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Navone's grass-court conundrum

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2024

Mariano Navone’s introduction to grass 12 months ago was brief and eye-opening.

After winning an ATP Challenger Tour title on clay in Poznan on the Saturday, the 23-year-old travelled to west London 24 hours later to make his debut on the surface at Wimbledon qualifying. He won just three games against Ricardas Berankis, with the match lasting 60 minutes.

“Last year was my first time ever on grass. I came to the club and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a strange feeling’,” Navone told “It was crazy because I won a Challenger on clay and then the next day on Sunday I trained indoors on hard. Then when I played on grass on Monday I thought, ‘What is this? What is going on?’ Because it felt totally different than a clay court or a hard court. It was my first time and it was a different experience, a challenge!”


Twelve months on and Navone is set to compete on the surface for a second time when he plays Jack Draper in the cinch Championships. It will be his maiden tour-level grass-court match. The six-time ATP Challenger Tour champion is hoping he can find his groove on the surface this week, using last year’s experience as a learning curve.

“I didn’t have time to prepare last year. This year it’s different because I finished Roland Garros and then went home for a little bit and played on fast hard courts. I have prepared more, hitting on grass since Thursday. But it is the first time on the ATP Tour playing on grass because I am now playing more events as I am No. 29.

“I have expectations ahead of my first match but I’m nervous. I have to improve, to get a feel for grass and moving on grass. I hope for a good tournament, but I know it’s my first time, so it’s different when you have experience. I think my backhand works well on grass. It is better because I hit the ball fast. I can control the ball easier on this surface and I like to change quickly and hit down the line. My return is very important on grass. It is good on clay, so hopefully I can adjust quickly.”

Navone grew up competing on clay in Buenos Aires and has played the majority of his matches on the surface. This year, the 23-year-old has competed 36 times at all levels, with only one of his clashes coming off clay (Australian Open qualifying).

It is a surface the Argentine has flourished on, with Navone reaching tour-level finals in Rio de Janeiro and Bucharest earlier this year. Up to No. 29 in the PIF ATP Rankings, Navone revealed he is now receiving more attention from fans when at home. The 23-year-old has enjoyed this new aspect of his life.

“When I came back after [Roland Garros] people recognised me in the streets and in the bars people wanted to take some photos with me,” Navone said. “I went to a restaurant and people recognised me. I enjoy returning love to the people and children.

“Most importantly the children because they are little. One time I was this little guy. When I was a kid I saw Nalbandian. I was like ‘Wow, what a superstar’. When I saw David Ferrer this year in Rio at the ceremony, he hugged me and I spoke some words with him and that was crazy. He was my idol so it is really cool.”


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Harris' big turnaround to 'tip-top shape'

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2024

Lloyd Harris is reaping the rewards of toiling through trials for two years.

The South African, who underwent major right wrist surgery in June 2022, last week climbed inside the Top 100 of the PIF ATP Rankings for the first time in 21 months.

Harris triumphed at the Lexus Surbiton Trophy, where he won his maiden grass-court crown and became just the fourth player to win a trio of ATP Challenger Tour titles this season. But before his resurgence, the 27-year-old was enduring a turbulent period.

“The last two, three months have been a big turnaround for me,” Harris told the ATP Challenger Tour media team last week. “It’s been a tough start to the year. A tough last year dealing with a lot of injuries, came back from a big surgery. It’s been a difficult road. But all in all, in the last few months I’ve felt like I’ve stepped up and improved and changed my mentality completely.”

Harris was enjoying the tennis of his life in 2021, the year he beat Rafael Nadal in Washington D.C., reached the US Open quarter-finals and later hit a career-high No. 31. Things quickly changed the following season, when Harris tore his triangular fibrocartilage complex, a major contributor in wrist stability. The pain was extensive, leaving Harris with a no-brainer decision: surgery.

“It was just too difficult for me to enjoy my time on court. I couldn’t have fun out there anymore, couldn’t give it my 100 per cent,” said Harris, who did not play again in 2022 after Roland Garros. “I spent a lot of time talking to the team, to doctors and a lot of thinking just by myself… In the end, ultimately I couldn’t keep playing with that much pain.”

Seeded second at this week’s Lexus Ilkley Trophy, Harris has found some of his best level the past two months, highlighted by his biggest career title at the ATP Challenger Tour 125 event in Surbiton. Following his final victory against Swiss Leandro Riedi, Harris’ big grin and loud roar of ‘Come on!’ revealed what being crowned champion meant to the Cape Town native.

“I think when you are dealing with physical issues and pains and aches in your body and not feeling healthy when you’re playing, mentally it gets to you,” Harris said. “But right now I’m feeling mentally and physically in tip-top shape, so I’m super pleased with that.”

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/06/11/19/31/harris-surbitonch-2024.jpg” style=”width:100%” alt=”Lloyd Harris wins his first grass-court title and sixth ATP Challenger Tour crown in Surbiton.” />
Lloyd Harris wins his first grass-court title and sixth ATP Challenger Tour crown in Surbiton. Credit: Tom Dulat/Getty Images for LTA

Just 12 months ago, Harris was teetering around the Top 300 of the PIF ATP Rankings, competing on both the ATP Tour and the ATP Challenger Tour. This season, shortly before his current streak of winning 17 of his past 19 Challenger-level matches, Harris was again navigating through a difficult stretch. He suffered six consecutive first-round losses at the ATP Challenger Tour level spanning from January to March.

But Harris did not let himself become overwhelmed with the lack of results.

“I think what kept me going was just the fact that the wheel will turn. Eventually things do come right. Sometimes it feels like it’s endless, two, three months struggling. Pain, no pain, struggling with tennis. But eventually I do feel like you find the rhythm. If you put the hard work in, do all the correct stuff, if you really are dedicated to it, there’s always that turning point. It’s just that dedication to keep going.”


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Fonseca after climbing 500 spots in six months: ‘Tennis is about steps’

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2024

How far can Joao Fonseca’s upward trajectory take him in 2024?

At just 17 years old, the #NextGenATP Brazilian has announced himself on the ATP Tour with a series of impressive performances across the past six months. He has reached two tour-level quarter-finals, including one on home soil in Rio de Janeiro, and climbed a remarkable 513 spots in the PIF ATP Rankings since 1 January. His rise has been so rapid that Fonseca has barely had time to calibrate it against any expectations he may have had for his first few months as a pro.

“I was really not thinking about it,” the Brazilian told on Monday in Halle, when asked if he had set himself a ranking target at the start of the year. “After Rio, where I made the quarters, I jumped from 600 to 300. So it was a really big jump.”

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/02/21/21/58/fonseca-rio-2024-wednesday.jpg” style=”width: 100%;” alt=”Joao Fonseca claims his first tour-level win Wednesday in Rio.” />

Fonseca during his quarter-final run in February in Rio de Janeiro. Photo Credit: Rio Open.

Fonseca has excelled whenever offered the chance to compete at the top level. As a wild card, he reached the quarter-finals in Rio and Bucharest and the second round on his ATP Masters 1000 debut in Madrid. The Brazilian is eager to take advantage of another wild card opportunity this week at the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle, but that does not mean he will be feeling extra stress once he steps on court.

“I think when we have this kind of opportunity, you don’t have any pressure,” said Fonseca, who will play his maiden tour-level match on grass against James Duckworth at the German ATP 500. “You just need to enjoy, and this is what I did in Rio. I was like No. 600 and I was playing guys from the Top 100.

“I just play tennis, play for fun. I was in Rio with all my family watching, and here it will be the same. I will just enjoy. Obviously, I want to win as many matches as I can but it’s just to enjoy, appreciate this place and enjoy the opportunity that I have.”

Now at a career-high No. 217 in the PIF ATP Rankings, Fonseca remains determined to take everything in his stride. The 17-year-old, whose tennis idol is Roger Federer and who grew up only 10 minutes from the site of the Rio Open presented by Claro, is well aware of the need to be patient as he tries to fulfil his undoubted potential.

“I’d say tennis is about steps, so it’s important to play tournaments on the Challenger Tour to get a bit more experience,” said Fonseca, who is 11-8 at that level so far this year. “Obviously, I wanted to go as fast as I could to the ATP Tour, but it’s step by step. After Rio and after Bucharest, I made a real big jump. It’s really nice and I’ve seen my expectations go faster than I could imagine. Now, step by step, I am trying to enter the ATP Tour. That is where I want to be.”

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The highlights of Fonseca’s junior career came only late last year, when he won the 2023 US Open boys’ singles title to become the No. 1-ranked junior in the world. Nine months later, the Brazilian is preparing to compete in his sixth tour-level event while occupying sixth place in the PIF ATP Live Race To Jeddah. If he can qualify for the season-ending Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF, he would be the first Brazilian to do so in event history.

“I think everything started after the US Open, where I won the junior title,” reflected Fonseca. “It gave me more confidence to start this year, and to start on the pro tour, finishing my junior career by becoming No. 1. I started playing more Challengers, and it was different for me. I was just playing tennis, because I didn’t have enough maturity to play those kinds of experienced players that already played a lot of Challengers.

“It was different for me. I’m very happy the way that I managed to evolve, not just in my technique and physically, but also my maturity. So I think I did really well this couple of months, and I hope to still get a lot of progress during this this year.”


While his biggest successes so far have come on clay, Fonseca notched his first two ATP Challenger Tour wins on grass across the past two weeks in Surbiton and Nottingham, respectively. He is a relative novice on the surface, but views playing on it as another beneficial challenge on his path to the top.

“I played on grass in 2022 and 2023, both in juniors,” recalled Fonseca. “I think it’s very different to play the grass with pros to with juniors. It’s such a different level, but last year I did good on grass. I won a tournament and made the quarters of junior Wimbledon.

“This year, I think it’s very important for me, for my game, to play this season on grass. It helps me to play more aggressively and go to the net. You need to give more importance to your serve, because your serve is your best weapon on a grass court. Those types of things, these little things, are very important for my process.”


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Raonic sets record for most aces in best-of-three ATP match

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2024

Milos Raonic on Monday set the record for most aces hit in a best-of-three-set ATP Tour match (since 1991) when he struck 47 in his 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-6(9) victory against Cameron Norrie at the cinch Championships.

The Canadian, who saved two match points in his victory, broke the record previously held by Ivo Karlovic, who hit 45 aces in the 2015 Halle quarter-finals against Tomas Berdych. According to Infosys ATP Stats Raonic won 86 per cent of his first-serve points and held all 17 service games he played.

“With the scoreline and having to save match points, I probably needed every single one of those,” Raonic said. “But my serve has always been the most important shot to me. This small record, it’s something special, something meaningful.

“I’m glad that behind that also stands a win because maybe I’d feel differently or maybe a bit more sour if I was to get that many free points and lose the match. So overall, a very positive thing and a fun stat to be proud of.”


Players To Hit 40 Aces In Best-Of-Three-Set ATP Tour Match (since 1991)

 Player  Tournament  Opponent  Aces
 Milos Raonic  2024 Queen’s Club  Norrie  47
 Ivo Karlovic  2015 Halle, 2014 Zagreb  Berdych, Brands  45, 44
 Mark Philippoussis   1995 Kuala Lumpur  B. Black  44
 Nick Kyrgios  2019 Brisbane  R. Harrison  44
 John Isner  2023 Dallas, 2016 Queen’s Club  Wu, Muller  44, 43
 Mardy Fish  2007 Lyon  O. Rochus  43
 Reilly Opelka  2019 New York (x2)  Isner, Schnur  43, 43

Entering the day, only seven men had hit at least 40 aces in a best-of-three-set ATP Tour match (since 1991). Karlovic, John Isner and Reilly Opelka did it twice, while Mardy Fish, Goran Ivanisevic, Nick Kyrgios and Mark Philippoussis accomplished the feat once each.

Raonic’s previous best in a best-of-three Tour clash came in 2011 in Memphis, where he hit 38 aces in the second round against Radek Stepanek. He made the final that week.

“It definitely makes a big difference. It’s a big part of my game,” Raonic said of his serve. “If I didn’t have my serve, my career would be very different, so I’m very thankful for that. And I’m trying to make everything else around it a little bit better too.”


The former No. 3 player in the PIF ATP Rankings will next play fourth seed Taylor Fritz or Taro Daniel.


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Medvedev saves set point, claws past Borges in Halle

  • Posted: Jun 17, 2024

Daniil Medvedev made a successful start to his chase for his first title of the year Monday in Halle.

Despite facing a set point at 5-6 in the opening set, the third seed defeated Portugal’s Nuno Borges 7-6(4), 6-4 to reach the second round of the Terra Wortmann Open. Medvedev claimed his first grass-court win of 2024 in one hour and 31 minutes.


Borges, who was trying to claim the first Top 10 win of his career (now 0-8), had an opening at the end of the first set. The favourite Medvedev hit a double fault well long to give the Portuguese No. 1 a set point. But the 28-year-old then hit a big first serve out wide to escape trouble.

According to Infosys ATP Stats, the No. 5 player in the PIF ATP Rankings only won five more points than his opponent in the match (74-69), but he saved five of the six break points he faced, which proved critical.

A finalist this year at the Australian Open and BNP Paribas Open, Medvedev is now 22-1 against players outside the Top 20 this season. He will next play Chinese No. 1 Zhang Zhizhen, who battled past Sebastian Ofner 7-6(8), 6-7(3), 6-4.

It will be the first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting between Medvedev and Zhang (no previous tour-level matches), but they played once eight years ago in Nice ATP 250 qualifying. Medvedev won the match in a final-set tie-break.

Wild card Dominik Koepfer of Germany led eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 4-3, when the Canadian retired due to a left hip injury.

In other action, Fabian Marozsan ousted Roman Safiullin 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. He could next play World No. 1 Jannik Sinner should the Italian defeat Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.

Another Italian, Lorenzo Sonego, squeaked past Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic 7-6(6), 7-6(5) behind a good first-serve performance, winning 85 per cent of those points. Sonego will take on second seed Alexander Zverev or qualifier Oscar Otte next.


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