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Rublev Reflective After Dash From Desert: 'I'm Really Enjoying Tennis'

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

The last time Andrey Rublev competed at the VTB Kremlin Cup, he lifted the trophy as the sixth seed. But while his title aspirations remain the same, the magnifying glass has zoomed in closer on the Russian.

Rublev is the top seed at the ATP 250 this week, and instead of sitting at No. 31 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, he is a fixture in the Top 10, currently World No. 6.

“Of course it’s a lot of pressure, which is normal. Of course I think you cannot show your best performance every week and during 11 months, it’s super tough,” Rublev said. “I think only top players have enough experience, or [players] who are already a couple years in the Top 10, like Daniil [Medvedev]. They know how to handle these things better.

“Some months I am playing really well and am going really deep in tournaments. Some months I have not that great results and am losing a bit earlier. But still, I [have] managed to be all the year Top 10, which is the most important thing.”

The 23-year-old is constantly focused on improving his game, and that has helped put him in a good position to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the second consecutive year. But there is one thing in particular the eight-time ATP Tour titlist feels he needs to work on.

“For now, I would say the mental part. I think this is the main [thing] in my case, because the players who are better than me, they know how to manage all these moments much better than me,” Rublev said. “Game-wise since the Laver Cup, I am feeling really well. I am feeling that I am playing on a great level, I have great confidence.

“Maybe I didn’t do that well in Indian Wells, but still I feel that I am having a great level of tennis now and that is the most important thing.”

Rublev lost a tough three-setter in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open against Tommy Paul, but he battled hard alongside countryman Aslan Karatsev — the second seed in Moscow — to reach the doubles final in the California desert.

Three days on from that doubles final, Rublev will be back in match action on Tuesday 10 hours away alongside countryman Karen Khachanov against third seeds Luke Saville and John-Patrick Smith. Physically, it is a tough turnaround, but the two-time ATP Masters 1000 finalist is loving every moment of it.

“I’m really enjoying to play tennis, I’m really enjoying to travel, so for me mentally for sure it’s fine. But of course sometimes, especially now when I just arrived from the States here in Moscow and I have to compete already tomorrow, physically it’s tough, only because of the time difference,” Rublev said. “And this is normal, this is part of our sport sometimes and we cannot do anything about it. But the mental part I am okay, because I am really enjoying tennis.”

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Cilic Begins Moscow Campaign

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Two-time VTB Kremlin Cup champion Marin Cilic began his campaign for his third title in Moscow on Monday, moving past Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1 to reach the second round.

The Croatian, who triumphed at the ATP 250 event in 2014 and 2015, won 12 of the last 13 games as he rallied to advance after one hour and 51 minutes and improve to 2-0 against Dzumhur in their ATP Head2Head series.

“It always feels great [to be here],” Cilic said in his on-court interview. “It is always a pleasure and it is great to see a nice crowd here. I know that Damir always enjoys these conditions where the court is a bit slower and the ball stays a bit lower, so I was having a little bit of difficulty on his serve in the first set.”

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With his victory, the sixth seed has snapped a three-match losing streak. Cilic will next face American Tommy Paul or Winston-Salem finalist Mikael Ymer in the second round.

“In the second set I found a better rhythm and started to play great tennis and then the third set was really high quality and I could not be happier,” Cilic added.

Cilic won his 19th tour-level title when he downed #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in Stuttgart in June and has advanced to semi-finals in Singapore and Estoril this season.

John Millman also advanced after the Australian overcame Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes. The 32-year-old is making his debut in Moscow and will next meet fifth seed Alexander Bublik or Ukrainian qualifier Illya Marchenko.

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Norrie Strengthens Nitto ATP Finals Bid

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Cameron Norrie has soared into contention for a place at the Nitto ATP Finals after he captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open, where he overcame Nikoloz Basilashvili in the final.

The Briton was in 14th position in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin prior to the start of Indian Wells, but has surged to 10th (on 2,830 points) after he clinched the biggest trophy of his career. The 26-year-old is now just 125 points behind ninth-placed Hubert Hurkacz, who occupies the final qualifying spot on 2,955 points. Rafael Nadal is currently eighth, but has stopped his season due to a foot injury.

Norrie, who won his maiden ATP Tour crown at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos in July, is aiming to make his debut at the prestigious season finale, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November.

“Even before the tournament I was in the hunt. I think before I was 14 or 15 in the Race. I had a chance,” Norrie said in his post-match press conference in Indian Wells. “I was thinking about it. If you think about it too much, it can’t be good for you. I’m playing Vienna, Paris, and Stockholm, the last three events indoors. It would be nice to make it, but I’m going to keep going, keep taking care of what I can and handling what I can.

“I think even being in the conversation this late in the year, I think that’s impressive for me. If you would have told me before the year that would be the case, I would have been happy. I think that’s a lot of good progression.”

View Latest FedEx ATP Race To Turin Standings

Norway’s Casper Ruud has strengthened his bid to qualify, rising to seventh on 3,015 points after he advanced to the fourth round in Indian Wells. The 22-year-old has enjoyed a career-best season, capturing a tour-leading five titles this year. In July, he became the first player since Andy Murray in October 2011 to complete an ATP Tour hat-trick, triumphing in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel in three consecutive weeks.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini remains in sixth (4,000) and is close to securing his second qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals, having made his debut at the event in 2019. #NextGenATP stars Jannik Sinner of Italy and Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime are 11th (2,595) and 12th (2,330) respectively, and remain in the mix with less than one month to go in the regular ATP Tour season.

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Norrie Surges Into Top 10 Of 2021 FedEx ATP Race To Turin

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

No. 10 Cameron Norrie, +4
The Brit has soared into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Race To Turin after he clinched his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open. The 26-year-old, who had not won a match in two prior main draw appearances in Indian Wells, is the first British man to lift the trophy in California. The Los Cabos champion is aiming to make his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, which will be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November. Read Indian Wells Final Report & Watch Highlights

View Latest FedEx ATP Race To Turin Rankings

No. 7 Casper Ruud, +1
The 22-year-old has risen one spot to eighth after he enjoyed a run to the fourth round in Indian Wells. The Norwegian has won five tour-level titles this year and moved past Roberto Carballes Baena and Lloyd Harris, before falling to Diego Schwartzman in the desert.

No. 15 Nikoloz Basilashvili, +7
After advancing to his first Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells, the Georgian has climbed seven places in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin. The 29-year-old upset World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals in what was his first Top 5 victory since he defeated then-World No. 5 Alexander Zverev in Hamburg in 2019.

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 23 Grigor Dimitrov, +15
No. 26T Taylor Fritz, +16
No. 49 Gael Monfils, +6
No. 59 Tallon Griekspoor, +21
No. 62T Tommy Paul, +10

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History For Hubi! Hurkacz Cracks The Top 10

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz on Monday became the second man from Poland to break into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings when he reached a career-high World No. 10. The 24-year-old is the 174th player to join the elite group and the second this year, alongside Norwegian Casper Ruud.

This year’s Miami champion is the first man from his country to accomplish the feat since Wojtek Fibak, who climbed to a career-high World No. 10 on 25 July 1977. Hurkacz began the season at World No. 34.

“We have been working with my coach, CB [Craig Boynton], for [a] couple of years already, but the work we have been doing every single day, last year as well, we have been working very hard,” Hurkacz said during a press conference in Cincinnati. “I think just that’s a process and I’m improving my game. I try to get better every single day.”

It has been a year of firsts for Hurkacz, who has become a contender at the biggest tournaments on the circuit. The Polish star won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami and advanced to his first major semi-final at Wimbledon.

Hurkacz has enjoyed good results this year, and he has also impressed his peers in the process. Former World No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov needed a final-set tie-break to claw past Hurkacz in the BNP Paribas Open quarter-finals, and was quick to praise the Pole.

“He served amazing. I even told him after the match at the net. I think he’s improved amazingly on the serve. At some point I had to even guess where he’s going to go,” Dimitrov said. “He’s such a nice guy. It’s so nice to have him on Tour. Always very friendly, very easy to talk to. We’ve hit quite a few times against each other in Monaco. We have very friendly vibes all in all, which is great.”

As Dimitrov said, Hurkacz is known for his smile and kindness off the court. But on it, the winner of three trophies this season has been working hard alongside coach Craig Boynton to craft one of the most dangerous games on the ATP Tour.

“We’re always searching for improvements until he wants to put down the racquets and do something different. What you work on might change, because you sit down with a set of goals and once you achieve those goals, you need to replace them with new ones,” Boynton said. “The better you get, the harder you’ve got to work for the smaller improvement.”

This week four years ago, Hurkacz was outside the World’s Top 400. But the 6’5” right-hander steadily improved and in 2018 he competed in the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

“I have been playing tennis since I was a young kid,” Hurkacz said in Cincinnati. “So now being able to play on the biggest stages, it’s a lot of fun.”

With Hurkacz up to No. 10, Roger Federer falls from No. 9 to No. 11. It is the first time Federer has been outside the Top 10 since January 2017.

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Missing Shoes Don't Stop Norrie From Biggest Win Yet

  • Posted: Oct 18, 2021

Imagine preparing for the biggest match of your life only to realise your tennis shoes have gone missing! Cameron Norrie faced that challenge on Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open, but nothing was able to stop the Briton, who captured his first ATP Masters 1000 title despite the mystery of the missing shoes.

“Every day I left my shoes on top of the locker. I think someone, I don’t know who it was, maybe someone from the cleaners or something last night, came through and they threw the three pairs of shoes that I had away,” Norrie said. “I looked all day. I had everyone looking. I don’t know what the people have against the Brits with stealing the shoes, but I didn’t manage to get them back. Just had to go out there with a fresh pair of shoes.

“It was just difficult. Luckily I didn’t have a wedding ring attached. I didn’t lose that, so it was a bonus for me.”

It was reminiscent of an incident earlier in the tournament, when Andy Murray left a pair of smelly shoes under his car to air them out. When he woke up, they were gone, and so was his wedding ring, which was attached to the shoelaces. Eventually, the former World No. 1 recovered the shoes.

Norrie did not, but that did not stop him from rallying past Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets to become the first male British singles champion in tournament history.

“I don’t think it mattered too much. Ideally I like to play with shoes that I’ve been using for maybe five or six hits or practices or warmups. I like to have them a little bit used. They feel a bit heavy in general if they’re a bit newer,” Norrie said. “A couple times I was just thinking about it, probably not the best thing. You don’t want to be thinking about your shoes. A little bit to get used to.

“At one point I said, ‘All right, these are the shoes I got, I’m just going to focus on what I can control right now.’ I wore them in a little bit, came good in the end.”

Norrie began the tournament at a career-high World No. 26 and enjoying the best season of his career. But he had never previously made a Masters 1000 quarter-final. Was the run surprising for the lefty?

“I think it’s a little bit surprising. Starting the tournament, you’re a little bit nervous, you’re not really sure, not used to the conditions. You’re not feeling good. I had a couple of tough matches early on,” Norrie said. “I think it just shows if you stick around in these big events, obviously it was pretty miraculous that all the top guys lost, and when I looked at the four semi-finalists, ‘Hmm, it’s a good opportunity here.’ Didn’t really want to get too far ahead of myself.”

It was been an incredible season for the 26-year-old, who was World No. 71 at the start of the year. Now, Norrie is in 10th in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, just 125 points out of the final qualifying spot for the Nitto ATP Finals.

“I think honestly doing it this way, getting slowly, slowly better every year, improving little things, I don’t think I’ve missed anything, made any big jumps. I’ve been working extremely hard. I’ve got a lot of great people around me that’s wanting the best for me,” Norrie said. “We’re taking care of all the little details on the court, off the court, and we all have the same goal in mind. When that all comes together, it definitely helps.”

The two-time ATP Tour titlist was still taking it all in during his post-match press conference. But one thing was clear: Norrie was over the moon after the tournament of his life.

“What an incredible week I’ve had here,” Norrie said. “I still don’t really know what I’m experiencing. It was an amazing couple weeks and I’m so happy with how I treated all the occasions, all the big moments, all the matches. I’m so happy, so pleased to win my biggest title.”

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