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Ready For Launch: Musetti, Nakashima Headline Challenger Season Debut

  • Posted: Jan 18, 2021

Welcome to 2021. Following a thrilling finish to a wild and unpredictable 2020 campaign, a new season has dawned on the ATP Challenger Tour. While the initial stages might appear different than years past, the battle to become the next breakout star remains the same.

In a typical year, the stars of the Challenger circuit would be descending on tropical Noumea and sun-kissed Australia in January. But with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to impact the world, players are adjusting and adapting to a new setting to kick off their campaigns. This week, snowy Istanbul is the site of the ATP Challenger Tour’s opening tournament. The indoor hard courts of the TED Sports Club play host to the Istanbul Indoor Challenger.

Coming off breakthrough seasons in 2020, #NextGenATP stars Lorenzo Musetti, Brandon Nakashima and Thiago Seyboth Wild enter 2021 looking to take the next step in their bids to crack the Top 100. For the trio, the journey to the Next Gen ATP Finals begins in Istanbul.

At No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, 18-year-old Musetti is the youngest player in the draw. The Italian teen opens against Serbia’s Danilo Petrovic, with third seed Antoine Hoang looming in his quarter of the draw. Nakashima, who closed 2020 with a maiden Challenger title in Orlando, faces Turkish No. 1 Cem Ilkel on Tuesday. A potential Orlando final rematch against Prajnesh Gunneswaran awaits in the second round. Nearly one year removed from his breakthrough ATP Tour title in Santiago, Brazil’s Seyboth Wild enters the year at No. 118 in the world. Seeded second this week, he opens against Mohamed Safwat in the final match of Day One.

ATP Challenger Tour 

Also competing in Istanbul is front-runner Daniel Elahi Galan, who reached the third round at Roland Garros in October and capped 2020 with a title on the clay of Lima, Peru. He joins Seyboth Wild, Hoang and Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis as the Top 4 seeds in the Turkish metropolis. The Colombian opens against a qualifier on Tuesday.

Marc-Andrea Huesler is one of the unseeded players that no one wants to face in Istanbul. The Swiss was the only player to win on multiple surfaces a year ago, prevailing on the outdoor clay of Sibiu, Romania and indoor carpet courts of Ismaning, Germany. One of the hottest players on the planet in the latter months of 2020, Huesler also streaked to the semi-finals at the ATP 250 stop in Kitzbuhel, where he earned his first Top 20 victory over Fabio Fognini. He looms large in a loaded top half of the draw, with Guido Andreozzi his first-round opponent and Bagnis, Nakashima, Gunneswaran and China’s Zhang Zhizhen also in his quarter.

One of the ATP Challenger Tour’s longtime stalwarts, the city of Istanbul celebrates its 31st consecutive year on the circuit. The TED Sports Club also hosts an annual outdoor hard-court event in September, with future Top 10 stars Nikolay Davydenko (2001), Robin Soderling (2003) and Karen Khachanov (2015) among its past champions. Founded in 1936, the club is both the oldest and largest tennis facility in all of Turkey.


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This Is When Djokovic Is Deadliest At The Australian Open

  • Posted: Jan 17, 2021

Fast starts fill the trophy cabinet.

Novak Djokovic has won the Australian Open an unprecedented eight times from 16 attempts since he first competed at Melbourne Park in 2005. You can draw a straight line from his silverware to his speedy starts in opening sets. 

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of players who have won the highest percentage of games in the opening set at the Australian Open over the past 30 years finds Djokovic perched at the top of the tree. The data set includes 105 players who have competed in at least 20 matches at the “Happy Slam” since official tennis statistics were first recorded in 1991.

Djokovic is edging towards a remarkable threshold of winning two out of every three games in the opening set at Melbourne Park from 83 matches played. He has won 64.36 per cent (484/752) of games in the opening set, which has fueled his impressive 75-8 record.

The leading 10 players with the highest percentage of games won in the opening set at Melbourne Park since 1991 are highlighted in the table below.

Highest % Games Won In Set One: Australian Open 1991-2020
(minimum 20 Australian Open matches played)



Set One: % Games Won


Novak Djokovic



Rafael Nadal



Andre Agassi



Jim Courier



Roger Federer



Andy Murray



Andy Roddick



Yevgeny Kafelnikov



Stefan Edberg



Michael Chang


Djokovic’s standout year in wrestling control of the opening set was 2016, when he won north of three out of every four games (76.4%) in the opening stanza.

Years Djokovic Won The Australian Open – First Set % Games Won


First Set: % Games Won

















In the eight years that Djokovic took the title Down Under, he only dropped the opening set four times from 56 matches, with three of those instances coming in the final. The scores in those three finals were:
• 2008 – Djokovic def J.W. Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2)
• 2012 – Djokovic def. R. Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5
• 2013 – Djokovic def. A. Murray 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2

Overall, Djokovic has been extended to a tie-break in the opening set 12 times in 83 matches. He has triumphed in eight of them, including all four in his successful 2015 campaign.

Djokovic is rated third-best in percentage of games won in second sets at 61.6 per cent. Stefan Edberg (67.4%) and Andre Agassi (62.8%) are the two players who sit above him. Djokovic sits in fifth place with percentage of games won in third sets at 62 per cent. Agassi leads the third-set metric, winning 66.4 per cent of games.

The Australian Open is the Slam where Djokovic has won his highest percentage of games in the opening set.

Djokovic Grand Slams – Percentage Games Won In Set One
1. Australian Open – 64.36%
2. Roland Garros – 60.91%
3. US Open – 60.17%
4. Wimbledon – 58.62%

Djokovic has a ninth Australian Open title in his sights next month. Getting off to a flyer to begin the match is a proven strategy to establish separation from his opponents. It’s a fascinating sub-plot to pay attention to when the Australian Open kicks off on 8 February. 

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Bautista Agut's Coach: Training With Nadal 'Improves Every Aspect Of Your Game'

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2021

Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut invested huge amounts of intensity and commitment into every training session they shared in Mallorca before making their way to Australia. This level of dedication before they begin their season is a clear sign of their intentions: to reach fifth gear for the start of 2021.

Both of them will be members of Team Spain at the ATP Cup, a competition in which they were on the verge of the title last year. Before stepping on the plane for the first event on the calendar, José Vendrell, Bautista Agut’s coach, spoke to to analyse his player’s form.

We covered his successful recovery from an elbow injury, Bautista Agut’s aptitude for the early season, the training sessions at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar and this year’s ATP Cup.

The last time Roberto played was 17 October last year. An elbow injury prevented him from participating at Cologne-2 and Paris-Bercy. How is he feeling?
He’s feeling good, he hasn’t lost anything and he’s been training pretty well throughout the preseason. The injury at the end of last year forced us to change our schedule. He had a period of forced holiday, and later rehabilitation and training. I’m very happy that Roberto has been able to put this injury behind him, although with caution because the elbow is a very particular and sensitive issue.

Once he was able to return to the courts, what have you focussed on in preparation for the 2021 season?
[We focussed] on the aspects that we considered important for him to be consistent and competitive, but without making big changes. Roberto is 32 years old and what you have to do is make small adjustments and progressions and detect in which areas he can improve. For example, the speed of his crosscourt [strokes] early in the point. It’s a factor that sets you apart in today’s tennis. The first shots with the top players make a big difference and you have to try and focus more on that.

And to work on those margins you travelled to Mallorca to train with Nadal.
Because Rafa improves every aspect of your game. He sets a high bar and superhuman demands with huge intensity in training. That really helps. They were really good days, with a lot of quality from both of them.

What does Bautista get from training with Nadal?
Rafa erases the margins for error. If you make a small mistake, he takes advantage straight away. A lot of intensity is required, starting every point with aggression. Even if you hit hard, you know that you may reach a defensive phase because he counter-attacks… He improves your fitness, mental, technical and tactical games. It’s like a centrifuge. He takes you out of your comfort zone and mixes you up and it demands a lot from you.

And vice versa? What would you say Bautista brings to the table?
Both players train in a very real way. I don’t think there’s much difference between how they train and how they compete… But in terms of intensity and seriousness, they really invest themselves. It’s been positive for both of them because having a player of the quality and intensity of Roberto will also have helped [Rafa] and focussed him even more, if that’s possible, before the season.

From your words it seems you are very happy with this pre-season experience.
Of course. The experience was very good, both Rafa’s team and the academy treated us wonderfully. It’s a place that lives and breathes tennis, ideal for preparing. It’s a world-class centre. Also, if you’re lucky enough to train with Rafa, as we did, it’s wonderful. It was really good for Roberto to fine-tune that final bit of quality that isn’t easy to find in such a long preseason.

If there’s one thing that sets Bautista apart, it’s his ability to come flying out of the blocks when competition starts. His record proves that.
He’s very competitive. He’s a quality player and not someone that needs much of a warm-up where maybe others need two or three tournaments to find their “A” game. He likes to always be playing well and that means he is ready after a while without competing.

And to what do you think he owes his great performances in the first month of competition each season?
The circumstances are favourable to him. [He has] rest, good preparation, the conditions of the Australian swing and being at home for a while, where he always feels good. All this means he feels fresh and makes him comfortable on court. He’s an awkward opponent as the stats demonstrate. There’s not much more to it. It’s obvious he’s one of the players with the best numbers at the start of the year.

At the ATP Cup last year he won all six matches he played. In 2021 he will be back in the Spanish side.
We’re really excited, whenever there are tournaments where you represent your country he is very happy to play. Playing in teams with the rest of his teammates really motivates him.

What are you expecting from this year’s ATP Cup?
The tournament has had to be adapted this year, but it is well-conceived because for the players it was a high risk to start without competing in the weeks leading up to the Australian Open. It’s a good opportunity. It also takes place in Melbourne and I think that it’s a good litmus test for everyone. We’re very excited like in 2020 and hopefully we’ll have a chance like last year when we were very close to the title.

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Daniell Pledges 10% Of Winnings To Charity For Life

  • Posted: Jan 16, 2021

Marcus Daniell hit a booming ace off the court this week — for charity.

The Kiwi announced that starting in 2021, he will donate at least 10 per cent of his annual winnings to effective charity organisations for the rest of his life.

“I take deep pleasure in knowing that every success I have in my working life will ultimately end up saving or changing lives,” Daniell said.

Daniell on 30 November 2020 launched High Impact Athletes, an organisation whose purpose is to channel charitable donations to the most effective, evidence-based charities in the world, specifically in the fields of extreme poverty and environmental impact. The doubles player has now taken his efforts to another level.

In an article he wrote on the High Impact Athletes website, Daniell explained the rationale behind his decision through eight points. One of those explains why committing to donate 10 per cent of his income is “really not scary at all”.

“I don’t need a fancy car or an expensive watch or even an extra barista-made coffee each day to be happy,” Daniell said. “Donating that 10 per cent is not going to decrease my happiness, but it is going to make thousands of lives a whole lot better.” 


Daniell, who has been pledging a percentage of his winnings for years, does not donate to just one charity. The No. 45 player in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings in 2015 became involved in the effective altruism movement, which focusses on using one’s resources to do the most good. That means Daniell researches charities and networks with organisations that are part of the movement to discover the charities that will make the most tangible impact with the donations.

Some of the charities HIA aligns with in the environmental impact area include The Clean Air Task Force, The Humane League and The Good Food Institute. Extreme poverty-related charities HIA supports include the Against Malaria Foundation, Helen Keller International and Give Directly.

Daniell has involved several tennis players, including Stefanos Tsitsipas and Jan-Lennard Struff, in High Impact Athletes’ efforts to streamline charitable donations effectively. The 31-year-old’s goal for 2021 is to channel more than $1,000,000 in donations to the most effective charities in the world by the end of the year.

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Medvedev's Magic Versus Top 10

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2021

There is no one in the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings outside of the Big Three — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — that has a better winning percentage against the elite than Daniil Medvedev.

According to the Infosys ATP Performance Zone, Medvedev sits No. 19 overall in the Open Era with a 16-19 win-loss record (.457) against Top 10 opponents. He has a better winning percentage than the likes of former World No. 1s Carlos Moya (44-60, .423), Jim Courier (57-73, .421), Thomas Muster (37-51, .420) and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (46-67, .407).

Dominic Thiem may have received recognition for his ATP Head2Head record against the Big Three – Federer (Thiem leads 5-2), Nadal (6-9) and Djokovic (5-7) — but the Austrian’s winning percentage against the Top 10 is the not as high as Medvedev’s. He is No. 22 in the list, with a 32-41 (.438) mark. 

Visit Infosys ATP Performance Zone

Last year, Medvedev was struggling by his high standards, entering the final two tournaments of the year with an 18-10 record. But a late-season surge led him to winning a third ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Paris Masters and the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals. It was an ominous sign and a return to his giant-slaying ways.

With victories over Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem at The O2 in London, he became the first player to defeat the Top 3 at the Nitto ATP Finals. Medvedev was also the first player to do so at any tournament since David Nalbandian’s 2007 Mutua Madrid Open run.

It sets up Medvedev for another big surge in 2021.

With eight Top 10 wins in 2019 and seven last year, Medvedev’s confidence continues to grow. Since breaking into the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings on 15 July 2019, at the start of a magical North American summer swing, Medvedev has posted a 12-7 record against Top 10 opponents.

As Medvedev prepares in Australia for the ATP Cup and the Australian Open, the goals of the 24-year-old will be clear. Carry his late 2020 form in 2021, make a bigger impression against the Big Three – Federer (Medvedev trails 0-3), Nadal (1-3) and Djokovic (3-4) – and potentially clinch more of the sport’s biggest prizes.

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Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem & Co. Arrive In Australia

  • Posted: Jan 15, 2021

The world’s leading tennis players have begun arriving Down Under for a very different Australian summer swing reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. The likes of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 3 Dominic Thiem are preparing for an abbreviated ATP Cup, new and relocated tournaments in Melbourne and an Australian Open pushed back to February from its traditional mid-January start.

Djokovic, who last year dominated the swing by leading Serbia to victory in the ATP Cup and capturing a record eighth Australian Open title, arrived wearing his ATP Cup jacket.

To ease player travel logistics during the pandemic, Tennis Australia chartered 15 flights to bring players from the first ATP Tour stops in Antalya and Delray Beach (Miami), as well as from travel hubs including Dubai and Los Angeles. Some players will be travelling from Doha, where the Australian Open men’s qualifying event took place. Adhering to health and safety protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, players will submit to 14 days of hotel quarantine upon arrival before competing. 

There will be plenty of action in store as players including Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem, Matteo Berrettini and more are set to suit up for their country 1-5 February at the ATP Cup in Melbourne. Serbia is the defending champion after winning the inaugural edition by defeating Spain in the final.

In the same week, Melbourne will also host two ATP 250 events, which run 31 Jan. – 6 Feb. David Goffin and Karen Khachanov will headline the Murray River Open (Melbourne 1), while Stan Wawrinka and home favourite Nick Kyrgios feature at Great Ocean Road Open (Melbourne 2). #NextGenATP stars including Jannik Sinner (Melbourne 1) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (Melbourne 2) will also be in action.


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The men’s Australian summer swing will culminate at the Australian Open, to be held from 8-21 February. Fans will be allowed to attend in a limited capacity. Djokovic is the defending champion after defeating Thiem in five sets last year to claim his eighth Melbourne crown.


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