretty excited to accomplish them and hopefully keep accomplishing them.

Please can you talk about the influence of Brad Stine, who you’ve known since the age of 14-15, and your team in general?
Brad has been a big influence, especially. He’s told me these things for two, maybe three years, about being more aggressive and getting to the net, but I think I really started putting it to work and putting it into the match play the past four months, and it’s been huge. I’ve been playing a lot better and I’m going to continue to play like that and should probably listen to him a bit more. And then my team in general, I just have good people around me, I think that’s very important for any player and any team. Good people around me push me in the right direction and a lot of people at home, a lot of people that aren’t even tennis involved, they support me and motivate me. It’s good to have a good team around you.

After a couple of significant injuries in the past, what sacrifices have you made off-court to help you perform better as a tennis player?
It’s a good question. There’s endless answers to this. Every day you have a million decisions that you have to make, and I think the best thing I’ve done this year is before I make any decision, I ask myself if this is best for my tennis. And that’s what I’ve been doing. So in some ways you can call that sacrifice.

At 24, do you feel you’re beginning to enter the peak years of your career?
I hope not, man. I hope my peak years are around 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 … [laughing]. I feel like I’m starting to know my game better and executing my play style better and I hope I have a long peak, you know? A long peak career.

On your bio it states, “Short-term goals are to improve your net game and win your first ATP Tour title.” What are your next goals going to be?
My first ATP title was definitely my number one goal this year, and I actually got it at the last tournament of the year, just about as late as you can get it. I’m happy with that, but I want to win more. I want to win a lot more. And it’s a lot more fun when you’re winning matches than when you’re losing matches. I definitely want to do that. My next goals are to win bigger titles. Win more 250s, 500s. I just want to play big matches against my friends deep in tournaments.

Could you take a moment to acknowledge some of the key figures in your life and tennis-playing career who have helped you to reach this milestone?
Wow, there’s a lot of people. My mom. Brad, obviously. Diego Moyano, he was my coach for the longest time, taught me what being a professional was – I didn’t really listen too well, but he told it to me. My friend TJ Pura took me out of a couple of dark times in my life and just a lot of friends around me, always supporting me. Even the other Americans, Frances [Tiafoe], [Taylor] Fritz, Reilly [Opelka], they’ve all been very supportive and always try to help me out when they can. It’s endless, there’s a lot of people, my trainers and everything.

What do you consider to be your biggest passion outside of tennis and can you tell us a little bit about that interest?
I’m just a sports fan all round. I love sports. When I say “all round”, I’m not huge into soccer, not huge into baseball – I like watching play-off baseball. But basketball, I will play basketball any day, I will watch basketball every day. I like being outside, like watching football, college basketball, any sports, man, I love it.

This is a milestone moment in your career. How will you celebrate this victory?
I don’t know, man, that’s a tough question. After being in Stockholm, I’m ready to go home. Obviously I’m super happy to be here and win my first title here, but I am ready to go home. I’ve been away from home for a long time and I’m going to go on a little vacation when I get back, so pumped to relax and do that.

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Next Gen ATP E-Series Reaches Conclusion In Milan

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

The 2021 NextGenATP E-Series came to a conclusion on Saturday in Milan with the best eight eSports players competing on Tennis World Tour 2.

Organised by Mkers, ATP and FIT, 128 players have competed since June with virtual racquets in six online tournament stages, with the top eight qualifying for the final event at the Allianz Cloud.

On the event, managing director and board member of Mkers, Paolo Cisaria said: “For the first time, representative institutions such as ATP and FIT decide to enter the esports world. This important collaboration gives Mkers a further step towards the internationalisation of the group. The 2021 Next Gen ATP E-Series is another step towards the credibility and importance of esports and the virtual tennis world.”

In an exciting final, second seed Isniper, who was playing with Juan Martin del Portro, overcame fourth seed IdusMartias, who was also controlling Del Portro, 4-3(5), 4-3(6) to triumph.

“It feels great to win,” Lorenzo Cioffi said, who uses the handle Isniper. “Especially after playing online, it was great to play here. I practised two hours a day into the lead up to the event, focusing on a few things that I needed to work on.”

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Watch Djokovic & Co. #TakeOverTorino

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Local Italians around the Piazza San Carlo in Turin received an unforgettable surprise on Friday morning.

The singles competitors at the Nitto ATP Finals — Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Matteo Berrettini, Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud — walked by to take their official group photo near the Piazza ahead of the season finale.

“Tennis has been booming on the men’s side in Italy, with Matteo, [Fabio] Fognini and [Jannik] Sinner in the past couple of years,” Djokovic said. “There is a good vibe in the city and everyone looks forward to supporting the tournament, and Matteo in particular. Everyone here wants to finish off the year in the best possible way.”

The stars said in unison “Takeover Torino!” as they departed the player hotel for the Piazza. It did not take long for locals to realise who was passing by.

Several players had fans shout their names en route, and one man even told Djokovic, “I need a coach for my next tournament!”, eliciting a laugh from the World No. 1.

Djokovic, who will chase a record-tying sixth Nitto ATP Finals title from 14-21 November at the Pala Alpitour, told Hurkacz and Tsitsipas during their walk that he competed in Turin when he was 15.

Asked for advice he would give Hurkacz — who was wearing a tan turtleneck sweater with a dark-coloured blazer over it — on his tournament debut, the Serbian quickly said he might need advice from the Pole.

“He already is setting a trend here with his fashion statement today!” Djokovic said.

With dozens of fans snapping pictures and taking videos on their phones, the eight players walked up and down a path to capture the photo, before returning to the hotel to get transport to the venue for media day.

Photos below: Getty Images for ATP

Nitto ATP Finals

Daniil Medvedev

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Hubert Hurkacz and Novak Djokovic

Andrey Rublev

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Mektic & Pavic Seek 10th Title Of Season In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

There’s no question that Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are being seen as the team to beat at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, where they are pursuing their 10th title of 2021.

After a stellar season including winning Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and three ATP Masters 1000 titles, the Croatian pairing have already secured the year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Ranking – a first for Mektic: “Considering [the] season we had, I was really hoping we could crown it somehow with this achievement, so I’m very, very happy.”

Pavic has been part of year-end World No. 1 pairings twice before, with Oliver Marach and Bruno Soares, but he’s never known a start to the season like the one he had with Mektic. The duo won 56 of their first 61 matches in 2021.

“It definitely was not easy,” Pavic acknowledged. “At one point I think we had, I read somewhere, a 17-1 record in the super tie-breaks, so obviously a lot of those matches that we won were tough matches. We won it in super tie-breaks and that’s just a few points, a few balls here and there…

“I think the biggest thing was just to get to know each other on the court a little bit, because we never really played together an official match. We were lucky enough to win the first two tournaments, had a lot of matches even before Australia, so from the beginning we found a chemistry on the court and we played well and that was the thing.”

The chemistry that Mektic and Pavic found at the start of 2021 proved enduring. Over the following eight months, the nine ATP Tour-level titles they claimed spanned hard courts, clay and grass. They became the first all-Croatian pairing to win Wimbledon, then went on to become Olympic gold medallists in Tokyo. Both men came into this partnership as proven elite players, but not even they could have expected so much success so fast.

“To be honest I was hoping we can be the best,” Mektic admitted. “I knew we were going to be good, no reason not to [expect that], but I was hoping we could be the best.

“Of course, it’s tough to expect nine titles especially three Masters Series, Grand Slam, Olympics. Those are unbelievable titles, unbelievable results, it’s tough to expect something like this. But I was confident that we could be the best team in the world.”

Now Mektic and Pavic will end 2021 as the top doubles pairing in the world, no matter what happens at the Nitto ATP Finals. That doesn’t mean the Croatian duo aren’t still hungry for success at the year-end championships, which would be a first for them as a team. “Well, I’ve never won it, he did last year [with Wesley Koolhof],” Pavic said. “I would love to lift the trophy here obviously.”

With such an elite field in Turin, Mektic and Pavic aren’t taking anything for granted. “I don’t consider ourselves favourites compared to everybody else. Everyone who’s here is really, really good,” Mektic said.

“I think everybody knows here that they have a chance to go all the way, so I don’t think anybody’s super-pumped to beat us [more] than anybody else. So we’re going to look for our chances same as everybody else and we’re going to try to be the best every day.”

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Tsitsipas: Eat, Sleep, Succeed!

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas is hoping to take an extra step in his career next year, after a successful 2021 campaign.

Speaking ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals, the Greek star admitted, “The year has been really good. I started the year with the intention to eat better, sleep better and put my body in a better schedule. It was all for my tennis.

“I have achieved a lot of goals to pursue a better career this year and I’m happy where that led, but I have also had my downs this year. Things became too much, a lot of travelling and the pandemic influenced a few decisions.

“Overall, I am happy where I stand and I want to take an extra step and aim even higher next year. That will require new fresh goals, and also [my attempts] to becoming more professional. Working to find where the one per cent lies, or the five per cent, where I can benefit from it. I will of course have my team to help me get to that five per cent that I’m looking for.”

In 2021, Tsitsipas won his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Rublev) in April and also contested his first major championship final at Roland Garros (l. to Djokovic) in June.

Drawn in the Green Group, alongside World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion is recovering from a shoulder injury that hindered him at last week’s Rolex Paris Masters.

“In Paris, the pain was unbearable,” said Tsitsipas. “I had to quit during the match. It was very painful for me to let the crowd down, but I had to for my wellbeing. The last couple of days I have been practising with a little bit of pain, but I have less than five or six days ago when I started again. I am doing everything possible to recover from it.”

Tsitsipas plays Rublev in his first round-robin match on Monday night at the Pala Alpitour in Turin.

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Alcaraz, Korda Look To Cap Breakout Seasons With Milan Title

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Two of the hottest young stars on the ATP Tour will look to cap breakout seasons in the perfect manner when they clash in Saturday’s title match of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Heading into their first ATP Head2Head meeting, other than age, little separates top seed Carlos Alcaraz and second seed Sebastian Korda, who both take unbeaten 4-0 records into the decider.

“The final is going to be really, really tough,” Alcaraz said after defeating Argentine Sebastian Baez in Fridays’ semi-finals. “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.”

How To Watch The Final (9pm CET/3pm ET)

Spain’s Alcaraz is looking to become the second consecutive 18-year-old (Jannik Sinner) to capture the 21-and-under event. Like his rival, 21-year-old Korda is chasing his second title of the season. Alcaraz had just one tour-level win coming into 2021; Korda had just three. Today, both players are chasing the 32nd win of their respective breakout seasons.

Win number 32 would match Alcaraz’s current career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 32, which has him as the highest-ranked player by age since former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was No. 31 more than two decades ago in August 1999.

In earning his 30th win of the season in group play against Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Alcaraz became the youngest player to notch 30 wins in a season since an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal went 30-17 in 2004. If he wins the title, Alcaraz will match Andrei Medvedev, 18, with 32 wins in 1992.

But Alcaraz is sure to not be thinking about milestones. His focus will be singular: beating World No. 39 Korda, who is pumped up for the challenge.

Speaking before Alcaraz had taken the court for the late semi-final, former junior World No. 1 Korda said that he hoped to get the chance to end his season with a showdown against the man with whom he could be about to forge a decade-long rivalry.

“I hope it’s Carlos. I’ve never practised with him, I’ve never played him in a match; it will be really exciting,” Korda said. “Hopefully we can have a lot of battles in the next coming years; he’s playing some incredible tennis, really aggressive player and really strong mentally, so, yeah, it will be a new challenge and I’m really looking forward to it if it happens.”

Note: The Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals does not count as an official tour-level title in a player’s record.

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Emotional Lindstedt Honoured In Stockholm Retirement Ceremony

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Robert Lindstedt won 23 tour-level doubles titles over an illustrious 23-year career. On Thursday, Lindstedt and countryman Andre Goransson lost in the quarter-finals of the Stockholm Open to mark the end of the Swedish star’s ATP Tour career.

An emotional Lindstedt was joined during the retirement ceremony by fellow Swedes Thomas Enqvist, Jonas Bjorkman, Robin Soderling and Simon Aspelin.

“It’s amazing. I don’t know if I’m going through some sort of shock or something, but it’s a big part of my life and some of these guys are my best friends,” Lindstedt said during a special ceremony on Friday. “It was really nice that the tournament and the ATP did something nice for me and it means a lot to me. I’m going to always remember that.”

The fans will always remember Lindstedt, too. Not only did the former No. 3 player in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings earn impressive achievements on the court, but he also endeared himself to fans with his quick wit and competitive spirit.

“Something that I am actually proud of is how I’ve managed to deal with setbacks, all the injuries I’ve had and that I’ve managed to find the energy to do rehab and just accepting that this is the situation,” Lindstedt said. “Every time I’ve gotten an injury, I’ve alway come back and kept winning. Not as much as I want, but just the fact that as my fitness coach Ali Ghelem tells me, he says I have most grit than most guys he’s ever worked with.”

Lindstedt still performed well late in his career, claiming his final title in 2019 aged 42. Some of his greatest accomplishments include lifting the Australian Open trophy in 2014 and helping lead Sweden to the World Team Cup title in 2008. But he also had some near misses, including losses in three consecutive Wimbledon finals alongside Horia Tecau from 2010-2012.

“I’m forever going to miss it, but it also hurts in the end when you lose more that you feel like you should. You feel like you deserve to win more than you are, which obviously, there’s no such thing as deserving in sports,” Lindstedt said. “There comes a time when all of these factors come into a decision and for me it’s been pretty clear that after this year, I’m done.”

The 44-year-old still hopes to play Davis Cup at the end of the year for his country, but this was his final ATP Tour event.

“It’s both a natural process and the body eventually giving up on you. There comes a time when you just can’t take the pain anymore,” Lindstedt said. “There just comes a time when you weight your options and you feel like, ‘Yeah, I don’t really have this in me’.

“Looking back at my career, I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished. I went a different way obviously than most guys, but it was the only way I knew how to.”

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Hurkacz On Nitto ATP Finals Debut: ‘It’s Emotional’

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz did not expect to be at the Nitto ATP Finals at the start of 2021, but nearly 11 months later he has made history.

Hurkacz is just the second Polish singles player to reach the season finale, joining Wojtek Fibak. The 24-year-old has been soaking it all in since arriving in Turin this week.

“It’s emotional. It’s super cool to be here. I’m very excited to play in the Finals,” Hurkacz said. “It’s such a small group of people playing here and so much fun. That atmosphere is going to be amazing with the Italian fans.”

At the beginning of the season, Hurkacz was outside the Top 30 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. But winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open presented by Itau changed everything for the Pole.

“The beginning of the year, probably not. I didn’t think about it. Then later in the year after winning the Miami title, obviously that put me higher in the Race and then suddenly you think yeah, you might have a chance to qualify,” Hurkacz said. “Probably since then maybe I was thinking a little bit I would have a chance.”

Nitto ATP Finals
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for ATP
Hurkacz was the last player to earn his place at the Pala Alpitour, but he is now in alongside the likes of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and defending champion Daniil Medvedev. It is a special moment for Polish tennis, since Iga Swiatek is competing in the WTA Finals this week.

“I think it’s amazing. Iga has been playing pretty amazing tennis,” Hurkacz said. “She won a Grand Slam, so that’s so special for the whole country and for tennis in our country. Now that we both have qualified this year for the Finals, it’s great. It’s going to grow the sport in Poland and it’s just something really, really amazing.”

The seventh seed mentioned that the court is “quite fast” and that the balls are “also quite fast”, which he will try to take advantage of with his big serve. He is in the Red Group with Medvedev, 2018 winner Alexander Zverev and home favourite Matteo Berrettini.

“Both of the groups are super tough. Just eight guys qualified here,” Hurkacz said. “We will see [what happens].”

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Shapovalov Closes In On Second Stockholm Title

  • Posted: Nov 13, 2021

Denis Shapovalov is one victory away from retaining the Stockholm Open title. Friendship was cast aside Friday when the third-seeded Canadian Shapovalov broke a two-match losing streak against second-seeded compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime in a 6-4, 7-5 victory over one hour and 58 minutes.

“I am very happy to have played exceptional tennis today,” said Shapovalov. “Felix is an incredible player, so I knew I had to come out and play big. We know each other well. It definitely means a lot to reach the final.”


With his 30th match win of the season, Shapovalov will meet American Tommy Paul in Saturday’s final at the Kungliga Tennishallen. The pair has not met before.

“It’s crazy that it’s our first meeting ever,” said Shapovalov. “We grew up in juniors together, he was a couple of years older. I am a big fan of his game and it was only a matter of time before he came up with a week like this. We’re big shot-makers, so it should be fun.”

Shapovalov was full of energy in the first set, earning breaks of serve in the first game and at 2-4. Shapovalov, who barely missed a backhand in the opening exchanges, wobbled momentarily and was forced to recover from 15/40 when serving at 5-4.

Auger-Aliassime appeared to gain the momentum in the pair’s sixth ATP Head2Head meeting by breaking for a 3-1 advantage in the second set, but a reliance on his second serve soon cost the 21-year-old in the next game. At 5-5, a game of brutal ball-striking, Shapovalov decisively broke to love and later closed out the encounter with his seventh ace.

World No. 53 Paul beat fellow American Frances Tiafoe, the eighth seed, earlier in the day.

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