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McDonald On Why He Admires Kobe Bryant, An Offseason With Federer

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

McDonald On Why He Admires Kobe Bryant, An Offseason With Federer

Learn more about the American off the court

Mackenzie McDonald caused one of the biggest upsets of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers on Wednesday when he eliminated sixth seed Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-3 in Toronto.

The American will now have a chance to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final when he plays former World No. 3 Milos Raonic on Thursday. caught up with the former UCLA star last month to learn more about his interests off the court.

If you could have dinner with three people, who would they be and why?
I wish I could go Kobe Bryant. Kobe, Bob Marley and John Wooden, UCLA legend.   

What did you admire about Kobe?
Everything. The guy is one of my favourite competitors of all time.   

If you could switch places with one person for a day who would it be?
LeBron James.

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What is your favourite non-tennis memory?
Buying my first car. Pretty good for me. 23 years old, bought my first car.   

What’s your favourite tennis memory?
Fourth round at Wimby. Also winning NCAA singles and doubles [titles] on the same day.   

If you could achieve one thing what would it be?
Live a long life. I want to live [to] 100, healthy.   

As a tennis player?   
As a tennis player, I’d like to win a Slam.   

What’s the coolest perk of being a pro tennis player?   
Free stuff. [The coolest thing I’ve done] is getting to go to the offseason with Roger [Federer] in Dubai.

It was cool. [Novak] Djokovic is a legend now but I think Roger is the pinnacle to the sport. Nicest guy off the court, too. So I’m happy his character is so high.    

What was your pinch-me moment on Tour?
[Reaching] the fourth round of a Slam for the first time, Wimbledon.

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Magical Monfils Fires Past Tsitsipas In Toronto

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Magical Monfils Fires Past Tsitsipas In Toronto

Frenchman notches 350th tour-level hard-court win, faces Korda or Vukic next

Gael Monfils in full flight can be a hard juggernaut to stop — as Stefanos Tsitsipas found out Wednesday at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers.

The Frenchman delivered a dazzling second-round display to upset the fourth-seeded Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-3 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Toronto. An energised Monfils, playing just his 11th match of the year due to injury, produced several moments of breathtaking power and skill en route to a one-hour, 25-minute triumph.

Wednesday’s win was Monfils’ 350th tour-level triumph on hard courts and can be seen as a statement that the 36-year-old is getting back to his crowd-pleasing best after limited appearances in 2023. The Frenchman converted three of six break points he earned to down Tsitsipas, an ATP 250 champion in Los Cabos just four days ago.

“I knew that Stef had a lot of confidence,” said Monfils after the match. “He would try to go for his shots. I tried to put a lot of balls in, tried to hit quite heavy and not let him dictate too much. I think I did it well.”

Highlights of Monfils’ performance included a trademark jumping forehand in the eighth game of the first set and a 188 km/h forehand winner to bring up set point two games later. It was Monfils’ first win against a Top 5 opponent since he defeated then-World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev in Indian Wells last year.

Monfils struggled to finish off Christopher Eubanks in his Toronto opener, being forced to a third set by the American after letting slip two match points. There were no such issues against Tsitsipas, as he confidently levelled the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series at 2-2.

“It’s always the same. Stay very calm in the head and go for a simple choice,” said Monfils when asked about closing out the match against the Greek. “Maybe I was too simple on the first match point [today] because I could maybe have un leashed one forehand more, but he did it before me. To be honest, I just tried to be cool and try to do what I did during the match. No panic, in a way.”

A two-time semi-finalist at the Canadian Masters 1000 event, Monfils will take on Sebastian Korda or Aleksandar Vukic in the third round.

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Shelton Calls Alcaraz 'The Present & Future Of Tennis'

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Shelton Calls Alcaraz ‘The Present & Future Of Tennis’

#NextGenATP American looks ahead to facing the World No. 1 Wednesday

Ben Shelton remembers first hearing about Carlos Alcaraz when he was 14. The American did not travel internationally as a junior, but word was spreading about the Spanish teen.

“Some of the Americans in the United States were talking about, ‘This is the best 14-year-old in the world’, and I hadn’t really gotten into tennis yet. I was no good,” Shelton, who is the same age as Alcaraz, told a small group of media on Tuesday evening in Toronto.

“But I definitely watched a few clips of him at that age and couldn’t believe how polished of a player [he was], how many skills he had at such a young age. He’s been out here grinding on the international tour for a few years now. and this is my first [full] year out here. So I’m looking forward to playing a little bit of catchup.”

The lefty will have that opportunity on Wednesday evening when he faces World No. 1 Alcaraz in the second round of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers. It will be the pair’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head clash.

Shelton has established himself as an aggressive, energetic player who enjoys involving the fans in his matches. Having competed in college tennis at the University of Florida, the American has plenty of experience in raucous atmospheres.

“I love these types of moments, these types of matches, being able to play against top guys, the best players in the world [on] the biggest courts, the biggest stages in front of the biggest crowds,” Shelton said. “So I’m really, really excited to be able to have the opportunity tomorrow and glad that win tonight gave me that opportunity.”

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What A Difference A Year Makes: Why Alcaraz Says He Is ‘Totally Different’

The son of former World No. 55 Bryan Shelton, who is now his full-time coach, Ben was not looking past his first-round opponent in Toronto. He ousted Bernabe Zapata Miralles in two tight sets Tuesday evening.

But Zapata Miralles’ countryman, Alcaraz, presents an entirely different set of challenges for Shelton. The top seed is 47-4 on the season and fresh off his first Wimbledon title.

What does Shelton feel makes Alcaraz such a difficult opponent to face?

“I think he’s really good at applying pressure, taking away time and playing really aggressive tennis,” Shelton said. “He’s a great mover and I’m going to have to try to use my strengths to the best of my ability and put together a good gameplan.”

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An Australian Open quarter-finalist this year, Shelton has proven his ability to rise to the occasion on the world’s biggest stages. He is also aware that he will be playing an opponent in Alcaraz who had done the same and has already made a sizable impact on and off the sport.

“I think it’s pretty great to see everything that he’s done so far. [He is] definitely the present and future of tennis,” Shelton said. “So [it is] really cool to be a part of this era and be at tournaments at the same time as him.

“But at the same time, we put on our pants the same way every single morning, and I’m really looking forward to a battle tomorrow.”

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Tsitsipas Chooses Several Rivals In 'Build Your Player'

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Tsitsipas Chooses Several Rivals In ‘Build Your Player’

The 24-year-old has a surprise physical stamina pick

“He runs like literally there’s no tomorrow!”

Stefanos Tsitsipas was clear, if he could build a perfect player, he would select the movement of… Carlos Alcaraz!

“I’ve never seen a player run like this!” Tsitsipas said in the latest edition of ATP Uncovered’s ‘Build Your Player’ series.

For groundstrokes, the Greek cracked a laugh when he answered whose forehand he would select, stating, “Have you seen his forehand? It’s a hammer!” Who did he say? The 24-year-old then selected one of his rival’s backhands.

Only one player received more than one nomination from Tsitsipas. Watch the full video above to find out who it was, how Tsitsipas’ own celebrations fit into his perfect player, his surprise physical stamina pick and more.

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Vukic's Grit & Drive Fuelled By Parents' 'Built From Scratch' Success

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Vukic’s Grit & Drive Fuelled By Parents’ ‘Built From Scratch’ Success

Learn how the Australian has surged after injury layoff

Last July, Aleksandar Vukic sat at home in Australia unsure if he would continue playing professional tennis. The Sydneysider was in the midst of a four-month hiatus as he recovered from an elbow injury. Still yet to crack the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, he had doubts about his future. The Aussie remembers speaking to his parents and University of Illinois head coach Brad Dancer among others.

“They were the ones who supported me and have been through the thick and thin… It’s just in those tough conversations that I think you really just look within yourself and really see what you want to do in life,” Vukic told “[Playing tennis] is like with any job, it comes with its ups and downs. And I think, for me, there’s no limit to what I can do. There’s no expectation of what I can do. It’s just trying to do my best. I think I’m trying to do as much of that as I can.”

Vukic had been dealing with his elbow injury on and off for six months. He remembers sitting home watching Wimbledon instead of pursuing his dream.

“It was very tough. It gave me a lot of admiration for other guys that have gone through injury, and have had other problems that have been able to come back,” Vukic said. “I couldn’t have done it without everyone that has supported me.”

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The “it” is one of the most significant climbs of any player on the ATP Tour in 2023. The week of 20 February, Vukic was World No. 201. If he reaches the third round of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in Toronto, he is likely to crack the Top 50 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.

“It’s been a lot and it’s definitely had its moments of being overwhelming. But it’s also had its moments of [me] being really happy,” Vukic said. “I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can and take each day as it comes because it is coming at me quick. And I feel like I’m just trying to enjoy it.”

Vukic’s college coach, Dancer, recalls the conversation he had with his former charge last year.

“Everybody has doubts, whether it’s about [their] body or results or something about what they can do. My role for Vuki is really just to sit and listen most of the time,” Dancer said. “He’s such a driven, intelligent, thoughtful person that I think lots of times he just talks things out to me. He’s talking all these things out and I’m listening to him, and I think in the process of those conversations, he was figuring out, ‘Yes, I am going to do this still.’”

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Vukic’s Journey To His Australian Open Breakthrough

Much of Vukic’s success since his comeback last August came on the ATP Challenger Tour, where he won a title and reached four finals. But his biggest moment during that stretch came just two weeks ago in Atlanta, where he advanced to his first ATP Tour final.

One year ago, the Australian was unsure if he would continue. But knowing countrymen like James Duckworth and Jason Kubler have overcome significant injury hurdles to enjoy success on the ATP Tour helped keep high his belief.

“I think once you start thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going be back and I’m going try to go for Top 100,’ it seems so far away. And it is,” Vukic said. “All you can do is take it day by day.”

The Australian has learned how to persevere from his parents, Rad and Ljiljana, who fled war-torn Sarajevo. Vukic’s older brother, Vlad, was born in Bosnia and had “really bad asthma”. When Vlad was one, they fled, as Rad did not want to enlist in the army and potentially get killed. The family heard bullets flying outside their home.

Ljiljana fled with Vlad and Rad later managed to blend in with another family to also leave the country. They all eventually made their way to Australia, where all they had was about $1,000. Aleksandar was later born in the country. Rad and Ljiljana “worked their way up from nothing” and became computer engineers. It is a story Dancer recently discussed with Vukic’s parents at Wimbledon.

“They just went over there with nothing, and they built themselves from scratch,” Dancer said. “And I think Vuki has that same grittiness that they obviously displayed. That’s really, really cool.

“His dad is a nervous nellie, which I love. I love it when parents are nervous. I always joke with his dad every time he’s got a close match that, ‘He’s doing that just to torture you, Rad.’ I think they’ve been a huge influence on his life, his dad’s passion, and his mom’s calmer demeanor.”

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Dancer explained of Vukic’s personality: “I think he’s ridiculously kind. He’s very empathetic, so he has a really strong side of empathy for him. Probably a little bit too much, which is incredibly ironic, because I always talk about him, he’s like a shark in the water when he smells blood. So his sort of personal traits are very different from his competitive traits. And I think he’s got a unique switch that he can turn on when he competes and he is a ferocious competitor.”

After a first-round loss in Washington and a defeat in the final round of qualifying in Toronto, it seemed Vukic’s momentum had slowed. But he received a lucky loser spot in the main draw at the Canadian ATP Masters 1000 event and made the most of it by easing past 2022 Cincinnati champion Borna Coric.

“Before this match, I just had to take some time to myself and with everything that has gone on the last few weeks, it was overwhelming,” Vukic said. “I was just so grateful to have my parents, my family, my girlfriend, my coaches that have helped me all along the way and it’s one of those things where it’s just like ‘Jeez, this is it. This is what you’re dreaming of and this is the life that we’ve always wanted.’

“It is completely surreal, so hopefully I can get used to it, hopefully I can keep enjoying it, and hopefully I can keep going.”

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Ruud Toughs Out Toronto Opener

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Ruud Toughs Out Toronto Opener

Norwegian is one win away from 200th tour-level victory

Casper Ruud battled through a tricky test from Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday to reach the third round of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers.

A semi-finalist at last year’s ATP Masters 1000 event in Montreal, Ruud defeated the 21-year-old Czech 7-6(6), 6-4 in a tale of two sets.

Ruud struggled to find his best level in the opening set, committing 21 unforced errors, including six double faults. Despite having a set point on return at 5-6 that Lehecka fended off with a deft backhand drop shot, the World No. 5 kept his cool to rally from 0/4 in the first-set tie-break and later winning four consecutive points from 4/6. 

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“I just kind of said to myself, ‘Don’t give up,'” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “Honestly the last couple of losses I’ve had in the last month have been going away from me too quickly, I’ve lost a couple sets 0-6, which is not a good feeling.

“I was down 0/4 in that tie-break and I said, ‘I’m just going to somehow get my claws and keep holding onto this score. Luckily I got two mini-breaks back and then saved a couple set points. It’s sometimes just about luck, margins being on your side and luckily today they were on my side when I really needed it.”

As the match wore on, Ruud found greater consistency, producing heavy top-spin forehands deep beyond the baseline to outlast Lehecka in extended rallies and broke the Czech’s serve to love in the seventh game of the second set. The 24-year-old Ruud won 13 consecutive points in the second set to earn triple match point at 5-3 before closing the match on serve, converting his fourth match point.

“Towards the end of the second set, I was starting to feel better. I was hitting cleaner and serving much better,” Ruud said. “First set and second set, a little bit of a difference but I’m happy with the way I progressed through the match.”

Ruud will next meet 13th seed Alexander Zverev or Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Should the Norwegian win and reach the Toronto quarter-finals, it would mark his 200th tour-level victory.

The third seed is aiming for his second title of the season (Estoril) and first career crown at ATP Masters 1000 level. Currently eighth in the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin, Ruud is hoping for another deep run in Canada to put distance between him and other Nitto ATP Finals hopefuls.

World No. 36 Lehecka, who was making his Toronto debut, produced heavy hitting throughout the second-round clash to push Ruud. A finalist at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, Lehecka will rue committing 35 unforced errors to Ruud’s 25.

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Murray/Venus Advance In Toronto

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Murray/Venus Advance In Toronto

Hurkacz/Pavic to meet top seeds Koolhof/Skupski

Jamie Murray and Michael Venus are looking to continue their standout season this week at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers, where they made a winning start to the ATP Masters 1000 event on Tuesday.

The British-Kiwi duo, who are aiming for their fourth title of the year, defeated Argentines Francisco Cerundolo and Tomas Martin Etcheverry 7-6(5), 6-3 after one hour, 29 minutes to set a second-round clash against fourth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Matthew Ebden.

All six of Tuesday’s doubles matches in Toronto were completed in straight sets. Hubert Hurkacz and Mate Pavic downed Lloyd Glasspool and Harri Heliovaara 6-2, 7-5. The Polish-Croatian pair fended off all four break points faced and will next meet top seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski, who are aiming to defend their title.

Sixth seeds Kevin Krawietz cruised past home hopes Peter Polansky and Adil Shamasdin 6-3, 6-2. Wild cards Nicolas Mahut and Vasek Pospisil defeated Benjamin Sigouin and Kelsey Stevenson 7-5, 6-4.

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Here's Why Murray Tipped Alcaraz To Become No. 1… Two Years Ago!

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Here’s Why Murray Tipped Alcaraz To Become No. 1… Two Years Ago!

Scot reflects on the Wimbledon final

Almost exactly two years ago, spoke to Andy Murray about tennis’ future stars. Who would be the next new World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings?

“Of the current ones, Medvedev would be the guy I would expect to get there first. I think maybe he will need to be a little bit more consistent on the clay to get there, but I think he’s got a good chance,” Murray said at the time. “From the young, young ones, I think [Carlos] Alcaraz is really, really good. I think he’s got a good chance at it.”

The Scot’s words proved prophetic. Just a few weeks later, Medvedev won his first major at the US Open and in February 2022 became the first World No. 1 since the start of the Big Four’s reign. Medvedev was No. 2 at the time of Murray’s declaration, so that was not far-fetched.

However, Alcaraz had not yet cracked the world’s Top 50 and had less than a month earlier claimed his maiden ATP Tour title in Umag. Murray last week told that he had good reason to believe in the Spaniard. The Scot had spoken to his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Murray admittedly did not know Alcaraz “really well” and had not seen much of him on the practice court or in the gym. He recalled: “I asked Ferrero, ‘Does he love tennis? Does he work hard?”

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During the conversation between the two former World No. 1s, Ferrero explained to Murray that Alcaraz is “really good with that stuff. Like he’s brilliant, he’s really into it”.

“That was sort of enough for me having seen his game and then hearing from his coach and someone who knows what hard work is like that he was going to go on potentially to have a great career,” Murray said.

The 46-time tour-level champion has faced Alcaraz in two Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings, both of which came in 2021. They split those clashes.

The world has seen the technical skill that the Spaniard brings to the court, from his ferocious forehand to delicate drop shot and movement around the court. But Murray feels that something else in the 20-year-old’s game sticks out the most.

“The thing that I love about watching him is just the freedom that he plays with and part of that is youth I think. I just hope he doesn’t lose that,” Murray said. “That’s the one thing I would love to just see him continue to play that sort of style of tennis that he plays with. The drop shots or serve-volleys. Sometimes it looks a little bit Kamikaze, but he just is totally instinctive. And I love that.”

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Murray was in the Centre Court crowd to watch this year’s Wimbledon final between Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic. The Spaniard won a memorable five-setter to claim his first trophy at The Championships.

“I thought that the last few sets were really good. It was very hard conditions that day. I don’t know on the TV how easy it was to see but it was really windy, but it wasn’t like consistent wind. It was blustery and lots of gusts,” Murray said. “The first couple of sets, tennis-wise, I didn’t think were amazing. But I thought the last few sets considering how hard it was, there was some brilliant, brilliant stuff in there and I really enjoyed the final.”

It was the first time Murray had sat and watched a full match from the stands “for a long time”.

“I learned a lot from it and could have gone either way. Novak had his chance at the beginning of the fifth set,” Murray said. “But Alcaraz did incredibly well to win that particularly after the first set because it was really quick. Novak looked great, really comfortable. He did really well to win it.

“There was one point right at the end of the second set where Novak missed a couple of backhands in a row. I think it was on the set point and then the point straight afterwards, which maybe changed things a little bit. It would have been hard to come back from to sets down. But yeah, it was a good match.”

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Diallo Stuns Evans In Toronto, Purcell Upsets Felix

  • Posted: Aug 09, 2023

Diallo Stuns Evans In Toronto, Purcell Upsets Felix

Diallo earns first ATP Tour win

Gabriel Diallo will never forget his first ATP Tour win.

The 21-year-old Canadian stunned Washington champion Daniel Evans 7-6(4), 7-5 on home soil Tuesday to reach the second round of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers.

The No. 141 player in the Pepperstone ATP Ranking entered the match with an 0-4 tour-level record. But he showed nerves of steel under pressure to close out the in-form Briton after two hours.

“Words cannot really describe how I feel right now. I hope that everyone in this planet can feel what I’m feeling right now, this level of happiness,” Diallo said in his on-court interview. “But obviously it doesn’t come without hard work behind the scenes. People don’t know us as tennis players, we travel, we lose first round, we go to crazy places losing first round, it’s so tough.

“But it shows that hard work eventually pays off and hopefully this can be the start of something.”

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Diallo: ‘I Believe That I Have The Potential’

Evans trailed by a break on three separate occasions in the second set. After digging out of trouble when serving to stay in the match at 3-5 in the second set, Evans turned towards his team and let out a roar, pumping himself up to try to find energy resources to turn things around, while also making his opponent aware of the gravitas of the moment.

Diallo stumbled serving out the match, hitting a double fault long to relinquish his break. But the Canadian did not panic, taking advantage of unforced forehand errors from Evans in the next game before serving out the match at the second opportunity.

It marked Diallo’s second win of the year against Evans, whom he eliminated at an ATP Challenger Tour event in Surbiton on grass. What is Diallo’s secret against Evans?

“I have no idea. Luck, a lot of luck. And obviously playing [at] home in my home country, with my fans and my family, it helps a lot,” said Diallo, who will next play Australian Alex de Minaur. “But I got I got lucky twice and we’ll see the next time.”

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In other action Tuesday evening, Max Purcell spoiled Felix Auger-Aliassime’s 23rd birthday by defeating the home favourite 6-4, 6-4.

The Australian dropped just three points behind his first serve and did not face a break point to upset the 10th seed, who committed 29 unforced errors to Purcell’s 13 throughout the one-hour, 35-minute contest.

“These top guys haven’t played me much, so they don’t really know too many of my patterns yet,” Purcell said in his on-court interview. “I’m sure Felix will figure it out at some point and smoke me. But I think it’s a little bit of that unknown and I guess I have nothing to lose out here as well. In saying that, I still trust that my level is good enough to play with these big guys.”

Purcell displayed great variety, often implementing slice, to earn his maiden win at ATP Masters 1000 level and second victory against the Canadian, whom he also beat at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Purcell’s win on Tuesday against the World No. 12 marks the highest-ranked win of his career. The 25-year-old will next meet three-time major champion Andy Murray.

Auger-Aliassime fell to 0-3 on his birthday (2018, 2019). The Canadian, who was a quarter-finalist in Montreal last year, is on a five-match skid.

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