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Rested Rafa Primed For Turin Debut

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

Rested Rafa Primed For Turin Debut

Ruud faces Felix in afternoon matchup

With the pre-tournament pageantry complete in Turin, Sunday marks the start of play at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals. Group-stage action will light up the Pala Alpitour, with top seed Rafael Nadal set to close opening day with his matchup against tournament debutant Taylor Fritz.

Casper Ruud takes on the red-hot Felix Auger-Aliassime in the afternoon, after Roland Garros champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Marcelo Arevalo open play against Harri Heliovaara and Lloyd Glasspool. Last year’s doubles finalists, Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram, will also take the court against Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

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[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [8] Taylor Fritz (USA)

Nadal fell out of the rhythm of the ATP Tour in the second half of the season, for reasons both good and bad. He welcomed the birth of his first child in October but also spent time out of action as he recovered from two abdominal tears, suffered at Wimbledon and just before the US Open.

After an early exit at the Rolex Paris Masters, he said he would travel to Turin early in his bid to get back to the peak form that saw him start the season with a personal-best 20 straight wins. Indeed, the Spaniard was one of the first to begin practising in Northern Italy.

“I’m happy because I’ve been able to train and I’m excited to play well,” Nadal told in Turin. “If I didn’t think I had a chance to fight for what I came for, I wouldn’t be here. I think I have a chance.”

What he came for is the last big title he has yet to win in his legendary career. If the 2010 and 2013 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up can go all the way in his 11th appearance at the event, his triumph would also earn him the year-end No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking for the sixth time.

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Nadal’s first assignment is Taylor Fritz, with whom he split two high-profile matches this season. Fritz won their first 2022 meeting in his native Southern California, riding his big serve and forehand to the Indian Wells title with a 6-3, 7-6(5) victory. In the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Nadal pulled out a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(10-4) victory while struggling with an abdominal issue that later forced his withdrawal from the event.

With his serve severely limited, the Spaniard succeed in dragging the American into rallies on the grass, firing from the ground after working hard to create openings.

On the hard courts in Turin, Fritz will be looking to take full advantage of the indoor conditions as he aims to level his ATP Head2Head at 2-2 against Nadal.

“Playing Rafa is a big deal,” Fritz said. “The match we had at Wimbledon was very close. Between the two matches we’ve played, there were very high highs [after Indian Wells] and very low lows [following Wimbledon]. I’m excited to be opening with him on Sunday night.”

Fritz also hopes to reap the rewards of an early arrival in Turin, with the American electing to remain in Europe after Paris.

Ruud vs. Auger-Aliassime

[3] Casper Ruud (NOR) vs. [5] Felix Auger-Aliassime

Ruud backed up his run to the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals with a career-best season that saw him rise to World No. 2 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings following his run to the US Open final. A three-time ATP Tour champion in 2022, Ruud also reached the final at Roland Garros and in Miami, where he began to flash his hard-court credentials.

In the closing months of a gruelling year, Ruud was not able to continue his strong form after the US Open, failing to record multiple victories at any of the four tournaments he played. 

The Norwegian is hoping the passionate support of the Turin crowd can help him get back to his best tennis.

“This is such a great place, great city to play in,” he said. “The Italian fans are so passionate that you will feel the energy from the moment you step on court, which hopefully can lift you a little bit, no mater who you are or who you are playing… They really know what they’re doing here in Italy when it comes to the sport of tennis and that’s a great feeling for us.”


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Ruud will need to be firing on all cylinders to beat Auger-Aliassime, who enters Turin as perhaps the hottest player on the ATP Tour. No one had a better indoor season than the Canadian, who won three straight titles in Florence, Antwerp and Basel before reaching the Paris semi-finals as he secured his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Auger-Aliassime will seek to break down Ruud’s consistent game with his heavy firepower, though the Norwegian has shown this season that he can also attack with the game’s best, his high-RPM forehand among the season’s standout shots.

While the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime’s competitive fire will be on full display come Sunday afternoon, the Canadian took a moment to reflect on his accomplishment in reaching Turin before the action begins.

“I remember watching [the Nitto ATP Finals] for the first time in my early teenage years,” he said. “I remember just being inspired by it and feeling that it would be amazing to be a part of that. Now that I’m here, it’s a full-circle moment. It’s really special and I hope it’s not the last time.”

As if he needed any added motivation, Auger-Aliassime will be seeking a measure of revenge against Ruud after the Norwegian knocked him out of his hometown tournament with a dominant win in the Montreal quarter-finals.

Doubles Action

Ram and Salisbury look to complete unfinished business in Turin after reaching the final one year ago. The second seeds are making their fourth consecutive Nitto ATP Finals appearance as a team, with Ram set for his sixth showing overall. The British-American pair won three titles in 2022, at the US Open and the ATP Masters 1000s in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati.

Their opening opponents, seventh seeds Granollers and Zeballos, won the Halle title this season and reached five additional semi-finals, including at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Ram/Salisbury lead the ATP Head2Head between the pairs 4-2, with their most recent meeting last year in Rome.

Reigning Roland Garros champs Arevalo and Rojer have the privilege of opening play in Turin against sixth seeds Glasspool and Heliovaara. The teams have already met twice this season, with Arevalo/Rojer earning straight-sets victories in the Dallas and Stockholm finals. 

Sixth seeds Glasspool and Heliovaara are one of two teams making their Nitto ATP Finals debut this week, along with Aussies Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios. The British-Finnish duo claimed the Hamburg title this season and reached six additional finals.

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With 'Tough Draw', Medvedev Stops Shy Of Turin Prediction

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

With ‘Tough Draw’, Medvedev Stops Shy Of Turin Prediction

2020 champ in Red Group with Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Rublev

After a “crazy” string of matches led him to the title match last year at the Nitto ATP Finals, Daniil Medvedev returns to Turin with his sights set on a third straight run to the final at the prestigious event.

The 26-year-old was an undefeated champion in London in 2020, and again reached the final with a perfect 4-0 record last season before falling to Alexander Zverev. Each of his round-robin matches in 2021 went three sets as he defeated Hubert Hurkacz, Zverev and Jannik Sinner.

“They were crazy,” he said of his group-stage contests. “Two final-set tie-breaks, and against Hubert was also a crazy, close match. I remember it like if it was yesterday.

“That’s the thing about the [Nitto] ATP Finals. Every match is going to be tough. Even if you’re going to, for some reason, win with an easy score, it’s going to be a tough match still — tough mentally, where from the first to last point you have to show your best tennis. That’s what we love about it.”

That will certainly hold true this year, as Medvedev was drawn into a stacked Red Group that also includes five-time Nitto ATP Finals champ Novak Djokovic, 2019 winner Stefanos Tsitsipas and sixth seed Andrey Rublev.

“I felt it’s a pretty tough draw,” Medvedev assessed. “At the same time, in the other group we also have great players… It’s not easy in any group.

“But as I said, there are top players and if you want to win this tournament, you have to beat the best. Our group, I feel like, is pretty even and everybody can go through. Everybody [in the group] has beaten everybody at least once, so that’s great. We’re going to have some great tennis.”


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Now a veteran of the Nitto ATP Finals in his fourth straight appearance, Medvedev is enjoying the unique atmosphere in Turin.

“Its great tournament,” he said. “From the first day, you practise with our opponents and rivals in this tournament because you have no other choice. Of course you have hitting partners, but you want to also play sets against top opponents.

“This feeling when you’re waiting for the groups to come out to know who you can practise with from the other group, to not practise with your opponents — that’s a lot of fun.

“From the first match, you’re going to play a tough opponent. There is a special energy about this tournament and I absolutely love it, and I hope to show my best tennis. I’m feeling confident, but you never know before the first match.”

So, who will walk away with trophy?

“I cannot answer this question because I hope it’s me,” Medvedev said with a smile. “But I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to be like, ‘It’s me winning this week.’ 

“It’s almost a superstition, that ‘Then he’s not going to do it.’ I hope I’m going to play some good tennis and try to make lt.”

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Nadal Ready To 'Fight For What I Came For' In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

Nadal Ready To ‘Fight For What I Came For’ In Turin

Spaniard set to compete in Turin for the first time

On the steps of the Gallerie d’Italia in the majestic Piazza San Carlo, Rafael Nadal explains that his son, who was born in October, is with him in Turin. The 36-year-old is set for his debut in the Italian city, where he will be competing in his 11th Nitto ATP Finals starting on Sunday. 

The Spaniard, who has a chance to finish the year as No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the sixth time in his career, is bidding to claim the only big title that is yet to adorn his trophy cabinet, and to put the icing on the cake of his unforgettable season.

“I arrive here without match time, but in Paris I was playing well, a set and break up against Tommy Paul, a good player,” the World No. 2 told, having fallen at the first hurdle in the Rolex Paris Masters. “I’m happy because I’ve been able to train and I’m excited to play well. If I didn’t think I had a chance to fight for what I came for, I wouldn’t be here. I think I have a chance.”


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After several weeks without playing, Nadal returned to competition at the ATP Masters 1000 in Paris-Bercy, where he bowed out in his opener against the American Paul in three sets. He was evidently fatigued.

“There was no big problem,” admitted the Spaniard. “A long time without competing. I had a small problem with my stomach. I was nauseous at the end of the third set, I felt awful, but I didn’t say anything because it wouldn’t have been right,” he added. “I’m fine. A bad day. Later I was able to get back to training normally without any problems.

“It’s clear that in the past five months, I’ve played very little,” continued the 22-time Grand Slam champion. “Unfortunately, what happened at Wimbledon happened, and from there I’ve played very little. It was an accumulation of negative situations in terms of fitness,” he explained.

“To me, it’s important to end the year competing, which I wasn’t able to do in 2021. You never know. Things often change dramatically in sport. I’m playing well, but it’s better to arrive with confidence and wins because there’s no margin for error here, playing against the best.”

Thursday’s draw placed Nadal’s name in the Green Group, where he will face Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Taylor Fritz. With a 5-1 combined record against the trio, the draw would seem to favour Nadal’s progress into the semi-finals.

“Here, you’re playing against the best,” said the Mallorcan. “Things can go your way, but if you don’t play at a very high level, you’re not going to have real chances. I don’t like coming back from an injury in Cincinnati or Paris, when you’re going to play someone who’s very good from the start. It’s almost preferable to return at a Grand Slam if you’re physically fit,” he reasoned. “You grow with your wins, and at majors there is more margin in the draws, unless you’re very unlucky, but I’m feeling fine and excited about it.”

Nadal’s physical struggles have included his recurring abdominal issues, which have plagued him all too often throughout the second half of the season.

“I’ve been serving normally for some time,” explained the Spaniard. “Unfortunately, I tore my abs twice this year: at Wimbledon and the week before the US Open, even though I didn’t say anything. That forced me to serve differently to how I normally do,” he noted.

“It is what it is. You have to deal with what you have. It’s important to me to play a few tournaments consecutively. I need continuity, which I had up to Indian Wells,” he continued. “Let’s see if next year I can get that. That’s why I’m down to play the United Cup the first week of the season. I want to spend more time on Tour, competing and training. At this point of my career, I’m driven by passion, by feeling competitive when training with the best. That’s what I’ve been missing in the past five months. I’ve spent very few days on Tour, for fitness and personal reasons. We’re going to try and get back into that rhythm again.”

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At the moment, Nadal is only thinking about Turin, where he will be looking for the one big trophy missing from his CV.

“As I was saying, I haven’t been good enough,” repeated the Spaniard. “That’s the reality of sport… I’ve qualified [for the Nitto ATP Finals] 17 times, but I haven’t been competitive those 17 times,” he said, with injuries keeping him from playing on six occasions “I don’t know how many times I’ve been able to play in the event with a real chance. I haven’t been the best player on indoor [hard courts], which is where I’ve always played this event, in fast conditions. Historically, that’s been the worst surface for me. It’s not about nerves. I’ve won things in my career that have made me feel like that. It’s simply that I haven’t been good enough at this time of year and in those circumstances to win this tournament.”

Returning to the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time since 2020, when he lost to Daniil Medvedev in a three-set semi-final, the Spaniard has a score to settle.

“It’s true that in recent years I’ve made positive improvements on this surface,” said Nadal. “In 2020, when I was knocked out by Medvedev, I missed the best opportunity of my career. It was one of the most painful defeats that season.”

The defeat stopped Nadal short of a third title match at the ATP Tour’s season finale, after he reached that stage in 2010 and 2013. He has another golden opportunity to rectify that this year.

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Tsitsipas Takes Long View On 'Marathon' Race For World No. 1

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

Tsitsipas Takes Long View On ‘Marathon’ Race For World No. 1

Greek in Red Group with Djokovic, Medvedev, Rublev

Stefanos Tsitsipas knows what it takes to win the Nitto ATP Finals. After claiming the title in London in his 2019 debut, the Greek is looking forward to making new memories in Turin, where his 2021 showing was cut short by an elbow injury.

If the second seed can recapture the year-end title as an undefeated champion, he will finish the season atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.

“I’m actually very determined and extremely privileged to be in a position to be fighting for the World No. 1 spot, because it’s always been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to be crowned World No. 1,” he told ATP Media ahead of the event.

“It would definitely mean a lot. It’s an amazing thing to accomplish something like this. I’m going to try to be relaxed, enjoy the process of it, not think too much of the destination, but the journey is the one that matters the most. In this case, playing good tennis and enjoying myself out on the court is much more important than obsessing over that World No. 1 title, which might come now or come later. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint.”

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While the Greek admitted nerves about his opportunity to reach No. 1 contributed to his first-round exit at the US Open — where a title would have lifted him to the top spot — he enters Turin with a fresh mindset, full of confidence after a consistent season in which he captured two titles and won a tour-leading 60 matches.

“I’m feeling very good with my body and my game,” he said. “I’m glad to be here fighting for something prestigious in this type of an event. I’ve earned my spot playing consistent tennis throughout the entire year with good results on pretty much all surfaces. It turned out better than I thought it would, and I’m happy now, sitting in this chair, being part of the eight best players in the world.”

The two-time defending Monte Carlo champion far outpaced his own expectations early in the year as he reached the Australian Open semi-finals just two months after surgery on his dominant elbow.

“I was not thinking of the best things at the time and my mind was very much occupied with how I am going to recover from that, how I’m going to come back stronger,” Tsitsipas explained. “I honestly didn’t have any expectations during the beginning of the year. I thought I’m going to pick up later during the year, perhaps in the middle of the clay-court swing I’m going to start maybe feeling better with my arm. My doctor told me that it might take some time.

“I was able to produce some really good tennis at the first Grand Slam of the year, playing with not that much of an expectation, I would say, when I was out on the court. I kept collecting a lot of points in the beginning of the season, and that kind of gave me a sign, an idea of where I’m standing with my game, that I shouldn’t back off, that this is an opportunity right now that I can actually use.”

Drawn in the loaded Red Group in Turin, where he is joined by former Nitto ATP Finals champions Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, as well as the dangerous Andrey Rublev, Tsitsipas has his work cut out for him at the Pala Alpitour. He wouldn’t have it any other way.


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“It’s not meant to be easy, is it?” he said with a laugh. “These kinds of events you don’t get very often during the year. It’s the only event of the year that’s so demanding, where the intensity is so high. Regardless of who you’re going to be drawn with, it just simply doesn’t matter. All these players can play, We’re quite even.

“Until we go out on the court, it’s the psychology that you put out there, it’s the hard work that you have to instill to get a good result and [make sure] nothing falls out of place.”

Tsitsipas opens play on Monday evening against Djokovic in a rematch of their thrilling semi-final at the Rolex Paris Masters, a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4) win for the Serbian which improved his ATP Head2Head record against Tsitsipas to 9-2.

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Champions Become Champion: The Ultimate Battle In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

Champions Become Champion: The Ultimate Battle In Turin

Play begins Sunday at the Pala Alpitour

The Nitto ATP Finals has arrived. All eight singles players competing in the season finale are champions — they have combined to claim 26 titles between them in 2022.

But only one man will emerge the ultimate champion from the Pala Alpitour.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have claimed plenty of hardware in their historic careers. The all-time greats own 182 tour-level crowns between them. Djokovic has been particularly successful at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he can tie Roger Federer’s record of six season finale titles this year.

Nadal, a 17-time qualifier for the year-end championships, will try to earn glory at the tournament for the first time. The Spaniard is as eager as always to give his all on court.

“When I enter a tennis tournament, I want to win and I’m going to try my best to achieve that goal,” Nadal told ATP Media on Friday. “Here I was not able to make it, I was not good enough to make it in the past. So I just accept that and I’m happy to give myself another chance at the age of 36 — something, for me, that was difficult to imagine years ago.”

Djokovic and Nadal have shown their champion qualities for years. The rest of the field is 26 or younger.

<a href=''>Nitto ATP Finals</a>
Photo Credit: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
That has not prevented them from shining, however. The other players competing in Turin have followed the #NextGenATP path to success. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz have all played the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, while Felix Auger-Aliassime qualified for the event. Alternates Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz also competed in Milan.

Now some of the Tour’s brightest young champions will try to become champion once more this season. The most in-form player on the circuit is Auger-Aliassime, who won 16 of his final 17 matches this year to earn his spot in Turin, lifting trophies in Florence, Antwerp and Basel.

“I remember watching [the Nitto ATP Finals] for the first time in my early teenage years,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I remember just being inspired by it and feeling that it would be amazing to be a part of that. Now that I’m here, it’s a full-circle moment. It’s really special and I hope it’s not the last time.”

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The #NextGenATP pipeline is one to continue watching in the future. Eleven players who have competed in Milan (since 2017) have cracked the Top 10 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Two of them, Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz, have reached World No. 1.

Tsitsipas holds the distinction of winning the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in 2018 and triumphing at the Nitto ATP Finals the next. He will try to earn tennis’ ultimate prize again this year, when he can also claim year-end World No. 1 by winning all five of his matches in Turin. The Greek will need to battle past Djokovic, Medvedev and Rublev in Red Group.

“It’s not meant to be easy, is it? These kind of events you don’t get very often during the year. It’s the only event that is so demanding in terms of the intensity [being] so high,” Tsitsipas said. “Regardless of who you are going to be drawn with, it just simply doesn’t matter. All these players can play. We are quite even.

“Until we go out on the court… it’s the hard work that you have to instil to get away with a good result. Nothing falls out of place.”

Who will become the champion of champions this week? Tune into the biggest event of the year.

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'Something I Will Remember Forever': Doubles Debutants Dream Big In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

‘Something I Will Remember Forever’: Doubles Debutants Dream Big In Turin

New faces look to make mark on Nitto ATP Finals debut

Of the 16 doubles players competing at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals, seven are making their first appearance at the season-ending event. Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara are two of those debutants, and the British-Finnish pair is relishing the opportunity to compete in Turin.

“It’s a highlight [of my career],” Glasspool told at the pre-tournament media day on Saturday. “It’s something I will remember forever, hopefully my first of many. The first one, and even if this is it, I will definitely remember it. It’s a reward for a very good, consistent and hard-working two years.”

The British-Finnish duo is no stranger to the big stage, having reached quarter-finals at Roland Garros and the US Open and lifting their maiden ATP 500 title in Hamburg this season. Heliovaara is confident that the pair is ready to shine in the spotlight once again when they take to court in the intense atmosphere of the Pala Alpitour.

“I don’t think it will add nerves,” said the Finn. “It’s obviously interesting. Our first time here, so everything is new, but also everything is super nice. Huge stadium, a lot of people. It’s exciting but I’m pretty sure it’s going to make us play better.”

<a href=''>Ivan Dodig</a>/<a href=''>Mate Pavic</a>/<a href=''>Nikola Mektic</a>/<a href=''>Wesley Koolhof</a>
Ivan Dodig, Mate Pavic, Nikola Mektic and Wesley Koolhof. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour.

Glasspool and Heliovaara’s opening match on Sunday at 11:30 a.m (CET) is also the first of the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals. There will be another debutant on the other side of the net in Marcelo Arevalo, although the Salvadoran has the considerable experience of his partner, 2015 champion Jean-Julien Rojer, to fall back on.

“Playing with Jules, it means a lot to me, too, because I know his career,” said Arevalo, who won his maiden Grand Slam title alongside Rojer in June at Roland Garros. “He’s been on Tour so many years, more than me, so I try to squeeze a little of his experience every day. It makes me also more calm, and more secure to get into these events playing with someone next to me that has already been in this situation before. So I think that’s a nice feeling.”

<a href=''>Marcelo Arevalo</a>/<a href=''>Jean-Julien Rojer</a>
Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer in Turin. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Austin Krajicek also has the benefit of an experienced partner beside him. The American partners Ivan Dodig, set to compete at the event for the eighth time, with the duo arriving in Turin off the back of a stunning late-season charge that saw them win 14 of 16 matches on European hard courts and lift trophies in Naples and Basel.

“Ivan has a tonne of experience playing at the year-end finals, so I think we will work together as a team,” said Krajicek. “Ivan [offers] great leadership, and I think we are just excited to compete like we have been doing the past six months, and especially in the past couple of tournaments, and hopefully we can have a great result.”

<a href=''>Austin Krajicek</a>/<a href=''>Ivan Dodig</a>
Austin Krajicek and Ivan Dodig. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour.

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Shelton Soaks Up Lessons Learned On Challenger Tour

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

Shelton Soaks Up Lessons Learned On Challenger Tour

The 20-year-old is at a career-high 128

Still very early in his pro career, Ben Shelton is not letting any teachable moment go unlearned as he continues to make big progress on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Following heartbreaking losses in the Rome (Georgia), Chicago, and Tiburon Challenger finals, Shelton was left looking for answers on why he hadn’t lifted a Challenger trophy yet.

“I got to a point where I felt hopeless on court,” Shelton told Challenger Tour commentator Mike Cation. “Second round of Fairfield and second round of Las Vegas, I felt like I was the one getting attacked. Especially against Earnesto Escobedo [in Las Vegas].

“I’m okay with losing, but if I don’t do everything I can competitively to give myself a chance to win, that really upsets me. Coming out of Las Vegas, I was like, ‘That’s never going to happen again’. I’m not going to go down in the dumps and not give a full fight.”

ATP Challenger Tour 

Shelton was determined to get rid of his championship match struggles and it was only a matter of time before the lefty would be crowned champion.

A close friend offered Shelton some help. Christopher Eubanks, World No. 120 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, had a key conversation with Shelton at the Charlottesville Challenger. Little did the two know that they would meet in Sunday’s championship match.

“It was actually Chris [Eubanks] who told me a couple days before the final, he said, ‘You can’t help yourself with those [negative] thoughts that come into your mind’, Shelton said. “They are going to come, right after the point, you’re going to have a reaction, but how do you flip the script before you start the next point?’ When I was upset this week, I went into the next point bouncing, getting the negative energy out and turning it into a fire in my belly.”

Shelton survived the former Georgia Tech University standout 7-6(4), 7-5 and following the match they didn’t go into the locker room and call it a day. Instead, Eubanks drove Shelton to the airport so he could travel to the Knoxville Challenger.

<a href=''>Christopher Eubanks</a> (left) and <a href=''>Ben Shelton</a> following the Charlottesville Challenger final.
Christopher Eubanks (left) and Ben Shelton following the Charlottesville Challenger final. Credit: Allen Hoover

“There’s not a guy I would’ve rather played in the final,” Shelton said. “Nobody really understands what Chris has done for me. The support he’s given me is unmatched. He’s a selfless human being and a big brother to me.”

Shelton, who is coached by his father (Bryan, former World No. 55), has been building upon his NCAA singles title in May. The former University of Florida star is already making a sudden impact on the Challenger Tour. Since claiming the college crown, Shelton has reached seven Challenger semi-finals, including this week in Knoxville, and boasts a 28-8 Challenger match record in 2022. In Charlottesville, the 20-year-old dropped just one set en route to the title.

“I went in with a mindset that I was going to out compete everybody,” Shelton said. “I was going to bring more energy than everyone I played. I think that was a really big part of my success this week.”

Tennis fans have been keeping an eye on the rising American star. This summer, Shelton earned his maiden Tour-level win at the ATP 250 event in Atlanta (d. Ramanathan). The following month, Shelton stunned then-World No. 5 Casper Ruud at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati and made his Grand Slam debut at the US Open. And Shelton’s game is only improving.

<a href=''>Ben Shelton</a>
Ben Shelton at the 2022 Western & Southern Open. Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour

“One piece [that has improved] is the return,” Shelton said. “If I played the final against Chris [Eubanks] in June, I don’t know how many returns I would’ve put in play. I think my defence has improved. I’m pretty good when I’m on offence but I was looking at some stats early in the summer and I was pretty poor in being able to win points when I got behind in the rally.

“I have a better understanding of how to use my serve and not just go after it hard every single time but mix it around, hitting some slow sliders from time to time.”

Shelton, who started the year as No. 573 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, is now at a career-high 128. The American hopes to use his newfound mindset to continue imposing his will on opponents.

“It starts with the mentality of what you do in between the points,” Shelton said. “I’m not dwelling on every single point whether I win or lose. If I make a bad error, I can laugh it off… I’m just taking everything that I can get right now, enjoying everything that I have and not stressing too much.”

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Nakashima, Lehecka Contest Milan Rematch With Title On The Line

  • Posted: Nov 12, 2022

Nakashima, Lehecka Contest Milan Rematch With Title On The Line

American won pair’s group-stage match in straight sets

For the second time in four days, Brandon Nakashima and Jiri Lehecka will square off at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. In Saturday’s title match, the fourth-seeded Nakashima will bid to complete a perfect week by becoming an undefeated champion, while fifth seed Lehecka seeks revenge after a round-robin defeat against the American on Wednesday.

In a 4-1, 4-3(2), 4-2 victory, Nakashima used an attacking game plan — particularly off his powerful forehand wing — to defeat the Czech.

“He plays a very solid game, very flat, a very progressive game, so I knew I had to minimise the errors on my side and try to be aggressive off the first ball as much as possible,” Nakashima said after the mach. “I thought I did that pretty well today, so [I am] happy to get the win.”

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Lehecka had his moments in the 68-minute match, firing 18 winners to Nakashima’s 21, and he led 2-0 in the final set before the American used a finishing flourish to close the door.

The aggressive nature of both players was further demonstrated by the rally lengths in the contest. 80 of the match’s 112 points lasted four shots or fewer, with Nakashima winning 45 of those short points to his opponent’s 35. The first-strike mentality also holds true on return for Nakashima and Lehecka, with 16 break points created between the two in their round-robin match.

While Nakashima can take confidence from the win in the pair’s first ATP Head2Head meeting, the American is not putting too much stock in the result.

“Tomorrow it is going to be a new match. I am going to try and forget about our match a couple of days ago,” he said after a 4-3(6), 1-4, 4-2, 4-3(5) semi-final win against Jack Draper. “Jiri has been playing great all week, so I am sure it is going to be a tough one.”

Lehecka spoiled the previously unblemished Milan record of Dominic Stricker in the Friday’s semi-finals. He will look to do the same to Nakashima in the title match to prevent the American from matching the 5-0 mark of past champions Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hyeon Chung.

The Czech’s 4-1, 4-3(4), 2-4, 4-1 win against Stricker was reward for a strong all-court performance in which he stepped inside the baseline at every opportunity. 

“Today I think everything went the way I wanted,” Lehecka said post-match. “Me and my team spoke about this match yesterday and today and the plan was just to relax on the court and enjoy it as much as I can.”


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The Czech’s breakthrough run to the Rotterdam semi-finals as a qualifier in February should help him stay relaxed in the high-pressure final, and he also lifted an ATP Challenger Tour trophy in Liberec this season as he rose from No. 141 to No. 74 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

World No. 49 Nakashima has plenty of experience late in tournaments as well, having won his first ATP Tour title in his home city of San Diego in September — not to mention his semi-final run last year in Milan.

Adding to the pressure for both 21-year-olds: This will be their last chance to claim the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals trophy, as both will age out of the competition next year.

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