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Judy Murray's £14.99 Trip To Remember

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Judy Murray’s £14.99 Trip To Remember

Murray made 24-hour trip to watch Andy play Aix-en-Provence final

Andy Murray won the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole on Sunday, marking his first ATP Challenger Tour title since 2005 in Binghamton. It was a special moment for the Scot, who with the victory climbed to No. 42 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, his best mark since undergoing hip resurfacing in 2019.

After clinching his triumph, the former World No. 1 enjoyed a special moment with his team including his mother, Judy Murray, who flew to France Sunday morning on a £14.99 ticket.

Murray knew she could not just turn up without telling Andy without throwing off his preparation, so she gave him a call after he won his semi-final on Saturday.

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Murray Rallies To Win Aix-en-Provence Challenger Title

“I said, ‘Look, I can get a flight and I’m going to come across’. The thing for him and Jamie for that matter is that I’m so used to traveling around the world and having to adapt travel arrangements at the last minute because of all my years on the junior and the women’s tour and the men’s tour,” Murray said. “So nothing fazes me really with travel. They know that I am perfectly capable of looking after myself. I can contact the tournament and say, ‘Could you pick me up and whatever, whatever.’ So they don’t need to bother about me. They know I’ll find a way.”

Murray had been in Portugal on a golfing holiday and returned home Friday morning. When her son won his quarter-final that day, she looked to see if she could find a direct flight, but there were none Saturday. On Sunday morning there was a one-way ticket to Marseille, which is less than 20 miles from Aix-en-Provence. It was an easy decision to book the trip and figure out a flight home later.

The former British Billie Jean King Cup team captain arrived two and a half hours before the final and enjoyed having a look around the grounds. “It was amazing,” she said. “It was a lovely, sunny day and the club is a country club just on the edge of the town… the atmosphere was incredible.”

There were record crowds in Aix-en-Provence. Photo: Jared Wickerham/ATP Tour
Top seed Tommy Paul, the World No. 17, sprinted to a 4-0 lead with the loss of just three points. But Murray showed his trademark resilience.

“Tommy came [with a] real blistering start, firing everything and then Andy started to get into it towards the end of the first set. And then when he broke the first game of the second set, [he] really never looked back from there. But he played really, really well.

“I would have said that clay is probably his least favourite surface. And of course, he hasn’t played much on it since he had the hip surgery. So it was great to see him moving so well. And he always competes well, but it was great to see him playing well.”

It was Murray’s first trophy of any kind since he defeated Stan Wawrinka in the 2019 Antwerp final. They never take such moments for granted, especially after all his physical struggles leading up to and following his hip resurfacing in January 2019.

“Through all of that, nobody knew to what level he would get back to playing again. But what never wavered was his determination to try to get back and give himself a chance to get back and play great tennis again,” Murray said. “He’s incredibly disciplined, and he worked so hard on and off the court to get the best that he can get out of his body, given the fact that he has a metal hip. It was so amazing.”

After the match, the team returned to the hotel. Murray was treated by his physio and debriefed with his coach about the match before everyone enjoyed dinner. Judy then played a best-of-five Monopoly Deal Match with her son.

“I managed to beat him 3-1,” Judy said. “He quite fancies himself as a bit of a shark at Monopoly deal. But anyway, there you go.”

At 5 a.m. she left the hotel to return home. It was an enjoyable trip after also traveling to Australia and Doha this year.

“He’s been on the Tour since 2005, so it’s been a long time and I always say to people, ‘I’m surprised I’m still alive’, all that stress that I’ve had because I’ve had Jamie and Andy. I say it’s like a series of mini heart attacks and severe nausea all going on at the same time,” Murray said. “But that’s just the way it is. You wouldn’t have it any other way because they both love the game. They both love competing and that’s why they’re still doing it after all these years. I think lifting a trophy is always a special occasion.

“It’s amazing to think that 18 years later, he’s still going, still fighting. Delighted to [watch him] win yesterday.”

Did You Know?
The Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole was one of two ATP Challenger Tour 175 events held last week. Judy was highly complimentary of the tournament. She spoke to tournament director Arnaud Clement, who first played Murray at the 2005 US Open. The Frenchman told Judy they had a record crowd of 20,000 fans across the week, peaking when Murray played Gael Monfils. Judy was pleased that Andy recognised all that went into the tournament during his champion’s speech.

“He talked about the fans, and all the people from the local community, the local tennis community who had volunteered during the tournament to make it really special,” Judy said. “I think he’s a sort of elder statesman now and I think he can see very clearly how important all the stepping stones are, and having inspirational competition in great, welcoming venues. Whether that’s Futures [ITF World Tennis Tour] level, whether it’s Challenger level, or actually on the Tour. It’s really, really important, because it makes players feel really, really, really special. I liked hearing him saying that.”

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Scouting Report: Alcaraz & Djokovic Headline Star-Packed Rome Field

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Scouting Report: Alcaraz & Djokovic Headline Star-Packed Rome Field

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the coming week

The world’s biggest stars travel to Rome this week for the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, the season’s third and final clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event. The tournament was expanded to a 12-day event this year.

Carlos Alcaraz brings plenty of momentum to the Foro Italico after emerging victorious in Barcelona and Madrid, but World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and other stars in the draw will try to halt the Spaniard’s hot streak. looks at 10 things to watch in Rome.

1) Alcaraz Making Debut: The hottest player on the circuit will make his Rome debut. Alcaraz has competed in Italy before, having won the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan in 2021, but this will be his first ATP Tour action in the country outside of the event. The Spaniard is fresh off successful title defences in Barcelona and Madrid and will try to secure his fifth Masters 1000 title.

2) Djokovic Back In Action: Six-time Internazionali BNL d’Italia champion Djokovic returns to action for the first time since Banja Luka. The Serbian has suffered early losses in each of his two clay-court tournaments this year (2-2 record), but will be confident in Rome, where he is set for his 17th consecutive appearance and where he has never lost before the quarter-finals. Last year, he captured his 1,000th tour-level victory at the event in the semi-finals against Casper Ruud.

3) No. 1 Update: Djokovic will compete at the Foro Italico as the No. 1 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, but he will not leave the tournament in top spot. Alcaraz will return to World No. 1 by playing his first match in Rome. As defending champion, Djokovic can at best remain on 6,775 points, so Alcaraz has an opportunity to gain a healthy advantage with another big week in Italy.

4) Sinner Top Italian Hope: Will this be the year for an Italian Renaissance at the Foro Italico? Jannik Sinner leads home hopes. The last Italian to win the title in Rome was Adriano Panatta in 1976. Sinner has been in top form in 2023, reaching the semi-finals at Indian Wells, the final in Miami and the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo. Another home favourite, Lorenzo Musetti, defeated Djokovic in Monte-Carlo and pushed Stefanos Tsitsipas to a third set in the Barcelona semi-finals.

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5) Tsitsipas Defending Finalist: Last year in Rome, Tsitsipas won three three-setters en route to the final at the Foro Italico. The Greek defeated a slew of tough competitors — Grigor Dimitrov, Karen Khachanov, Sinner and Alexander Zverev — to reach the final and will try to go one step further this year to secure his third Masters 1000 crown. He has won two titles at this level, triumphing in Monte-Carlo in 2021 and 2022.

6) Former Champ Murray: Former World No. 1 Andy Murray won the Rome title in 2016 and will be high on confidence after securing an ATP Challenger Tour 175 trophy in Aix-en-Provence last week. The Scot claimed his first Challenger trophy since 2005 in Binghamton and defeated World No. 17 Tommy Paul in the final. Murray is making his first appearance in Rome since 2017 and will play Italian Fabio Fognini in the first round.

7) Zverev’s Happy Rome Memories: Zverev claimed his first Masters 1000 title in Rome in 2017. Will this be the year he adds another? The former World No. 2 has long enjoyed success in the Italian capital, where he is 16-5. The German also reached the Rome final in 2018 and will try to earn his 20th ATP Tour title this week.

8) More Stars To Watch: There are plenty of stars who can make a deep run in Rome, including Monte-Carlo champion Andrey Rublev and World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev. World No. 4 Ruud has won nine of his 10 titles on clay and is pursuing his first ATP Masters 1000 title. The Norwegian, who reached last year’s Roland Garros final, has made the semi-finals in his past two Rome appearances (2020 and 2022).

9) Gasquet’s Upcoming Milestone: Former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet will try to join elite company in Rome. The Frenchman is two wins from 600 tour-level victories in his career. Gasquet can become the fourth active player to achieve the feat, joining Rafael Nadal (1,068), Djokovic (1,048) and Murray (725). He is already the all-time wins leader for Frenchmen. Gasquet will play Wu Yibing in the first round and if he advances, would face 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo.

10) Mektic/Pavic Lead Doubles Draw: The two-time defending Rome doubles champions are Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, who are pursuing their second title of the season (Auckland). The top seeds in the field are Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski, who have advanced to at least the quarter-finals of their past six tournaments.

Singles stars Khachanov and Rublev, who are 13th in the Pepperstone ATP Live Doubles Teams Rankings, will try to enter the conversation for a place in the doubles field at the Nitto ATP Finals with another big week at a Masters 1000 event after capturing the title last week in Madrid.

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Alcaraz Wins Laureus Breakthrough Of The Year Award

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Alcaraz Wins Laureus Breakthrough Of The Year Award

Spaniard is fourth ATP Tour player to receive the award

Carlos Alcaraz won the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award, it was announced Monday evening at a ceremony in Paris.

Alcaraz is the fourth ATP Tour player to earn the honour after Marat Safin (2001), Rafael Nadal (2006) and Andy Murray (2013). It is the second consecutive year a tennis player has won the award after Emma Raducanu did so in 2022.

“A very special night in Paris! 🏆😍 Thank you for this Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award! 😊” Alcaraz wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to the academy and everyone who made this possible. And of course congratulations to all the winners and nominees! 😘”

— Laureus (@LaureusSport) May 8, 2023

Last year was a historic one for Alcaraz, who captured his first two ATP Masters 1000 titles in Miami and Madrid, lifted his maiden major trophy at the US Open and became the youngest World No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (since 1973). The Spaniard capped it off by becoming the youngest year-end ATP No. 1 presented by Pepperstone.

Other nominees for the award were fellow tennis player Elena Rybakina, the Morocco men’s football team, figure skater Nathan Chen and track and field star Tobi Amusan.

Other tennis players who were nominated for an award were Rafael Nadal (World Sportsman of the Year), Iga Swiatek (World Sportswoman of the Year) and Diede de Groot (World Sportsperson of the Year).

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Djokovic To Face Tough Opening Test In Rome

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Djokovic To Face Tough Opening Test In Rome

Ruud, Rune and Sinner in top seed’s half of the draw

Novak Djokovic will face a tough opening test in his return to action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, where he is a six-time champion.

The top seed will begin the season’s final clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event against #NextGenATP Frenchman Luca Van Assche or in-form Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry. In his most recent tournament, Djokovic was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old Van Assche, who is the only teen in the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The Serbian needed two hours and 39 minutes to battle through that match.

If Etcheverry is Djokovic’s opponent, the 23-year-old will carry confidence from reaching his first two ATP Tour finals earlier this year. Both of those runs came on clay, in Santiago and Houston. Grigor Dimitrov, the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion, or former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka could be waiting for Djokovic in the third round.

There is plenty of Masters 1000 experience in Djokovic’s quarter of the draw, where 2021 Indian Wells titlist Cameron Norrie and 2022 Paris champion Holger Rune will look to make their mark. Seventh seed Rune, a potential quarter-final foe for Djokovic, defeated the Serbian in the final of last year’s Rolex Paris Masters. 

In the other half of the draw, second seed Carlos Alcaraz will try to maintain his momentum from back-to-back titles in Barcelona and Madrid.

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The 20-year-old Spaniard will open his tournament against home favourite Francesco Passaro or Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. Alcaraz’s first ATP Tour win came against Ramos-Vinolas in 2020 at the Rio Open presented by Claro in a memorable match that lasted three hours and 37 minutes.

The first seeded opponent Alcaraz could play is big-hitting 32nd seed Jiri Lehecka. His Madrid semi-final opponent, Borna Coric, could be waiting in the fourth round.

Also in Alcaraz’s quarter is 2022 Rome finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. The fifth seed will begin his tournament against Banja Luka champion Dusan Lajovic or Portugal’s Nuno Borges.

In the same half of the draw, third seed Daniil Medvedev will try to make his best clay-court Masters 1000 run yet. Already a four-time champion this year, Medvedev will hope for a good start against last week’s Cagliari ATP Challenger Tour 175 champion Ugo Humbert or Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori.

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The top home hope in the field is eighth seed Jannik Sinner, who is fifth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin. The Italian star, who last year made the quarter-finals at the Foro Italico, will play Spaniard Jaume Munar or a qualifier in the second round.

Sinner is joined in his quarter by fourth seed Casper Ruud. The Norwegian, who is pursuing his maiden Masters 1000 triumph, will open against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech or a qualifier.

One of the first-round matches to watch will be between former World No. 1 Andy Murray and home favourite Fabio Fognini. They have split their eight previous ATP Head2Head clashes and last met in 2019 in Shanghai, where Fognini emerged victorious after a final-set tie-break.

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Federer To Be Celebrated As Rolex Shanghai Masters Returns In October

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Federer To Be Celebrated As Rolex Shanghai Masters Returns In October

Prestigious tournament is one of five 12-day ATP Masters 1000 events

The Rolex Shanghai Masters is set to celebrate the return of ATP Masters 1000 tennis to China for the first time since 2019 this October with an expanded 12-day tournament and the presence of Roger Federer.

With main-draw action to be played 4-15 October at the unique QiZhong Tennis Centre, the expanded 96 singles draw will be played across ‘Golden Week’ that includes China’s National Holiday. Federer, a two-time former champion, will return as a celebrated guest with the title of Icon Athlete of the Rolex Shanghai Masters.

In addition to featuring the world’s greatest players including Carlos Alcaraz, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, defending champion Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, the tournament will showcase China’s own fast-rising stars Zhang Zhizhen, Wu Yibing and Shang Juncheng.

The event will also host the ITF J100 international youth tennis tournament, covering men’s and women’s singles and doubles. This is also the first time that the Rolex Shanghai Masters has simultaneously held an international youth tournament which gives tennis fans a glimpse into the future.

A digital service for fans will be a focus of this year’s tournament. For the first time, electronic ticketing with real-time registration, mobile ordering, intelligent customer service, and other digital services will be introduced to provide fans with convenient experiences.


Looking ahead to his return to Shanghai, former two-time Rolex Shanghai Masters champion Federer said, “I’m very excited to be named Rolex Shanghai Masters Icon Athlete for 2023. I remember coming to Shanghai for the first time for the opening of the stadium and I have been close friends with Juss Event and tournament organisers. I am happy to keep the story going and I look forward to seeing everyone in October.”

Speaking at a launch event Monday, Tournament Director Michael Luevano said: “Innovation is something we pride ourselves on at Juss Event and in Shanghai. The Rolex Shanghai Masters opened the door to the growth and development of world tennis in China and we are very proud of our achievements.

“We are the first and only tournament in Asia to be staged over two weeks. It will provide players with more jobs, it will provide fans with more thrilling tennis from some of the most exciting and dynamic athletes in the world, and it will continue to be the spearhead for tennis in Asia.

“The new look Rolex Shanghai Masters, which has been developing over recent years, is ready to shine and ready to return, and host the world’s best tennis players. We will continue to be the benchmark for world tennis in Asia.”

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Massimo Calvelli, ATP CEO, said: “The ATP Tour’s return to China in 2023 is a significant moment for tennis. We’re thrilled to mark it with our flagship Asian tournament, the Rolex Shanghai Masters, expanding into a 12-day event. This promises even more incredible action between the best players in the world. We’re excited to reconnect with our Chinese fans this season and to continue building on our sport’s success in the region.”

Leaders from the Chinese Tennis Association, Shanghai Administration of Sports, Minhang District, Shanghai Jiushi (Group), Juss Sports, Juss Event, Mr. Massimo Calvelli, ATP Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Daniele Sano, ATP Chief Business Officer, Ms. Alison Lee, ATP Executive Vice-President International, Mr. Michael Luevano, Tournament Director of the Rolex Shanghai Masters and Mr. Charles Humphrey Smith, ATP Tournament Advisory Council member, were joined by representatives of tournament sponsors to witness the grand opening of Asia’s first and only two-week tennis tournament.

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Stricker’s Surge: Swiss Earns Fifth Challenger Title

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Stricker’s Surge: Swiss Earns Fifth Challenger Title

Thompson wins all-Aussie final in Gwangju

Making Swiss tennis history isn’t easy.

After all, 20-time major champion Roger Federer and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka have etched their names into almost every record book for their home country.

But Dominic Stricker managed to carve out a niche place in the record books by winning last week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Prague. The lefty is the only Swiss player to win five Challenger titles before his 21st birthday.

The #NextGenATP star defeated Sebastian Ofner in the final 7-6(7), 6-3 to capture the Advantage Cars Prague Open by Moneta. In the first-set tie-break, the 20-year-old Stricker fought back from 2/6 and saved five set points.

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Stricker, who also claimed the Rovereto Challenger in February, climbs to No. 115 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, just four spots shy of tying his career-high.

In 2022, the former junior World No. 3 enjoyed a semi-final run at the Next Gen ATP Finals. Stricker is eligible for the 21-and-under event again this year and is currently seventh in the Pepperstone ATP Live Next Gen Race.

In other Challenger Tour action, Jordan Thompson dropped just one set all week en route to triumphing at the Gwangju Open Challenger. The 29-year-old downed countryman Max Purcell 6-3, 6-2 in the final to capture his 11th Challenger title.

<a href=''>Jordan Thompson</a> is crowned champion at the Challenger 75 event in Gwangju.
Jordan Thompson is crowned champion at the Challenger 75 event in Gwangju. Credit: Hwang Seojin

Purcell, 25, has competed in five Challenger finals this year, winning three of them. The Sydney native holds an early season-leading 30-6 Challenger-level match record.

In Coquimbo, Chile, Matheus Pucinelli De Almeida earned his maiden Challenger title after surviving a three-hour, 26-minute clash against Joao Lucas Reis Da Silva in the final.

But the 22-year-old Pucinelli De Almeida held his nerve to win 7-6(1), 6-7(4), 6-4 and claim the Challenger Dove Men+Care Coquimbo. En route to the title, the Brazilian ousted two of the top four seeds; Thiago Seyboth Wild and Francisco Comesana.

At the Challenger 175 events, Andy Murray returned to the winners’ circle for the first time since 2019 at the Open Aix Provence Credit Agricole, where the Scot rallied to beat Tommy Paul 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. In Cagliari, Ugo Humbert downed Laslo Djere 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to collect the Sardegna Open title.

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Struff Surges Into Top 30, Mover Of Week

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Struff Surges Into Top 30, Mover Of Week looks at the top Movers of the Week in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, as of Monday, 8 May 2022

A thrilling 2023 Mutua Madrid Open saw Carlos Alcaraz successfully defend his title, although the Spaniard needed three sets to hold off lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff in the championship match. Struff is one of a number of stars who made a big jump in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as a result of their exploits at the clay-court ATP Masters 1000. looks at the movers of the week in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as of 8 May 2023.

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No. 28 Jan-Lennard Struff, +37 (Career High)
The big-hitting German made history in Madrid by becoming the first lucky loser to reach the final at an ATP Masters 1000, and he has jumped 37 spots to a career-high No. 28 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as a result. After falling to Aslan Karatsev in qualifying, Struff made full use of his second chance in the Spanish capital, battling to five three-set victories before pushing Alcaraz the distance in the championship match.

No. 16 Borna Coric, +4
The 26-year-old Coric reached his maiden Madrid semi-final, ousting 12th seed Hubert Hurkacz and home favourite Alejandro Davidovich Fokina en route. Although Alcaraz proved too strong in the final four, Coric has risen four spots to No. 16 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, his highest position since October 2010 and just four places shy of his career high.

No. 42 Andy Murray, +10
The former World No. 1 Murray has returned to the Top 50 for the first time since January thanks to his title run at the ATP Challenger Tour 175 event in Aix-en-Provence. Murray downed World No. 17 Tommy Paul in the final to clinch his first trophy at any level since his ATP 250 triumph in Antwerp in 2019.

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No. 53 Aslan Karatsev, +68
Karatsev has charged up the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after an inspired run to the semi-finals in Madrid, where his free-hitting performances proved too strong for seeded players Botic van de Zandschulp, Alex de Minaur and Daniil Medvedev. Only the second qualifier in tournament history to reach the semi-finals, the 29-year-old has jumped 68 spots to No. 53 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

No. 69 Zhang Zhizhen, +30
Zhang etched his name into the Chinese tennis history books by becoming the first man from his nation to reach the quarter-finals at an ATP Masters 1000. Upset wins against Denis Shapovalov, Cameron Norrie and Taylor Fritz were the highlights of his run, one which propels the 26-year-old 30 spots to a career-high No. 69 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 9 Taylor Fritz, +1
No. 11 Karen Khachanov, +1
No. 35 Ben Shelton, +3 (Career High)
No. 38 Bernabe Zapata Miralles, +4 (Career High)
No. 49 Alexander Bublik, +6
No. 50 Ugo Humbert, +27
No. 65 Daniel Altmaier, +27
No. 99 Matteo Arnaldi, +6 (Career High)

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Meet The Champions Of 2023

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Meet The Champions Of 2023

ATP Tour stars pursuing spot at the Nitto ATP Finals

Throughout the season the world’s best tennis players battle each week to become champion. From continent to continent and surface to surface, they work hard to earn glory, with everyone pursuing a place at the Nitto ATP Finals at the end of the year. This year’s season finale will be played in Turin from 12-19 November.

We take a look at all the champions of 2023.

United Cup, Australia – United States
In the first edition of the United Cup, the mixed teams event played across Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, the United States prevailed, led by Taylor Fritz, Jessica Pegula, Frances Tiafoe and Madison Keys.

Adelaide International 1, Adelaide – Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic made a quick start to his season in Adelaide. During his semi-final victory against Daniil Medvedev, he suffered an injury scare. The next day he managed that to save championship point and defeat Sebastian Korda 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 6-4 for his first trophy of 2022.

Tata Open Maharashtra, Pune – Tallon Griekspoor
The Pune championship match featured two first-time finalists in Tallon Griekspoor and Benjamin Bonzi. It was the Dutchman Griekspoor who entered the winners’ circle with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 triumph at the Indian ATP 250.

ASB Classic, Auckland – Richard Gasquet
The former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet showed he still has it. The Frenchman upset Cameron Norrie 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 from a break down in the final set to become the oldest champion in tournament history. It was Gasquet’s 16th ATP Tour trophy and his first since 2018 in ’s-Hertogenbosch.

Adelaide International 2, Adelaide – Soonwoo Kwon
Soonwoo Kwon lost in the final-round of qualifying to Tomas Machac at the second Adelaide ATP 250. The South Korean received a lucky loser spot in the draw and immediately earned his revenge against Machac in the first round of the main draw. He carried that momentum to his first ATP Tour triumph, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) for the crown.

Australian Open, Melbourne – Novak Djokovic
There were worries regarding the condition of Djokovic’s leg early in the tournament following the injury he suffered in Adelaide. But the Serbian rose to the occasion again at Melbourne Park, earning a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and record-tying 22nd major trophy. He defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6(4), 7-6(5) to cap a run in which he lost just one set.

Dallas Open, Dallas – Wu Yibing
Wu Yibing made history in Dallas, where he became the first Chinese ATP Tour titlist in history. The 23-year-old saved four championship points and withstood 44 aces in a 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-6(12) victory over John Isner in the final.

Cordoba Open, Cordoba – Sebastian Baez
Sebastian Baez became the first home champion of the 2023 season in Cordoba, where he thrilled the Argentine crowd throughout the week. Baez won an all-Argentine clash in the final against Federico Coria 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 for his second ATP Tour title.

Open Sud de France — Montpellier – Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner arrived in Montpellier having lost his opening match on his first two appearances at the ATP 250. But the Italian broke that streak in style, upending serve-and-volleying American Maxime Cressy 7-6(3), 6-3 for the crown, his first of 2023.

ABN AMRO Open, Rotterdam – Daniil Medvedev
Sinner appeared on track for his second title in as many weeks after taking the first set of the Rotterdam final against Medvedev. But Medvedev responded for a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win, setting the stage for what would become a hot streak for the 27-year-old.

Delray Beach Open, Delray Beach – Taylor Fritz
After helping the United States to United Cup glory to start the season, Fritz earned individual glory in Delray Beach. The American lost just one set in front of his home crowd and battled past Miomir Kecmanovic 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 for the trophy.

Argentina Open, Buenos Aires – Carlos Alcaraz
Injury prevented Carlos Alcaraz from competing in Australia this year, but the Spaniard wasted no time making a quick start to his season in Buenos Aires. Despite losing a set in his first match of 2023 against Laslo Djere, Alcaraz powered through the rest of the week without dropping another set. He defeated the always-tough Cameron Norrie 6-3, 7-5 for the trophy.

Rio Open presented by Claro, Rio de Janeiro – Cameron Norrie
One week after Alcaraz beat Norrie in straight sets for the Buenos Aires crown, the Briton returned the favour. Norrie trailed 5-7, 0-3, but worked his way into the match and with Alcaraz struggling physically, was able to claw his way to a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 win for the trophy. It was his first ATP 500 trophy on clay.

Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha – Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev carried the momentum from his Rotterdam run to Doha, where he claimed his second title of the year. His opponent in the final, former World No. 1 and wild card Andy Murray, enjoyed a resurgent week to reach the final behind four consecutive three-set victories. But Medvedev was too solid in the championship match, which he claimed 6-4, 6-4.

Open 13 Provence, Marseille – Hubert Hurkacz
Hubert Hurkacz lost a set in his first two matches, but found his rhythm as the week wore on. In the final, the Polish star halted the dreams of home favourite Bonzi 6-3, 7-6(4).

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Dubai – Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev won his third consecutive tournament in Dubai and did so in dominant form, earning the hardware without losing a set. In the semi-finals, he ousted World No. 1 Djokovic and replicated his performance in the final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over close friend Andrey Rublev.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC, Acapulco – Alex de Minaur
Alex de Minaur earned the biggest title of his career in Mexico, where he claimed ATP 500 glory with a comeback 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win in the final over recent Australian Open semi-finalist Tommy Paul. It was the Australian’s seventh tour-level triumph.

Movistar Chile Open, Santiago – Nicolas Jarry
This year’s Movistar Chile Open was one Nicolas Jarry and the local crowd will never forget. Jarry triumphed on home soil at the tournament that has long been run by members of his family, defeating Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 6-2 in the final.

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells – Carlos Alcaraz
If there were questions around Alcaraz’s health leading into Indian Wells after suffering physically in the Rio de Janeiro final, the Spaniard answered them resoundingly. The 19-year-old dominated the season’s first Masters 1000 event, winning the title without losing a set. He cruised past Medvedev 6-3, 6-2 in the championship clash.

Miami Open presented by Itau, Miami – Daniil Medvedev
Despite losing in the Indian Wells final to Alcaraz, Medvedev immediately bounced back to continue his red-hot stretch and claim the Miami crown. He lost just one set in the tournament and after battling past Karen Khachanov in a three-set semi-final, he ousted Alcaraz-conqueror Sinner 7-5, 6-3 for the trophy. The run propelled Medvedev into first place in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin.

Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, Houston – Frances Tiafoe
Over the past year Frances Tiafoe has taken a step forward, with several notable performances highlighted by his US Open semi-final last season. But the American was still pursuing his first title in more than five years when he arrived in Houston. The top seed took care of business, overcoming significant rain throughout the week and defeating Etcheverry 7-6(1), 7-6(6) to become champion.

Grand Prix Hassan II, Marrakech – Roberto Carballes Baena
Roberto Carballes Baena needed to work hard to earn his second tour-level triumph and that he did. The Spaniard won four of his matches in a deciding set and finished the job with a 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over Alexandre Muller in the final.

Millennium Estoril Open, Estoril – Casper Ruud
After a tough start to the season, Casper Ruud found his footing on the clay of Estoril. The Norwegian star earned his first ATP Tour title of the year at the Portuguese ATP 250, where he beat Kecmanovic 6-2, 7-6(3) to complete his run.

Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Monte-Carlo – Andrey Rublev
Rublev, a consistent presence in the world’s Top 10, broke through at the ATP Masters 1000 level in Monte-Carlo. The fifth seed rallied from a break down in the deciding set in the final to defeat reigning Paris-Bercy champion Holger Rune 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. It was the 13th title of the 25-year-old’s career.

Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Barcelona – Carlos Alcaraz
Alcaraz made a statement to the rest of the Tour in Barcelona, where he breezed through the draw to make the perfect start to his clay-court season. The teen did not lose a set on the Spanish clay, dismissing Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in the final to successfully defend a title for the first time.

BMW Open by American Express, Munich – Holger Rune
Rune earned his first title of the season in Munich, where he won a memorable final against Botic van de Zandschulp, who served for the trophy at 5-2, 40/15 in the third set. The Dutchman ultimately earned four championship points, but Rune persevered 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(3).

Srpska Open, Banja Luka – Dusan Lajovic
Dusan Lajovic will never forget the 2023 Srpska Open. The Serbian stunned World No. 1 Djokovic in the quarter-finals and did not stop there. Lajovic upset recent Monte-Carlo champion Rublev 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in the final for his first trophy since 2019 in Umag.

Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid – Carlos Alcaraz
Alcaraz was made to work hard for his second consecutive Madrid title, but the home favourite pulled through to thrill the Spanish fans. After turning 20 the day of the semi-finals, Alcaraz clawed past German lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final to join Nadal as the only players to successfully defend the Madrid title. Alcaraz also used the victory to climb to the top of the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin for the first time in 2023.

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Forced To Play On Struff’s Terms, Alcaraz Still Finds Path To Victory

  • Posted: May 08, 2023

Forced To Play On Struff’s Terms, Alcaraz Still Finds Path To Victory

Brain Game analyses the Madrid final between Alcaraz and Struff

Take time away to prepare. Relentlessly come forward to pressure. Get under your opponent’s skin.

Carlos Alcaraz survived a blistering attack from Jan-Lennard Stuff to win the Mutua Madrid Open final 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on Sunday with something resembling his B or C-level game. It certainly wasn’t his A game, as Struff swarmed the net and mentally rattled the 20-year-old’s cage. But it’s a testament to the Spaniard’s mental toughness that he was made to feel so uncomfortable on the court and still found a way to be first over the finish line.

The match was very much dictated by Struff, who came to the net a staggering 52 times in three sets, winning 33 points up front (63 per cent). That was vastly superior to the German’s win percentage at the back of the court, which ended up at just 43 per cent (32/75).

Struff’s harrowing forays forward created discomfort and despair at times for Alcaraz. Struff turned the Magic Box into a pressure cooker and was on a roll early in the third set, holding break point on Alcaraz’s serve at 1-1, Ad out. Alcaraz saved break point and won seven of the next nine points to break Struff and surge to a 3-1 lead in the deciding set. That sequence proved to be the most pivotal in the final.

Alcaraz Serve Direction
Alcaraz served primarily to Struff’s backhand return, making the German hit 70 per cent (58/83) backhand returns for the match. That was mainly due to Struff successfully crushing his forehand return at the start of the match. Struff’s initial seven forehand returns in Set One produced one return winner and forced four forehand Serve +1 errors from Alcaraz. Alcaraz cleverly moved the battle to the backhand return, where he extracted 10 return errors in Set 1, five in Set 2, and critically, 10 again in the Set 3.

Losing serve at 1-2 in the third flipped the momentum and gave Alcaraz a new lease of energy from the partisan crowd. Struff’s backhand return suffered, as he failed to put seven of his last eight backhand returns of the match in the court. In the third set, Struff hit only four forehand returns and 20 backhand returns. Alcaraz finally had a strategy he could sink his teeth into.

Return Location
In stark contrast, Alcaraz only made contact with three returns for the match within four metres of the baseline. He was typically six metres behind the baseline or more, trying to take big cuts at returns. Alcaraz didn’t make contact with any returns inside the baseline.

Struff, on the other hand, made contact with all second-serve returns around two metres inside the baseline and only made contact with one first-serve return further back than one metre behind the baseline. Struff even made contact with 10+ first-serve returns inside the baseline.

Struff was playing a north-south match. Alcaraz was much more about trying to dip returns below the height of the net to force errors, and also pass on the next shot.

Alcaraz Passing Shots
In similar fashion to the serve targets, Alcaraz also directed his focus to Struff’s backhand volley when the German came forward. Overall, Struff hit 15 forehand volleys and 28 backhand volleys. Struff hit three forehand volley winners while only yielding two forehand volley errors. The backhand volley contributed eight winners but committed 10 errors.

With Struff serving at 1-2, 30/40, in the third set, he served and volleyed behind a first serve. He dug out a low forehand volley but found himself too close to the net with little reaction time against Alcaraz’s forehand down-the-line passing shot. Struff’s reflex backhand volley flew over the baseline and Alcaraz seized the momentum he needed to take the title.

We are used to witnessing Alcaraz produce such a high level in finals and play the match on his terms. In many ways, it is even more impressive to see him have to fight himself and struggle mightily against Struff to find a way to win.

In many ways, Alcaraz had to conquer himself first in order to conquer Struff.

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