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Fils, Stricker, Van Assche & Cobolli Qualify For Next Gen ATP Finals

  • Posted: Nov 08, 2023

Fils, Stricker, Van Assche & Cobolli Qualify For Next Gen ATP Finals

Shelbayh receives wild card for 21-and-under event

Arthur Fils, Dominic Stricker, Luca Van Assche and Flavio Cobolli have qualified for the Next Gen ATP Finals, while Abdullah Shelbayh has received a wild card for the innovative 21-and-under event, to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 28-November-2 December.

The 19-year-old Frenchman Fils has broken new ground on the ATP Tour this season after beginning the year at No. 251 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The World No. 36 captured his first tour-level title in Lyon in May and reached the title match in Antwerp last month. Fils also enjoyed runs to the semi-finals in Montpellier, Marseille and Hamburg and is now set to make his debut in Jeddah.

Fils’ countryman Van Assche will also line up at the Next Gen ATP Finals after qualifying for the first time. The 19-year-old has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year, with his best result on the ATP Tour a quarter-final showing at the ATP 500 in Hamburg. Van Assche also won a set against Novak Djokovic in Banja Luka.

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Swiss lefty Stricker will make his second appearance at the 21-and-under event after reaching the semi-finals last year. The 21-year-old has continued his development this season, highlighted by his run to the fourth round at the US Open. Stricker cracked the Top 100 for the first time after his performance in New York.

Cobolli’s standout end to the year has helped him seal his spot in Jeddah. The 21-year-old Italian won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Lisbon in August and also made finals at that level in Romania and Italy in recent weeks. The World No. 100 advanced to the quarter-finals in Munich in April.

Shelbayh will be the first Jordanian player to compete at the event after receiving a wild card. The 19-year-old has earned tour-level wins in Banja Luka and Metz this season and became the first player from Jordan to win an ATP Challenger Tour title when he triumphed in Charleston in October.

Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune are competing at the Nitto ATP Finals this month and are therefore exempt, while Ben Shelton and Lorenzo Musetti have withdrawn due to medical and personal reasons, respectively.

The sixth edition of the Next Gen ATP Finals will be held at the King Abdullah Sports City from 28 November-2 December. Tickets to see the sport’s upcoming stars are available to buy now.

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Rublev Returns To Turin: Always Humble, Always Fighting

  • Posted: Nov 08, 2023

Rublev Returns To Turin: Always Humble, Always Fighting

26-year-old reached first Turin semi-final last season

Most elite athletes thrive behind supreme confidence, their self-belief — justified or not — willing them to achieve the impossible.

Andrey Rublev is built different. For any fans who have seen the unique 26-year-old’s affable off-court demeanor, that will come as no surprise. But Rublev is very much his own man inside the lines as well.

This season, when he won his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo, he battled back from 1-4, 0/30 in the third set to defeat Holger Rune in the final. What was going through his head as the Dane was pulling away?

“That it was over,” Rublev told the ATP Tour’s cameras earlier this season. “It was over, but at least try to play, not to give up. You never know, maybe somehow there will be one chance to come back and maybe somehow you will be lucky and you will make it.”

In the end, Rublev found a way through — though luck had little to do with it. After two previous defeats in ATP Masters 1000 finals, he was brought to tears upon claiming the elusive crown on the Monaco clay.

The trophy carried added significance after recent changes to Rublev’s coaching team. While Fernando Vicente, Rublev’s primary coach since 2016, remained in his role, there was a major shakeup beyond that before the start of the season.

“In the beginning of the year, I was feeling that I was doing good things in the practices. But I was not wining something big, so you still have weird feelings,” Rublev said of the new setup, speaking in a recent interview with

“And then Monte-Carlo just gave me the confidence that the work that I was doing was the right way. Then some results later and Shanghai [reaching the final] proved that the team that I have, the practices that I’m doing, this is the way I was looking for and I have to do it with even more confidence.”

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Rublev has proven many times he can beat the world’s best. He has 23 wins against the Top 10, including a victory against current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. In early November at the Rolex Paris Masters, he nearly earned a second win against the Serbian, but fell just short in a semi-final match of the highest quality

“Rublev was suffocating me like a snake suffocates a frog for most of the match,” Djokovic said after a dramatic 5-7, 7-6(3), 7-5 victory. “He was playing an extremely high level that he possesses, but today he was off the charts, honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever faced Rublev this good.”

Prior to that meeting, when asked what he would need to do to beat the Serbian at the Nitto ATP Finals, Rublev maintained his humble attitude.

“I need to play my best match and he needs to play his worst match,” he said, later repeating the same answer when asked about his chances against Carlos Alcaraz.

There is no doubt Rublev will need to be firing on all cylinders at his fourth Nitto ATP Finals appearance, where he will be one champion among eight of the ATP Tour’s best. But by keeping his expectations low, he may be setting the stage for his biggest title yet.

“It kind of takes out the pressure,” Rublev said. “Of course, if I play [Djokovic or Alcaraz], I will do my best to try to compete against them and to have a chance to try to win it. But it’s super tough, and they’re better than me and they show it already for many years. So we’ll see. For this I need to really, really to play my best tennis.”

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That’s exactly what Rublev did last season in Turin, when he made the semi-finals by coming from a set down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a winner-takes-all group finale. Like in the Monte-Carlo final, Rublev was overwhelmed by a strong start from his opponent and harboured little hope of a comeback. But that did not stop him from fighting, and that fight yielded another one of the biggest wins in his career.

“It was a great moment to be in the semi-finals at one of the best tournaments of tennis,” he reflected, nearly one year later. “To be part of it was special. I remember when I won, the emotions were crazy.”

But rather than let that memory inflate his ego, Rublev was quick to point out the rare air in which he found himself after the win.

“It’s not going to happen often,” he said, looking ahead to the possibility of another deep run in Turin. “Of course I will do everything to be able to feel this emotion again. But we’ll see.

“There is all the best players. Everyone wants to win and everyone is playing unreal.”

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Can Alcaraz Meet The Moment In Turin Debut?

  • Posted: Nov 08, 2023

Can Alcaraz Meet The Moment In Turin Debut?

Spaniard is a six-time tour-level champion in 2023

“I think my tennis didn’t improve so much since last year. What I improved a lot is to [handle] the pressure, just to play relaxed. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Carlos Alcaraz’s words after becoming champion for the first time at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March reflected a 19-year-old at ease with his relatively newfound status as one of the world’s top players.

The Spaniard’s stunning breakout 2022 season, during which he lifted five trophies en route to becoming the youngest No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history, could hardly have been a tougher act to follow. Yet Alcaraz has done just that this year, notching six tour-level crowns and constantly jostling with Novak Djokovic in the race for the coveted ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone honour.

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Although the Serbian enters the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin as heavy favourite to finish 2023 as World No. 1, Alcaraz can look back on another remarkable year in his fledgling ATP Tour career. He wasted little time finding his rhythm on the South American clay after a hamstring injury delayed the start of his season to mid-February, charging to ATP 250 success in Buenos Aires before reaching the final as defending champion in Rio de Janeiro.

His title run in Indian Wells, followed by successful title defences at home in Barcelona and Madrid, ensured Alcaraz had won four of his first six tournaments of the year. His Madrid crown made him the sixth-youngest player in the Open Era to become a 10-time tour-level champion and improved his record in championship matches to 10-3.

“To want to play the tough moments and staying relaxed is the most important part for me,” Alcaraz said after sweeping past Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim the crown in Barcelona. “To forget the mistakes, everything and be myself on court. Not to think about all the people watching, but just me, the court, the racquet and the final.”

That ability to bring his best to the biggest moments has been evident throughout Alcaraz’s rise. Perhaps the one unknown surrounding the Spaniard’s on-court prowess prior to this year was whether he could successfully adapt his game to grass, a surface on which he entered 2023 having played just two tour-level events.

As ever, Alcaraz proved himself a fast learner. On the lawns of The Queen’s Club, he dropped just one set all week to claim the title on event debut and raise the intriguing prospect of providing a bona fide challenge to Novak Djokovic’s four-year reign as Wimbledon champion.

“It means a lot to me. Being able to win this amazing tournament in my first time that I played here for me is fantastic,” said Alcaraz after winning at the London ATP 500 to secure his return to World No. 1 ahead of WImbledon. “To know that I’m [capable of] a good level on grass, obviously [to be] champion of every tournament feels special.”

Even considering that significant grass-court breakthrough, few may have believed what was to come next. The 20-year-old dropped just two sets en route to the final at Wimbledon to set the much-anticipated final showdown with Djokovic, by then on a 34-match winning streak at SW19.

Then, an all-time classic championship match. Four hours, 42 minutes and five sets of topsy-turvy grass-court action that ended with Djokovic netting a forehand and Alcaraz falling backwards onto Centre Court in ecstasy. With his 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory, Alcaraz simultaneously denied Djokovic a return to No. 1 and cemented his spot at the Nitto ATP Finals.

“Making history that I did today, it’s the happiest moment of my life,” said Alcaraz. “I think it’s not going to change for a long time. Beating Novak, winning the Wimbledon championship is something that I dreamt about since I started playing tennis. That’s why this is the biggest moment of my life.”

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Without a title since his thrilling win at the All England Club in July, Alcaraz will be aiming to finish his year with a flourish on debut In Turin, where he did not compete at the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals due to an abdominal injury. His lack of experience playing at the Pala Alpitour is unlikely to bother the 20-year-old, however, who has won three of his 12 tour-level crowns on event debut, including this year in Buenos Aires and at The Queen’s Club.

Entering the season finale as World No. 2 and with a 63-10 season record, Alcaraz will be considered one of the frontrunners for the trophy in Italy. He only has to look at the status of his Lexus ATP Head2Head series with some of his closest rivals to know that his campaign could hinge on the finest of margins — Alcaraz is tied 2-2 with both World No. 1 Djokovic and No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, and trails No. 4 Jannik Sinner 3-4 — but those are the sort of challenges the Spaniard relishes.

“I like those battles. I like to know that I can lose, and I can recover it at the same time,” said Alcaraz in August in Cincinnati, when asked specifically about his rivalry with Djokovic. “Of course, you have to enjoy when the battle is against one of the legends from our sport. For me, it’s something crazy, and I’m trying to enjoy [it].”

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The Dream Liam Draxl Is Fulfilling

  • Posted: Nov 08, 2023

The Dream Liam Draxl Is Fulfilling

The 21-year-old is a recipient of the ATP/ITA Accelerator Programme

Canadian Liam Draxl played tennis as soon as he could walk. His father Brian is the head pro at the Newmarket Community Tennis Club, where Liam recalls his parents had to drag him off the court at night because their son could not get enough of the sport.

Now aged 21, Draxl is living his childhood dream, having just turned pro this summer following a standout career at the University of Kentucky.

“I always go back to that little kid with blonde hair at the Newmarket Tennis Club and loving it,” Draxl told at the Calgary National Bank Challenger. “That was my dream and now I get the opportunity to fulfill my dream.”

Being the son of a teaching pro, Draxl’s upbringing meant he would hang out at the club and hit with anybody who was around.

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“I used to play with an 80 year old every year, there was this little match we had at the club. I’d play with ladies doubles and juniors,” Draxl said. “I’d just be all over the place and I think that was a really cool way of doing it, hopping in lessons left and right. I got such a mixture and experience of all different ages and levels of tennis.”

Draxl was named the ITA National Player of the Year in 2021 and finished his time in Lexington, Kentucky as a three-time ITA All-American. In June, he decided to forego his final year of eligibility and turn pro. He instantly found success on the ITF World Tennis Tour, where he’s won 14 of his past 15 matches. Draxl now looks to build upon his momentum at this week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Calgary, Canada, just his second tournament at that level this season.

Draxl is not the only former University of Kentucky star competing in Calgary. Gabriel Diallo, Alafia Ayeni and Enzo Wallart are also among the field. Diallo, who turned pro this past December is a two-time ATP Challenger Tour champion and is the World No. 133 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The 6’8” Montreal native is somebody that Draxl looks up to, literally and figuratively.

“I’ve known Gab since under 12s, playing all those Canadian tournaments and we ended up going to the same school mostly playing on the court right beside him at number one and two,” Draxl said. “I’ve had so many great memories with Gab.

“When he exploded and won the Granby Challenger last year, it was crazy. We all knew he was really good and talented, but for him to pop out and win a Challenger like that, it was crazy and he’s still doing very well. It’s good for me to know that I was practising with him throughout our college years and I know I’m close to his level or so, so it gives me belief that I can have Challenger success as well.”

Under the tutelage of head coach Cedric Kauffmann at Kentucky, Draxl helped the Wildcats claim their first SEC title since 1992. Draxl is one of 21 players to benefit from the all-new ATP/ITA Accelerator Programme, which aims to increase the development pathway for top players in the American Collegiate system.

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Liam Draxl was a three-time ITA All-American at the University of Kentucky. Credit: UK Athletics
“Liam [was] our captain for a few years. He [was] here for four years, he was ranked number one in college, player of the year,” Kaufmann said. “He’s a rock, he’s a leader. He’s a fighter. I consider him a little bit like Lleyton Hewitt. That’s his style. He likes to compete.”

After finishing 11th in the 2022-’23 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings, Draxl will receive up to eight qualifying spots at select ATP Challenger Tour events in the next year, thanks to the Accelerator Programme. The goal of the programme is to become a launching pad for the top players within the American collegiate system and accelerate their journey to the pro level.

“I think the partnership that we have now with college and those Accelerator spots are wonderful,” Kaufmann said. “I think those guys can speed up the process to get up the rankings. They’re good enough to do it on their own, but I think it creates a little bit faster path for them.”

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Sinner Thrills Fans With Practice Sessions Ahead Of Nitto ATP Finals

  • Posted: Nov 07, 2023

Sinner Thrills Fans With Practice Sessions Ahead Of Nitto ATP Finals

Italian will be the fourth seed at the season finale

Early this week at Il Circolo della Stampa Sporting Torino, the practice facility for the Nitto ATP Finals, Jannik Sinner has been the first singles player on site training for the season finale.

After hitting once on Monday, Sinner practised twice Tuesday. First he shared a session with junior World No. 1 Joao Fonseca, before thrilling fans with a more detail-oriented practice with coaches Darren Cahill and Simone Vagnozzi in the evening.

Sinner this year qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time two years after competing in the season finale as an alternate. The Italian star will be the fourth seed.

“The crowd is behind me and obviously I will try my best to make all the fans as happy as possible and try to win as many matches as possible,” Sinner recently told the ATP Podcast. “I also have to enjoy the moment. It’s going to be a good moment for me and hopefully it’s going to be a good tournament.”

Dozens of fans were in the crowd at Sinner’s practice on Tuesday evening. Thousands will fill the nearby Pala Alpitour when he takes the court for his matches at the year-end championships.

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#NextGenATP Jordan Star Shelbayh Advances In Metz

  • Posted: Nov 07, 2023

#NextGenATP Jordan Star Shelbayh Advances In Metz

Fognini earns first win tour-level win since Roland Garros

#NextGenATP Jordan star Abdullah Shelbayh earned just his second tour-level win of the season on Tuesday when he defeated Frenchman Hugo Gaston 7-6(5), 6-2 at the Moselle Open.

The 19-year-old came through qualifying at the ATP 250 event and made the most of his main-draw chance, saving one set point on serve in the first set and breaking Gaston’s serve five times to advance to the second round after one hour and 41 minutes. His other main-draw tour-level win came in Banja Luka in April.

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Shelbayh, who won an ATP Challenger Tour title in Charleston last month, is up 29 spots to No. 186 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings. He will face sixth seed and defending champion Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

In other action, Fabio Fognini beat Thiago Seyboth Wild 7-6(3), 7-6(9) to clinch his first tour-level win since Roland Garros in May. Hungarian lucky loser Mate Valkusz also advanced, defeating Daniel Altmaier 6-2, 6-2.

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Bautista Agut Wins Epic In Sofia

  • Posted: Nov 07, 2023

Bautista Agut Wins Epic In Sofia

O’Connell, Purcell advance

Roberto Bautista Agut won a three-hour, 16-minute epic on Tuesday to reach the second round at the Sofia Open.

The Spaniard triumphed at the ATP 250 hard-court event in 2016 and made a winning start to his campaign against Miomir Kecmanovic, clawing past the Serbian 7-6(9), 6-7(2), 7-6(5).

Bautista Agut failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set and at 5-4 in the third set, but eventually prevailed in the third-set tie-break, converting his second match point to improve to 5-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series. Bautista Agut will next play Hungarian Fabian Marozsan.

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Marozsan, who upset Carlos Alcaraz in Rome this year, overcame countryman Zsombor Piros 6-3, 6-1 to reach his fifth tour-level second round of the year.

In other action, Australian Christopher O’Connell defeated #NextGenATP Serbian Hamad Medjedovic 6-7(3), 6-1, 7-6(2) to improve to 2-0 in the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series. O’Connell will next play Sebastian Ofner after the Austrian beat Ukrainian qualifier Vitaliy Sachko 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas beat countryman Roberto Carballes Baena 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 49 minutes to earn his first tour-level hard-court win since Basel in 2022. He will next face second seed Adrian Mannarino. Australian Max Purcell also advanced, downing Rinky Hijikata 6-3, 6-3.

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Tsitsipas: 'A Celebration Of The Best Of The Best In Our Sport'

  • Posted: Nov 07, 2023

Tsitsipas: ‘A Celebration Of The Best Of The Best In Our Sport’

Greek won year-end title in 2019 debut

Stefanos Tsitsipas has fond memories at the Nitto ATP Finals, where has has been a constant presence dating back to his triumphant 2019 debut in London. The Greek has not missed the season finale since he claimed the title that season, and his sixth-place position in this year’s Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin earned him his fifth appearance at the prestigious event.

His road to Turin this season included a run to the Australian Open final and a milestone 10th tour-level title in Los Cabos, as well as a runner-up finish in Barcelona. As he looks forward to this year’s pageantry in Italy, Tsitsipas is hungry for another deep run.

“It’s a whole celebration. The ATP Finals is a commemoration and celebration of the best of the best in our sport,” Tsitsipas said. “We all gather together and we get to play against each other and focus on the fact that we are the best in the world trying to fight for this mega trophy, which is a grand prize in our sport. It means a lot.”

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The coming together of so many great champions makes for a memorable week both on and off the court. But the pride of being among the elite group is paired with the challenge of competing against them.

Having emerged from the gauntlet as the last man standing before, Tsitsipas knows first-hand what it means to claim what he considers the season’s ultimate title.

“I would consider it probably a bigger thing than a Slam, honestly,” he said. “It has big prestige and it’s a very valuable asset if you’re able to conquer and win it.”

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The 25-year-old has not advanced beyond the group stage since winning the 2019 crown, but a late-season surge has set him up for success this year. Tsitsipas struggled following his Los Cabos title in August, failing to win multiple singles matches at his next five events. Then came Antwerp.   

The Greek reached the singles semis at the ATP 250, but it was his doubles success with brother Petros Tsitsipas that really changed the vibes around his game. The unseeded duo won its first tour-level title together, winning Match Tie-breaks in the semi-finals and final for an emotional triumph—watched by their parents.

“I did get a good kick out of the doubles. And it transcended into my singles, absolutely,” Tsitsipas said of that inflection point, adding that his girlfriend, WTA star Paula Badosa, has been serving as an unofficial doubles coach.

“Victories like this give you so much confidence and so much faith and belief in how good you can play and how good you can feel on court when you play good, and you aim and strive to play good. So these types of experiences and these type of titles elevate you, and they bring you really to your highest point.”

Tsitsipas followed Antwerp with a second consecutive singles semi-final in Vienna, his first at the ATP 500 and another semi-final showing the Rolex Paris Masters, where he lost a third-set tie-break to Grigor Dimitrov.

“It’s important that I’m able to stabilise myself and be able to consistently go on deep runs in tournaments,” Tsitsipas said of his return to form. “I might not win all of them, but for me it’s important to just be able to repetitively make semis, finals or even win on a consistent basis. So I’m keeping a positive outlook on all of this, and I’m hoping to continue this kind of streak.”

That streak will now be put on the line at the season’s toughest test in Turin, where champions become champion.

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