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'I Didn't Even Know He Grunts!' ATP Stars Go Head-To-Head In 'Guess The Grunt'

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

‘I Didn’t Even Know He Grunts!’ ATP Stars Go Head-To-Head In ‘Guess The Grunt’

Rublev, Norrie and Goffin are second-time participants

“Bwehhhh, it’s Andrey Rublev! Very easy!”

There’s no stumping Casper Ruud when it comes to guessing familiar noises heard on the ATP Tour. The Norwegian became the star of the show in the latest edition of ATP Uncovered’s Head-To-Head series. This week, the players faced off in a ‘Guess The Grunt’ challenge.

Ben Shelton revealed his thought process as he pinned Shapovalov’s grunt: “It’s short and there’s not really an accent to it.”

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“It’s Denis [Shapovalov]?” said Shang Juncheng with a large smile across his face. “I didn’t even know he grunts! I should know that one, I’ve hit with him like a million times.”

Diego Schwartzman was quick to recognise a familiar sound. “Me, me, me!” But it wasn’t as easy to nail for Shelton, who revealed he had just practised with the Argentine 30 minutes before the guessing game.

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I’ve Got Some Unfinished Business! Must-See 2023 Predictions

Cameron Norrie, David Goffin, and Andrey Rublev were featured for a second time in the fun series. But how would they compare to their 2019 series debut?

Watch and listen so you too can put your knowledge of ATP Tour grunts to the test!

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Bring Them On! Djokovic Says 'I'm Not Afraid' Of New Generations

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

Bring Them On! Djokovic Says ‘I’m Not Afraid’ Of New Generations

World No. 1 reflects after second-round win in Dubai

Novak Djokovic is at the top of the sport, World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for a record 378th week. After advancing to the quarter-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday, the Serbian made clear he has no intention of relinquishing his position without a fight.

“New generations are coming,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview. “But I’m not afraid.”

The 35-year-old paused before delivering the end of his message. And once he did, Djokovic cracked a wide smile. Whether the Serbian was joking or not, he has proven his words true.

Djokovic is now 14-0 on the season. Since the start of Rome last May, he has won 49 of his 52 matches, including 22 victories against Top 20 opposition.

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Djokovic Races Past Griekspoor To Dubai QFs

During the World No. 1’s post-match press conference in Dubai after defeating Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3, a reporter asked about athletes throughout sports who were born in the 1980s — including himself, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James — succeeding later into their careers.

“I don’t believe in coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason. It’s great that the big names that you mentioned were all born in the same decade,” Djokovic said. “I’m sure that things that we talk about today, we feel some of the achievements are just not reachable maybe in 10 years’ time or whatever, that we’ll be seeing someone surpassing basketball’s biggest records, or tennis. I would be surprised if that didn’t happen, to be honest, because everything is improving so much.

“One is getting to learn from people that came and have done some great things before them. I’m sure that the young players in tennis are studying Federer, Nadal, my career, how we go about things on and off the court, what made us successful. That’s what I was doing. I mean, if you really want to be No. 1 in the world, best in your craft, so to say, you need to learn from the people that have been in those shoes.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic continues to put his records farther out of reach of his peers and future generations. For example, Roger Federer is second for most weeks at World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings with 310 weeks, more than a year of accrued time less than the Serbian. But Djokovic did not get to this point by believing the records in front of him were too far to strive for.

“Now some achievements look far from reachable, but maybe that was the case also 10 years ago or something for some of the achievements in tennis,” Djokovic said. “But everything is possible.”

With that in mind, Djokovic is not done pushing for more in his career.

“I still have lots of desire to break records, to play. Every match is different, but that’s the beauty of competitive tennis, is that you never know what the next day brings. So you have to always figure out the way by yourself on the court,” Djokovic said. “It’s kind of a little bit symbolic to life, as well. Of course, there’s a team of people around you, but then you have to take responsibility for your actions.”

For now, Djokovic is focussed on claiming a sixth title in Dubai this week. The top seed will play fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals.

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Djokovic Races Past Griekspoor To Dubai QFs

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

Djokovic Races Past Griekspoor To Dubai QFs

Medvedev defeats Bublik for 11th consecutive tour-level win

Novak Djokovic did not play competitive tennis for a month prior to this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Yet the World No. 1 appeared near his best in just his second match back on Wednesday, when he dismantled Tallon Griekspoor 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP 500.

Djokovic had shown frustration during his three-set battle with Czech qualifier Tomas Machac in the first round on Tuesday, but the 35-year-old struck the ball cleanly from the start on Wednesday against Griekspoor. Djokovic broke the No. 39-ranked Dutchman four times to race to an 82-minute victory against one of the in-form players on the ATP Tour.

“It’s been a great evening for me tonight,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview. “Yesterday I really had to work hard to get a win. Tonight, right from the blocks, I think I was sharp. I played definitely better-quality tennis than I did last night.

“Maybe the last three or four games weren’t the best to close the match, but I managed to find a good serve in the end. I’m very pleased with the performance and with the way I felt on the court, and hopefully things can go in the right direction for tomorrow.”

The five-time Dubai champion crashed 29 winners in a scintillating display of baseline hitting. Griekspoor, who entered the match with a 12-3 record for the season, could do little to counter in the face of Djokovic’s charge, as the Serbian comfortably maintained his record of never having lost before the quarter-finals in 13 appearances in Dubai.

“[My level was] much closer to the best level tonight than it was yesterday,” said Djokovic. “I probably didn’t expect to play that well tonight, considering last night’s match. But here we go, every day is a new day, a new opportunity, and I’m really glad that I played this well tonight.”

With the win, Djokovic improved his ATP Head2Head series lead against Griekspoor to 2-0, after he also defeated the Dutchman in straight sets at the 2021 US Open. The World No. 1 was pleased with the way he handled the challenge of an opponent he had minimal experience against.

“He’s got a lot of firepower in his game,” said Djokovic. “His serve and forehand, those are two of his favourite shots. He tries to dictate the points from the back of the court with the forehand, and I knew that I had to take the time away from him.”

Djokovic on Monday began his 378th week as No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings to overtake WTA legend Stefanie Graf’s record for the most weeks spent at the top of the sport. He will take on fifth seed Hubert Hurkacz or qualifier Pavel Kotov in the last eight.

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In the final match of the day on Dubai’s centre court, Daniil Medvedev delivered a rock-solid performance to defeat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 6-2 for his 11th straight tour-level victory.

The 27-year-old Medvedev is bidding for his third ATP Tour title in as many weeks after his triumphs in Rotterdam and Doha, and he did not face a break point in his 65-minute victory against Bublik in Dubai. After the match, Medvedev acknowledged that his winning streak is helping him deal with the physical exertions of his busy schedule.

“I think confidence is more important than [fatigue], because you don’t want to stop,” said Medvedev. “Unless of course you feel bad physically. Doha was a little bit tough after coming from Europe. It’s a longer flight, so I feel much better physically here in Dubai. [In Doha] I still managed to run good and play good, so I feel 100 per cent ready and am looking forward to my next matches.”

Medvedev remains unbeaten in five tour-level meetings with Bublik. It is just one of a number of dominant ATP Head2Head records the 27-year-old holds against some of the top players on Tour.

Daniil Medvedev, Unbeaten ATP Head2Head Records (Minimum Four Matches Played)

Opponent Won Lost
Diego Schwartzman 6 0
Felix Auger-Aliassime 6 0
Jannik Sinner 5 0
Mackenzie McDonald 5 0
Alexander Bublik 5 0
Frances Tiafoe 4 0
Botic van de Zandschulp 4 0

The 17-time tour-level titlist Medvedev does not have such a convincing record against his next opponent in Dubai, however. Borna Coric, who beat Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday to set a quarter-final clash against the third seed, leads Medvedev 4-2 in their ATP Head2Head series.

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Rublev Saves 5 MPs, Downs Foki To Keep Dubai Title Defence Alive

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

Rublev Saves 5 MPs, Downs Foki To Keep Dubai Title Defence Alive

Sonego upsets Felix as Zverev also advances to quarter-finals

Andrey Rublev produced one of the comebacks of the 2023 season so far on Wednesday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where he came back from the brink to defeat Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 1-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) in a remarkable second-round clash.

Facing five match points at 1/6 in the second-set tie-break, Rublev’s title defence at the ATP 500 hung by a thread. Yet he stayed focused to reel off seven points in a row and level the match in dramatic fashion, before holding his nerve again in the decider for a stunning two-hour, 25-minute victory.

It was the third time this year that Rublev has saved match points to triumph, and the second time in a week. The 25-year-old saved two match points en route to victory against Holger Rune in the fourth round at January’s Australian Open, and three match points before he defeated Tallon Griekspoor in his Doha opener seven days ago.

“It happened already [three times] this season and I’m super happy that I’m able to win these matches against [top players],” said Rublev post-match. “The beginning [of today’s match] wasn’t good. I got frustrated. He started really well, he was hitting really hard, and I didn’t have many options, but then, little by little, I started to play and started to fight.

“I started to be positive, and I made this crazy tie-break comeback from 1/6 that I’ve never done in my life before… I’m really, really happy.”

Davidovich Fokina had made a strong start to the pair’s second ATP Head2Head meeting. The World No. 29 raced to the first set after claiming what later proved to be the only two breaks of serve in the match. Rublev cited his own mental discipline as key to maintaining belief when Davidovich Fokina looked set to complete the win.

“All the second set, I was super tight, and I was holding everything inside of me,” he said. “I didn’t even say ‘Let’s go, come on’, to myself, not even once, and I was just completely calm. Then when I won the second set, all the emotions came out.”

The victory improved Rublev’s record in Dubai to 11-2. He is now into his fourth straight quarter-final at the event, where he would become the first back-to-back champion since Roger Federer in 2014-15 if he can repeat his 2022 title run.

His quarter-final opponent will be Botic van de Zandschulp. The Dutchman earlier produced a comeback of his own, rallying to a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory against Mikael Ymer.

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Lorenzo Sonego later succeeded where Davidovich Fokina had fallen short by completing a second-round victory against a Top 10 opponent. The Italian delivered a clinical display to defeat fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6(4), 6-4 and reach the quarter-finals in Dubai for the first time.

Sonego endured recent heartbreak of his own last week in Doha, where he let slip three match points before falling to Andy Murray in the first round. He ensured there would be no repeat of that experience in Dubai by firing 24 winners and winning 89 per cent (39/44) of points behind his first serve for his first win against World No. 9 Auger-Aliassime in three attempts.

“It was really tough today, but I played really well,” said the World No. 67 Sonego after securing the fifth Top 10 win of his career. “I was really aggressive with my serve… I improved my game this year and I [have] some good experience on Tour. I’m really happy to beat Felix.”

Sonego takes on Alexander Zverev for a spot in the semi-finals in Dubai. The former World No. 2’s bid to rediscover his best level after long-term injury continued to gain momentum on Wednesday, when he saw off Christopher O’Connell 7-5, 6-4.

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Koolhof/Skupksi Survive Upset-Filled Day In Acapulco

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

Koolhof/Skupksi Survive Upset-Filled Day In Acapulco

Mektic/Pavic clinch Match Tie-break to advance in Dubai

On a busy doubles Tuesday at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, each of the top three seeds were in action. Only one survived the opening round.

Top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski downed the Mexican wild card duo of Hans Hach Verdugo and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela 7-6(5), 6-3, avoiding the fate of their fellow seeds in Acapulco.

Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer, seeded second, were knocked out by Rafael Matos and David Vega Hernandez, who earned a 6-2, 3-6, 10-2 win. Third seeds Jamie Murray and Michael Venus also bowed out in a Match Tie-break, falling to Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler. The Austrians advanced in a thriller, 6-3, 6-7(7), 11-9.

Matteo Berrettini and Jacopo Berrettini were also in action on Tuesday, but the brothers were knocked off by Frenchmen Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul. The Rio semi-finalists advanced 6-3, 6-4. The Italian brothers were more successful in singles action on Tuesday as both advanced to the second round, with Jacopo scoring his first ATP Tour main-draw singles win in his first tour-level appearance.

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Mektic/Pavic Prevail In Dubai Thriller
At the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic came through a tough opening test against last week’s Doha champions Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden at the ATP 500 event.

The Croatian pair trailed 0/3 in the Match Tie-break, but turned things around for an 87-minute victory, winning seven of the final 10 points to reach the second round. Mektic and Pavic, who reached the championship match in Dubai in 2021 and 2022, will meet Kareem Al Allaf and Abdulrahman Al Janahi next, after the wild cards defeated Tomislav Brkic and Gonzalo Escobar 6-1, 6-3.

Third seeds Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara also advanced with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory against all-German team Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz. There was one big upset in the U.A.E., however, as Ilya Ivashka and defending singles champion Andrey Rublev took out second seeds Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek 7-6(3), 2-6, 10-8.

Santiago Fans Buoyed By Barrios Vera and Tabilo

On a day when Chilean star Cristian Garin upset Dominic Thiem in the sngles at the Movistar Chile Open, Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo ensured there was also home success on the doubles court.

The wild card pair notched a 6-3, 6-3 win against Facundo Bagnis and Juan Pablo Varillas at the clay-court ATP 250, saving all six break points they faced in the 73-minute clash. In the day’s only other doubles clash in the Chilean capital, Spanish pair Pedro Martinez and Jaume Munar took out Pedro Cachin and Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-4, 6-3.

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De Minaur Downs Mexican Wild Card In Acapulco

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

De Minaur Downs Mexican Wild Card In Acapulco

Both Berrettini brothers advance, Jacopo notches first tour-level win

Alex de Minaur drew the difficult assignment of playing the lone Mexican in the singles draw at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Tuesday night. Facing 17-year-old wild card Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez and his home fans on the stadium court, the Aussie expertly navigated the tricky task with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

The eighth seed fired 25 winners in the match and saved the lone break point he faced, which came as he held for 5-2 in the second set. Pacheco Mendez grew into the match with the support of the Acapulco crowd, but could not overcome quick starts by De Minaur in both sets, with the Aussie breaking at the first opportunity in each.

“Its never easy, especially first match at a new tournament,” de Minaur said after the one-hour, 16-minute victory. “These conditions are tricky. The opponent was tricky. I’m very happy with the performance, happy with the win, Hopefully we can build on that and go better and bigger for the next round.”

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De Minaur brought up match point with a belted backhand winner, then sealed the deal with an extraordinary defensive effort, his scrambling ultimately leading to a forehand miss from his opponent.

With the victory, he improved to 8-4 on the season. After reaching the Australian Open fourth round (l. to Djokovic), De Minaur advanced to consecutive quarter-finals in Rotterdam and Marseille before arriving in Acapulco.

“I think I had a really good start [to the season] and the plan is to build on it and finish the way I started, or even push a little bit more,” he said. “I’m happy with where my level’s at and I’m just trying to keep on pushing, keep trying to get better and get the most out of myself.”

The 24-year-old will next face Italy’s Jacopo Berrettini, brother of Matteo Berrettini. After qualifying for his first ATP Tour main draw this week, Jacopo scored his first tour-level singles win in front of a packed crowd on Court 1. The Italian led Oscar Otte 3-6, 7-6(3), 2-1 when the German retired with an apparent knee injury.

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De Minaur is expecting a tough matchup against Berrettini, who recovered after dropping a 6-0 opening set in his opening qualifying match.

“I’ve been watching him this tournament. He’s been playing some great tennis, obviously played way above his ranking,” De Minaur said of the World No. 842. “He’s going to be confident, he’s going to be a very tough match and I’m ready for a battle.”

Matteo also advanced via retirement on Tuesday when Alex Molcan pulled out of their match with the Italian up 6-0, 1-0. The Netflix Break Point star will meet lucky loser Elias Ymer in the last 16 after the Swede defeated Adrian Mannarino 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

Brandon Nakashima and Mackenzie McDonald also advanced to set up an all-American a second-round meeting. Nakashima beat Daniel Altmaier 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on the stadium court, while McDonald downed Luciano Darderi 6-4, 6-2 on the Grandstand.

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Matteo Berrettini On Brother Jacopo's 'Special Moment' In Acapulco

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

Matteo Berrettini On Brother Jacopo’s ‘Special Moment’ In Acapulco

Italian qualified for first ATP Tour main draw this week

Jacopo Berrettini said it was probably the best night of his life when he qualified for his ATP Tour main-draw debut at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC on Sunday. On Tuesday evening, the 24-year-old Italian went one better by winning his first tour-level singles match in front of a packed Court 1 crowd in Acapulco.

Berrettini led Oscar Otte 3-6, 7-6(3), 2-1 when the German retired with a knee injury. The Italian saved a break point in his opening service game of set two and grew into the match after the crucial hold, ultimately claiming the second set with brave a forehand winner up the line. The match ended after Berrettini went up a break in the third set.

Earlier on Tuesday, brother Matteo Berrettini also advanced in Acapulco — ironically, also via retirement after building a 6-0, 1-0 lead against Alex Molcan on the stadium court.

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Before his younger brother joined him in the last 16, Matteo reflected on Jacopo’s milestone moment from Sunday’s qualifying.

“It was really a special moment, obviously,” the elder Berrettini said. “Especially because he was having a tough moment the last couple of years, with COVID and for so many reasons. Also he got injured many times and he couldn’t really perform the way he wanted to. I was really happy for him.”

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The brothers are staying together this week in Acapulco and sharing the same team at the ATP 500. While it has been rare for the two to compete at the same event, both are making the most of the opportunity.

Matteo was even able to watch his brother’s qualifying success from the sideline: “You could see my stress level was really high in the stands!” he said with a smile.

Jacopo reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 282 in 2021 and is now working his way back towards the Top 500. He took full advantage of a qualifying wild card this week, an opportunity for which Matteo made sure to thank the Acapulco organisers.

“It’s a privilege. It’s really nice,” Matteo said. “I have to thank the tournament obviously for the chance that they gave me and my family, and Jacopo as well. Really super happy to live this experience and looking forward to having more matches.”

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'This Is Not Forever': Feliciano Lopez Savours Farewell Season

  • Posted: Mar 01, 2023

‘This Is Not Forever’: Feliciano Lopez Savours Farewell Season

41-year-old Spaniard faces Tiafoe in Acapulco second round

Just before the new year, Spain’s Feliciano Lopez announced that he will say adios to life as a player on the ATP Tour this season. The 41-year-old will finish his career with farewell appearances at a select few tournaments, the first of which is this week at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC.

After more than 20 years as a professional, Lopez is finding it hard to say goodbye.

“Since I decided this is going to be my last year on Tour, it’s been a little bit difficult because it’s something that you don’t want to do, because I love what I do,” Lopez told in Acapulco. “I have a passion for tennis. Even though I know this is my last year, I wish I could continue playing and it’s a little bit sad. But on the other hand, I have to do it because I’m 41 years old and this is not going to be forever; I understand.”

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The former world No. 12 has made the most of his Acapulco wild card this week, earning his first tour-level singles victory since July 2021 with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win against Christopher Eubanks—a player 15 years his junior—on Monday night. It was his first competitive match in nearly five months.

“It’s been a while since I won my last ATP match,” Lopez reflected. “To be honest, I had this in mind because last year was difficult for me. I couldn’t win any matches on Tour, even though I played only a few tournaments. But still it’s something that I had in mind and it was kind of a relief moment when I finally won my match yesterday.”

After playing a light schedule in 2022, competing in just 11 tour-level matches, Lopez’s win was reward for an intense effort in what was his last offseason training block.

“I knew this was going to be very challenging and very difficult,” he said of returning to the ATP Tour after the layoff. “That’s why I was preparing myself to be ready here in Acapulco. I think considering all the circumstances and all the challenges that I’ve faced in the last year I think I played great tennis overall.

“The match was great, I was feeling great physically and of course my tennis has some room to improve but I think the level overall was very decent.”

Having earned his way back into the win column, Lopez will next face sixth seed Frances Tiafoe on Wednesday in a marquee match in front of the Mexican crowd. Lopez won their lone previous ATP Head2Head meeting in Antwerp in 2018, but the in-form American comes into this matchup as World No. 15, just one spot off his career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking achieved earlier in February.

“I know it’s a very difficult match,” Lopez said. “Probably the most difficult one that I’m facing in the last three or four years because Tiafoe is one of then best players in the world, especially now that he’s been playing great tennis in the last year and a half. I know it’s going to be very difficult but I have nothing to lose. I’m here to enjoy myself.

“My only goal tomorrow is to play the best I can… to be myself on the court, to be aggressive. It’s one of the matches that you really want to play.”

Beyond Acapulco, Lopez has already been confirmed as a wild card in Barcelona and Mallorca. He is also hoping to return to The Queen’s Club in London, where he won his two most recent tour-level singles titles in 2017 and 2019. He also won the doubles title there with Andy Murray in a 2019 trophy sweep, and later claimed the 2022 Acapulco doubles crown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

While Lopez is hoping for a wild card to this year’s Cinch Championships in London, he says it will be tough based on what he has heard at the moment.

“It’s one of the tournaments I would really love to play there one more time,” he shared.

Of course the Spaniard will understand the complexity of the situation, given his role as tournament director at the Mutua Madrid Open since 2019. It’s a position that can provide some solace to Lopez and his many fans: The seven-time tour-level champion may be stepping off the court, but he is not leaving the game of tennis.

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