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Alcaraz the Two-Touch Titan: The Spaniard's secret to grass-court success

  • Posted: Jun 20, 2024

Grass court tennis is still very much a two-touch sport.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Carlos Alcaraz’s undefeated run at the cinch Championships last year identified the vast majority of his points played at the grass court event were a maximum of just two touches for each player – four shots total. Three out of every four points (75%) were in the 0-4 shot rally length, where he carved out his most significant point-total advantage (+27) over his five opponents.

2023 Queen’s: Alcaraz Rally Length

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RALLY LENGTH Total Played % Played
0-4 Shots 521 75%
5-8 Shots 140 20%
9+ Shots 35 5%
TOTAL 696 100%

Alcaraz played a dominant 75 per cent (521/696) of all points in the 0-4 shot rally length to win the first grass court title of his career last year at the cinch Championships. The first four shots include: serve, return, Serve +1 (first shot after the serve), Return +1 (first shot after the return)

Alcaraz won 27 more points than his opponents in 0-4 shots, 20 more points in 5-8 shots, and just nine more points in rallies of nine shots or longer. What enabled Alcaraz to be so strong in shorter rallies was his serve performance. He won 50 of 56 (89%) of his serve games, made 66 per cent (236/357) of his first serves, and won 76 per cent (179/236) of them.

Alcaraz’s primary first-serve strategy involved pulling opponents off the court to immediately open holes to attack.

First Serve Location: Deuce Court Wide = 44% (57) Body = 25% (33) T = 31% (41)

First Serve Location: Ad Court Wide = 44% (46)  Body = 21% (22) T = 35% (36)

Alcaraz sent down 25 aces and committed nine double faults for the tournament. He had 39 per cent (91/235) of first serves unreturned, and 18 per cent (20/112) of second serves didn’t come back into play, helping facilitate his “first strike” strategy. Impressively, he saved 73 per cent (16/22) of break point opportunities on serve, which was a full ten percentage points higher (66%) than his personal tour average.

When it came to second serves, Alcaraz almost exclusively went with a kick serve to his opponent’s backhand return location (note: all five opponents were right-handed).

Second Serve Location: Deuce Court:
Wide = 7% (4), Body = 35% (18), T = 58% (30)

Second Serve Location: Ad Court  Wide = 45% (27) , Body = 45% (27) , T = 10% (6)

When rallies did develop, it was Alcaraz’s forehand that did the most damage from the back of the court.

Total Groundstrokes: Forehands = 58% (379) , Backhands = 42% (278)

Shot Quality: Forehands = 8.5 (379) , Backhands = 7.3 (278)

Shots In: Forehands = 82% (309/379) , Backhands = 79% (221/278)

Average Speed: Forehands = 73 mph, Backhands = 60 mph

Alcaraz won his opening round match of the cinch Championships 6-1, 7-5 against Francisco Cerundolo on Tuesday with similar match metrics to his successful 2023 campaign. Alcaraz won 39 points to 33 in the 0-4 shot rally length, put 81 per cent (55/68) of forehands in the court and held serve nine times out of 10. It was an ideal first match returning to grass and an ominous warning to opponents that he is picking up right where he left off from lifting the silverware last year.

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Relive Federer's final match ahead of documentary release

  • Posted: Jun 19, 2024

Only one day remains until fans can relive the final 12 days of Roger Federer’s career. On Thursday, FEDERER: Twelve Final Days will be released on Prime Video.

Academy Award-winning director Asif Kapadia and his co-director Joe Sabia provide unprecedented access into the end of Federer’s career, from insight into the former No. 1 player in the PIF ATP Rankings’ decision to retire to his final moments on court.

In anticipation of the documentary’s release, ATPTour.com looks back at Federer’s final match at the 2022 Laver Cup.

The Swiss took to the court one final time alongside great rival Rafael Nadal.

The pair met 40 times in their legendary Lexus ATP Head2Head series and three more times in tour-level doubles matches. But this was their first time sharing the same side of the court in an official match.

“Some moments I was horribly nervous like before a big final, then some other moments I totally forgot about it because I was with the guys and we were joking. Classic goofiness comes through, and you forget about everything and have a good conversation. You forget that actually, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m about to play in 15 minutes’. That’s kind of how I always used to be,” Federer said after the match. “Thankfully in moments I totally forgot about it, slept great, everything was wonderful, I could enjoy it, I feel. And because of that I think I will be able to have a better recollection of how it went, because if it’s all just stress throughout and I want it to be only perfect, I know I will remember half of it.”

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Team Europe’s Federer and Nadal lost the match — Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock defeated them 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-9. But fans will remember the emotions of the weekend more than the points that were played.

The two all-time greats shared an emotional moment together on their team bench.

“The match, yes, in itself, sure, is special, but it’s really everything that happened after because I wasn’t aware who was going to come to sing, what was going to happen, where I should go, what was expected of me, or how long it was going to go,” Federer said. “Then I guess looking around and seeing how everybody got emotional, obviously it’s even better, or even worse, I’m not sure what to say.

“That’s what I will remember — the faces I saw emotional, yeah. Rafa was one of them (smiling). I’m sorry.”

It was Federer’s retirement, not Nadal’s. But the Spaniard made clear how important the moment was for him, too.

“For me, it has been a huge honour to be a part of this amazing moment of the history of our sport, and at the same time a lot of years sharing a lot of things together,” Nadal said. “When Roger leaves the Tour, yeah, an important part of my life is leaving too because all the moments that he has been next to or in front me in important moments of my life.”

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Zhang upsets Medvedev in Halle

  • Posted: Jun 19, 2024

Chinese No. 1 Zhang Zhizhen scored his second Top 5 victory Wednesday when he upset third seed Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(5) at the Terra Wortmann Open.

From 3/5 in the third-set tie-break, Zhang won four consecutive points to stun the World No. 5 and become the first Chinese player to reach the Halle quarter-finals.

“A really tough match. Last time I lost a third-set tie-break [in Stuttgart last week]. And today again, a third-set tie-break. I was thinking, ‘Okay, it’s time. The perfect moment to get revenge’,” Zhang said. “I’m super happy that today I handled it to the end.”

The 27-year-old dropped six consecutive games from 2-2 in the second set but recovered a break deficit early in the decider to pull within striking distance. Zhang, whose previous Top 5 victory came against Casper Ruud at last year’s US Open, again fought off a challenge on serve at 4-5 in the third set, when Medvedev was two points away from victory.

The World No. 42 in the PIF ATP Rankings next faces American Christopher Eubanks, who ousted defending champion Alexander Bublik 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3. It will be Zhang’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with Eubanks.

Medvedev fell to 28-9 on the season, with his best result being a final appearance at the Australian Open and in Indian Wells. The 28-year-old was aiming for his 10th consecutive ATP 500 quarter-final.

Earlier in Halle, Jan-Lennard Struff earned a dramatic victory against Luciano Darderi, converting his 10th match point to win 6-7(2), 7-5, 7-6(10) after two hours, 31 minutes. The Italian Darderi will rue letting slip a match point at 8/7 in the third-set tie-break.

Matteo Berrettini defeated American Alex Michelsen 7-6(5), 6-2 and Arthur Fils cruised past Dominik Koepfer 6-3, 6-4. Fils, 20, holds the top spot in the PIF ATP Live Race To Jeddah. The Frenchman is aiming for a return trip to the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF, where he was a finalist in 2023.

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Marozsan recalls clash against 16-year-old Sinner before Halle showdown

  • Posted: Jun 19, 2024

In the final full week of January in 2018, Jannik Sinner played qualifying for an ITF World Tennis Tour event in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Then 16, he had not yet earned a PIF ATP Rankings point.

Standing across the net in the second round was a Hungarian named Fabian Marozsan. The 18-year-old rallied for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory that day, and he has not faced the Italian since.

That will change Thursday when Marozsan plays new World No. 1 Sinner in the second round of the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle.

“I remember that I was going to play against an Italian player who was very young and I just saw the last game of his match. He played very fast, he was moving into the court and putting a lot of pressure on the opponent and I said, ‘Okay, it’s not going to be easy. But he’s still young, and maybe I have a chance to win against him’,” Marozsan recalled from their meeting in Egypt. “That was maybe my first or second year of the ITFs. I just started the Futures tournaments and I was still still a young player, but he was much younger than me.”

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Thinking back more than six years to that encounter, Marozsan believed Sinner could be a “really good player, but not the No. 1”.

“But he was very, very talented,” Marozsan said. “He is moving really fast and well. He is very smart on the court and huge forehand, good backhand also. He has the good feeling with the balls and he’s a good guy so let’s see. I just want to enjoy and maybe use my chances if I have some.”

Now 24 years old, Marozsan has climbed as high as No. 36 in the PIF ATP Rankings. He has already sprung big upsets, including a stunner last year in Rome against Carlos Alcaraz.

Something that has helped the Hungarian is his improved mentality and the use of a “poker face”. Growing up, Marozsan would cry during matches or even throw his racquet. People in Hungary told him if he wanted to become a professional player, he needed to change and focus on the next point.

“It’s not easy because sometimes when things are not going in a good way, I’m that person who is showing the negative things. It’s not a good thing and I have to learn how to [hide] the face and how to keep calm a little bit and and show to everyone and of course to the opponent that I am still positive and believing in myself,” Marozsan said. “But sometimes it’s really hard and sometimes I’m missing this one because I’m showing the negative and the bad things. I’m trying to focus on this one.”

One advantage Sinner will have is his experience on the sport’s biggest stages. Although Marozsan has played seven Top 10 opponents (4-3) according to Infosys ATP Stats, centre court has not been his playground the way it has been for the player he called “the best at the moment”: Sinner.

“He feels like he’s at home because of the centre court, I never played here before. It’s a little bit difficult and different for me, so let’s see,” Marozsan said ahead of the pair’s first Lexus ATP Head2Head (tour-level) meeting. “I’ll try to believe in myself and keep my serve and probably I have a bigger chance here on grass to beat him or maybe just win one set. So we will see, I’m looking forward this one and I want to enjoy [it].”

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Diary of a new World No. 1: Jannik Sinner returns home

  • Posted: Jun 19, 2024

There is no place like home. That showed when Jannik Sinner returned to his hometown of Sexten in the Dolomites last week to celebrate his ascent to the top of the PIF ATP Rankings.

“If you imagine coming from here, a tennis player, it’s very, very strange,” Sinner said in a special behind-the-scenes documentary of the first Italian World No. 1’s visit.

The 22-year-old provided a film crew unprecedented access throughout his trip. Sinner gave fans a look at his life growing up in the mountains. The special feature helps tell the story of how Sinner evolved from a kid in a small town known for skiing to the best tennis player in the world.

“I have my house here, and here is the other house with [my] grandma and grandpa and they always cooked for me and then after, I had to wear the ski stuff because I went to skiing immediately from two to four, and then twice a week I was playing tennis and that was it,” Sinner said. “You got it on camera!”

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The Italian added: “We played football and we were all the time together with friends and nobody had a phone. We only had a watch and the parents they said, ‘Look, at five you should be at home’. And sometimes you arrived at 5:15 and then the parents, they got p****d a little bit!”

Watch the full documentary above and click here to read about all the players who have reached No. 1 in the PIF ATP Rankings.

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Darderi (and dad) dare to dream big

  • Posted: Jun 19, 2024

It is only fitting that Luciano Darderi’s two title runs this season, one on the ATP Tour and another on the ATP Challenger Tour, have come in Argentina and Italy, the two countries where the 22-year-old has split time throughout his life.

Born in the coastal town of Villa Gesell, Argentina, Darderi was ‘around five years old’ when he received his first tennis racquet as a gift from his grandmother. Little did he and his grandmother know that ‘Luli’ would become a Top 40 player in the PIF ATP Rankings, with his father Luciano as his coach.

“I remember when I was six or seven, I would go by bicycle with my dad and play together,” Darderi recently told ATPTour.com. “It was a court at a hotel, close to the forest and beach. After 10 or 11, I was going to Buenos Aires because they play more tennis there and I started playing more tournaments.

“It’s really special for me and my dad too. We have arrived at the level, the ranking, the dream that we’ve had together. This fast, at 22 years old, is really special. In one year, we are doing a lot of things and I think we have a lot more things to do.”

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Set to face German Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round of the Terra Wortmann Open on Wednesday, Darderi realised his potential competing at junior tournaments aged 10, when he started spending six months in Argentina and the other half of the year in Italy, where his grandfather resided. “I started to play 100 per cent and I started to think about playing professionally,” said Darderi, who moved to Italy at age 11.

That young Luciano who was bouncing between two countries and dabbling in three different languages (Spanish, Italian and English) would be proud of everything he has accomplished in his first full season on the ATP Tour.

Darderi enjoyed a surprise run at February’s ATP 250 event in Cordoba, where as a qualifier ranked No. 136 in the PIF ATP Rankings, he went all the way to lift the trophy. Prior to that week, Darderi had just one tour-level match win in two appearances.

“It was incredible to start 2024 making the Top 100. It was very special,” Darderi said. “Coming from qualies in my first ATP Tour tournament of the year, winning in Argentina, it was amazing.”

<img src=”/-/media/images/news/2024/06/18/23/31/darderi-turinch-2024-autographs.jpg” style=”width:100%” alt=”Luciano Darderi greets fans at the Turin Challenger in May.” />
Luciano Darderi greets fans at the Turin Challenger in May. Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour

Now at a career-high World No. 34, Darderi last week built upon his breakthrough season with a dominant run at the Perugia Challenger. The top seed did not drop a set en route to becoming the third player this season to win on the ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour, alongside Alejandro Tabilo and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard.

Darderi’s success on the ATP Challenger Tour last year preceded his current rise. He tallied 42 match wins at that level in 2023, third most behind Argentines Francisco Comesana and Facundo Diaz Acosta. A highlight came at the Lima Challenger in November, Darderi’s penultimate tournament of 2023, when he defeated Alejandro Tabilo and Mariano Navone en route to the title. Navone and Tabilo are now inside the Top 30 amidst their own breakthrough seasons.

“After Lima, I was thinking I have the level to be in the Top 100,” Darderi said. “I think playing Challengers was helping me a lot. The Challengers are a very high level and it’s very close to the ATP level I think. Playing a lot of matches, practising during the tournaments. When you play a lot of matches, it gives you a lot of confidence for the next level.”

Darderi will not be short on confidence Wednesday, when he looks to build upon last week’s ATP Challenger Tour title run in his first-round clash against Struff in Halle. It will be Darderi’s first ATP Tour grass-court match.

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