Tiafoe Inspires Young Essay Winners In Winston-Salem
American leads Q&A and autograph session on Sunday
Frances Tiafoe is all about giving back. The #NextGenATP American regularly puts his hands up for kids’ clinics and autograph sessions whenever he competes at ATP Tour events.
He did just that on Sunday at the Winston-Salem Open, holding a Q&A and autograph session with several kids ages 11-17. The children were all part of National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters throughout the Southern section of the United States Tennis Association and were selected to meet Tiafoe by winning an essay contest.
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Tiafoe told the participants he has “a ton of big of aspirations after tennis” that involve working with kids, including starting his own foundation.
”To know that what I’m doing is helping not only myself and my family, but also you guys coming up… everyone has somebody that they aspire to be like and I want to be that guy for you all,” said Tiafoe.
The 21-year-old Tiafoe, seeded No. 10 in Winston-Salem, starts his week on Tuesday against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy or American qualifier Raymond Sarmiento.
Revisit the week that was on the ATP Challenger Tour as we applaud the achievements of those on the rise and look ahead to the week to come
A LOOK BACK Odlum Brown VanOpen (Vancouver, Canada): The hottest player on the ATP Challenger Tour added another piece of silverware to his trophy case. Ricardas Berankis claimed the title at the award-winning VanOpen, his tour-leading fourth trophy on the circuit this year.
This week, Vancouver celebrated back-to-back Tournament of the Year awards, receiving its trophy in front of a packed crowd on Tuesday evening at Hollyburn Country Club. And on Sunday, they crowned their 14th champion. Berankis defeated Jason Jung 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to earn a hard-fought championship in the Canadian city.
On Wednesday, the Lithuanian trailed qualifier Michail Pervolarakis 4-1 in the third set and on Friday he was forced to rally from a set down once again, ousting Thanasi Kokkinakis. The top seed would eventually claim his 13th Challenger title, rising to No. 70 in the ATP Rankings.
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“This match wasn’t as controlled as some of my previous matches. In the semis and the second round, I felt like from the first point I was in control. Today in the first set, it was control, but in the second one it was so-so which I lost 5-7,” said Berankis. “I needed to leave everything that I had on the court to win the match. It was a really tough match. Jason played really well.”
Berankis is on fire this year, boasting a 4-0 record in Challenger finals and a 24-3 (.889) mark overall – the second-best win percentage on tour. He also owns titles on the indoor hard courts of Rennes, France and Drummondville, Canada, as well as the outdoor hard courts of Busan, South Korea.
Challenger Title Leaders In 2019
Rennes, Drummondville, Busan, Vancouver
Marbella, Alicante, Prostejov
Budapest, Pau, Monterrey
Nanchang, Shymkent, Shymkent-2
Zavarovalnica Sava Slovenia Open (Portoroz, Slovenia): When Aljaz Bedene reaches an ATP Challenger Tour final, there’s a good chance he’ll lift the trophy. The Slovenian never wastes an opportunity to seize a title. Well, almost never.
On Sunday, Bedene improved to an impressive 16-2 in Challenger finals with his victory on home soil in Portoroz. That’s 16 wins in 18 championship matches, a staggering conversion rate that has seen him triumph in seven of the past eight seasons.
But, for all of Bedene’s success, he had not won in front of the home fans. Until now. A 7-5, 6-3 win over Viktor Durasovic gave the Ljubljana native his first title in Slovenia. He joins Grega Zemlja (2013) and Blaz Kavcic (2014) as the only Slovenians to triumph at the country’s lone professional tournament.
Bedene rises 10 spots to No. 80 in the ATP Rankings, having also reached the semi-finals of the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro in February and the quarter-finals in Umag a month ago.
“I’m really excited about winning in front of the home fans,” said Bedene. “Thanks to all who came and encouraged me in the final. Thanks also to the President of Slovenia. I was a little nervous because Borut Pahor was among the viewers. I have a good record in Challengers, but there is still a long way to go.”
Acqua Dolomia Serena Wines Tennis Cup (Cordenons, Italy): On Sunday, the ATP Challenger Tour crowned its 24th first-time champion of the year, as Christopher O’Connell reigned on the clay of Cordenons. At the age of 25, the Aussie celebrated his maiden moment with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Jeremy Jahn.
After dropping his opening set of the tournament 6-1 to Chun-hsin Tseng, he would reel off 12 of the next 13 frames, dominating on the Italian clay. O’Connell is finding his form in his comeback from an elbow injury that sidlined him for much of the 2018 season. He rises 93 spots in the ATP Rankings to No. 220, just one place off his career-high from February 2017.
That feeling when you win your first title! @chrisoconnelll is the champion in Cordenons, claiming his maiden 🏆.
Tennis Open Stadtwerke Meerbusch (Meerbusch, Germany): Top seed Pedro Sousa was made to work for his second Challenger title of the year. The Portuguese fought off Pedja Krstin 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes on Sunday, marking his third straight deciding-set victory of the week.
The 31-year-old Sousa, who cracked the Top 100 for the first time in February, is up to No. 125 following his second title in three months. In June, he lifted the trophy in Blois, France after qualifying for his second ATP 500 event of the year in Barcelona.
A LOOK AHEAD With the majority of today’s Challenger stars competing at US Open qualifying, there is one tournament on the calendar in L’Aquila, Italy. Andrej Martin is the top seed, with Alejandro Tabilo second and Dmitry Popko third.
Former World No. 4 returns with a win in Winston-Salem
Tomas Berdych’s first-round win over Andreas Seppi on Sunday night at the Winston-Salem Open was a positive first step in his return from a back injury that has sidelined him for most of the past 14 months. But the joy on his face after match point didn’t show how much the Czech had been silently suffering during his time away from competition.
“It’s been a very tough time for me. I’ve been really up and down,” admitted Berdych. “Because of the love of the sport, I was giving myself one more try to come back, give myself a good shot to prepare, play some matches here and the US Open and see what happens… It was probably not the nicest win, but it [only] counts that you win.”
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The 33-year-old missed the last five months of the 2018 season due to his back injury before returning in January. After six ATP Tour events to start the year, the injury flared up again in March. His only tournament since the BNP Paribas Open was Wimbledon, which he admitted only playing “just for the reason that it’s Wimbledon. I was not fit and not at the level that I wanted to be.”
But Berdych is now fit again. When he’s healthy, the Czech is still capable of great tennis. In his first three tournaments of this season, the former World No. 4 finished runner-up in Doha (l. to Bautista Agut), reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and advanced to the semi-finals in Montpellier. Berdych admitted those early highlights are largely what fueled his latest comeback.
“If I had prepared like I did before this season, not had good results and then had the injuries come a couple of months later, I probably would be thinking very differently. I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now,” he said. “I know I can still play some good tennis when I’m fit and healthy.”
After a 17-year career that has seen him win 13 ATP Tour titles, finish runner-up at 2010 Wimbledon and clear more than $29 million in prize money, Berdych has nothing left to prove. He’s looking to finish the final chapter of his career on his terms and embracing what might be his biggest challenge yet.
“If this was happening early in my career, it would be very frustrating. It’s easier to deal with when you have all the experience,” said Berdych. “I’m just enjoying new situations that I’ve never had my career, trying to find a way through it and take it as a new challenge.”
Bautista Agut also helps his chances of reaching The O2
Champion Daniil Medvedev and finalist David Goffin met in the championship match of the Western & Southern Open on Sunday. And although the Russian was the only one able to leave Cincinnati with a winner’s trophy, both players boosted their hopes of securing a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
This time one year ago, Medvedev was placed 38th in the ATP Race To London, far from contention for the eight-man event held at The O2 from 10-17 November. But the Russian has put himself in prime position to book his maiden trip this season, moving into fifth place thanks to the 1,000 points he earned with the title.
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Medvedev now has an ATP Tour-leading 44 wins in 2019, which has helped his rise. The only players he trails are Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. Medvedev is trying to become the first Russian singles player to compete at the season finale since Nikolay Davydenko won the event in 2009.
View ATP Race To London Standings
The Cincinnati trophy was the culmination of a strong month for the Russian No. 1, who made the final in Washington and Montreal in the two weeks before arriving in Ohio.
“I have to say even if I wouldn’t have finished with the trophy, [these weeks] were amazing and the best in my life. But of course I think with the trophy it’s better. Especially if I would have lost three finals in a row, I would have not doubted myself but started asking myself, ‘How is it possible, three finals, lost all of them? What should I do differently in the final’?” Medvedev said. “I don’t have to ask myself these questions because I won the final. It’s been the best weeks in my life.”
And while Medvedev has been a strong contender throughout the year, Goffin’s performance brought him within striking range to compete at The O2 for the third time. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up surges from 18th place in the Race to 11th, just 190 points behind eighth-placed Kei Nishikori.
More From Cincinnati Medvedev Claims Maiden Masters Crown Dodig/Polasek Win First Team Title A Look Back At Cincinnati
Entering Wimbledon, Goffin was not inside the Top 20 in the Race. But advancing to the quarter-finals at The Championships and becoming the first Belgian singles player to make an ATP Masters 1000 final have helped his cause.
Another player whose Cincinnati efforts were crucial in the push for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals was Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. The 31-year-old has previously served as an alternate for the season finale, but he has moved into seventh place in the Race, 250 points ahead of Nishikori.
Bautista Agut advanced to the quarter-finals, where he fell to in-form Frenchman Richard Gasquet in three sets. It was the second consecutive Masters 1000 event in which Bautista Agut made the last eight.
By making the semi-finals, top seed Novak Djokovic clawed closer to Rafael Nadal in the battle for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking. With 360 points from Cincinnati, Djokovic now trails Nadal by only 140 points in the ATP Race To London. Both players have already secured their spots in London in November.
Goffin On Medvedev: ‘It’s Like Playing Against A Wall’
Belgian encouraged by reaching second ATP Tour final of 2019
David Goffin overcome one barrier this week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati by reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 final. The Belgian had been 0-4 in Masters 1000 semi-finals.
But on Sunday, Goffin collided with a “wall” named Daniil Medvedev, the 23-year-old Russian who beat Goffin 7-6(3), 6-4 to win his first Masters 1000 title.
“He’s super solid. He doesn’t miss. It’s like playing against a wall,” Goffin said.“Just playing cross, cross, wait for the ball. His pace is not too fast, not too slow. It’s quite a special pace to play against him. And then you receive bombs coming from his serve, and then he doesn’t miss.
“That’s why everybody is struggling, because he’s so consistent, now with more confidence.”
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Medvedev reached his third consecutive ATP Tour final in Cincinnati after falling in the Citi Open (l. to Kyrgios) and Coupe Rogers (l. to Nadal) title matches.
“It was just a few points that made the difference. He was more confident, and he had more wins under the belt than me, so that made the difference. I have no regrets even if it was a good opportunity,” Goffin said.
The 28-year-old, however, also bolstered his own confidence ahead of the US Open, the season’s final Grand Slam, by making his second ATP Tour final of the season (Halle, l. to Federer).
“I think it didn’t start well, so what I’m proud of this week is the way I fought to come back to my best level, because it was not easy after Montreal to come here. I was not feeling great,” Goffin said.
“[It was a] tough first round against [Taylor] Fritz, second round against [Guido] Pella. And then match after match I worked a lot to start to feel the ball, to be more aggressive, more confident. And at the end I played well. Semi-finals and the final I played well. The key was to fight.”
One of Goffin’s four Masters 1000 semi-finals came in Cincinnati last year, when he had to retire against Roger Federer. But Goffin has his health now and another good run in Cincy. Both will aid the remainder of his 2019 season.
“I enjoyed a lot… I always had good matches here, good results. It was a second semi-final back-to-back, and then I won the semi-final against Richard [Gasquet], so it’s another final. Good memories again,” Goffin said. “It’s always a special tournament because I know that I play well here.”
Medvedev Set for Netflix Binge After Marathon Month
Russian reflects on maiden Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati
As Daniil Medvedev threw down three straight aces to win the Western & Southern Open title, the Russian could barely raise his arms to celebrate.
There was no euphoric reaction. Medvedev didn’t collapse to the court or let out a rapturous roar. That is the typical response to clinching your first ATP Masters 1000 crown.
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After a marathon 18 matches in 20 days, he was simply too exhausted. As the 23-year-old spoke to ESPN’s Brad Gilbert just moments later, he revealed what he’s really looking forward to.
“I’ve been playing for so many days in a row,” Medvedev told Gilbert. “I just need to stay in bed and watch TV for 24 hours a day. I hope to get to the US Open feeling fresh.”
Daniil, may we suggest ‘Stranger Things’? After all, the Russian has defied the odds in reaching three finals in three weeks, culminating in his maiden Masters moment in Cincinnati.
He defeated David Goffin 7-6(3), 6-4 in the championship, capping a remarkable run that has seen him win 13 of 14 matches in straight sets and stun World No. 1 Novak Djokovic from a set down on Saturday. But, even the hottest player on the planet needs a rest. For Medvedev, that begins tonight.
“In Russia we say ‘who doesn’t risk, doesn’t drink champagne’. So I’m drinking champagne tonight,” Medvedev told the assembled media following the match.
“If you would have asked me before the tournament how would I celebrate, I’d probably say that I’m going to fall on the court, I’ll start screaming and jumping and then raising my hands up.
“I was so exhausted during all the match, to be honest. And especially at 5-3, I started cramping everywhere. Of course I tried to not show it. This last game, at 15/40, I cramped everywhere. And then I made four amazing serves. When I hit the last one, I’m like, ‘Wow, it’s finished’. And I had no, zero force inside of me to do anything. It is how it is.”
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Medvedev opened the month of August with a shiny new Top 10 spot in the ATP Rankings. Three weeks later, he will enter the US Open with a No. 5 next to his name. The highest-ranked Russian rises to a career-high on Monday, after a 14-2 run on the North American hard courts.
A final at the Citi Open in Washington was followed by another runner-up finish last week at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. While Medvedev admits that three finals in three weeks would be a satisfying achievement, it tastes even sweeter with a piece of silverware.
“I have to say even if I wouldn’t have finished with the trophy, these weeks were amazing and the best in my life. But of course I think with the trophy it is better. Especially if I would have lost three finals in a row, I would not have doubted myself but started asking how is it possible? Three finals and I lost all of them? What should I do differently in the final?
“I don’t have to ask myself these questions. It’s been the best week in my life. Mentally it was the best in my life. My serve was the best in my life. My tennis was really consistent. I didn’t have one bad match. I’m just extremely happy. And hopefully I can continue this way well through all my career but hopefully at least the next few weeks.”
Medvedev admits that he was monitoring his progress in the ATP Rankings as the weekend arrived, wondering if he’d reach the Top 5. With that question resolved and a Top 5 seed also awaiting him at the US Open, he enters Flushing Meadows in search of a Grand Slam breakthrough.
“That’s a huge achievement which I couldn’t probably believe three weeks ago, because I just entered the Top 10. I was saying, ‘Well, it’s going to be good if I manage to stay there for some time, hopefully for a long time.’ Now I’m Top 5. That’s huge.
“We will work on a plan with my team, how to make the best plan to recover and to be ready for Monday or Tuesday. I would say I should be. There are no reasons for me not to be ready for the US Open.”
Relive the best moments from the seventh ATP Masters 1000 of the season
Upsets were abound at the season’s seventh ATP Masters 1000 tournament as all but one of the top eight seeds at the Western & Southern Open didn’t make the quarter-finals in Cincinnati. The champion, however, had to go through the best of the best to win his first Masters 1000 title. ATPTour.com relives the best moments of the 2019 Western & Southern Open.
Medvedev Claims Maiden Masters 1000 Title: Twice Russian Daniil Medvedev had made ATP Tour finals during the North American hard-court swing, only to fall in the title matches at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (l. to Kyrgios), and at last week’s Coupe Rogers in Montreal (l. to Nadal). But on Sunday, the 23-year-old, who beat Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, didn’t mess around, beating Belgian David Goffin 7-6(3), 6-4 for his first Masters 1000 crown.
The 6’6″ right-hander is set to crack the Top 5 of the ATP Rankings on Monday for the first time and heads to the US Open as arguably the biggest threat to end the Big Three’s reign at the season’s final Grand Slam. Medvedev became the third first-time Masters 1000 titlist this year (Thiem, Indian Wells; Fognini, Monte-Carlo). This season marks the third consecutive year in which three players have won their first Masters 1000 title.
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Dodig/Polasek Win First Masters 1000 Title: Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek weren’t playing Masters 1000 events together at the start of the year, but they’ve sure quickly learned how to play together. In just their fourth event as a team, Dodig/Polasek captured their first title together, defeating top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 4-6, 6-4, 10-6 to win the Cincinnati doubles title.
Earlier in the week, Cabal/Farah became the first doubles team to secure their spot at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London (see below), but Dodig/Polasek were the best team this week. The Slovakian-Croatian duo beat the Top 2 seeds in Cincy as well as legends Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan en route to the trophy. Read More
Goffin Makes Personal History: David Goffin had reached four Masters 1000 semi-finals before Cincinnati, but all four times, the hard-working Belgian had fallen short. This week, however, Goffin achieved personal history by making his first Masters 1000 title match. And although he lost to Medvedev, Goffin will take plenty of belief from reaching his second ATP Tour final of the season (Halle, l. to Federer).
Gasquet Returns To Top Form: Richard Gasquet had reached only two tour-level semi-finals this year before heading to Cincinnati, and both had come at the ATP 250 level. But the 33-year-old Frenchman put together one of his best weeks of the season, making the last four before falling to Goffin. Gasquet started the week by spoiling Andy Murray’s singles comeback in straight sets and made the semi-finals by grinding out a three-set victory against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut. Read More
Djokovic Upset In SF: Novak Djokovic achieved the Career Golden Masters last year in Cincinnati, and the Serbian was looking to win another Cincy title to have won all nine Masters 1000 events at least two times. But it wasn’t to be for the Serbian, who ran into the red-hot Medvedev and fell in three sets in the semi-final. Still, Djokovic heads to the US Open as the defending champion and, as he said, he likes his chances.
Djokovic: ‘Medvedev Is One Of The Best Players In The World’
Colombians Clinch: Cabal/Farah became the first team to qualify for the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, clinching their return to The O2 for a second straight year with a 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 10-8 win over Rohan Bopanna and Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, “It’s always nice to qualify to The O2 so early into the year,” Farah said. “It means that we’ve done really well and that shows all the work we’ve put in. It’s a very good feeling.” Cabal and Farah went on to reach their second Masters 1000 final of the season (l. to Dodig/Polasek). Read More
Rising To The Occasion: There were numerous upsets in Cincinnati, but none bigger than Andrey Rublev’s decisive win over seven-time champion Roger Federer in the third round. Rublev nearly didn’t get to play in Cincinnati. “I forgot to sign up for this tournament… And then I signed up for an alternate spot and I got in qualifying,” he said. In the main draw, the 21-year-old knocked out Nikoloz Basilashvili and Stan Wawrinka before dismissing Federer in 62 minutes, Federer’s fastest defeat in more than 16 years. “It’s my biggest and the most emotional win,” Rublev said.
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#NextGenATP Star Shines: Miomir Kecmanovic began his week in style by defeating #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime, and backed up that victory with his first win over a Top 10 player. The 19-year-old Serbian, who reached his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in March at the BNP Paribas Open, defeated World No. 6 Alexander Zverev 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4 to become one of four qualifiers (Carreno Busta, Nishioka, Rublev) to advance to the Round of 16 at a Masters 1000 event for only the third time in series history (since 1990). Read More
There Goes My Hero: Yoshihito Nishioka dreamt of this moment for years. When the draw came out, Nishioka knew with one win his hopes of playing the Japanese flagbearer, his practice partner and friend, would be realised. On Wednesday, the 23-year-old qualifier recorded the first Top 10 win of his career by defeating Kei Nishikori, who left Grandstand to the song, “My Hero”. “I was so excited to play with him,” said Nishioka. “I was nervous at the beginning. But also, I could see he was nervous too. So I think we were both tight. Maybe, I was playing more aggressive than him.”
Read: Match Report | Nishioka Ready For The Spotlight
1,100 Wins & Counting: When Bob Bryan underwent right hip surgery last August, his hope was to make it back to the ATP Tour for one more match. Forty-nine matches later this season, he and Mike Bryan reached 1,100 tour-level doubles wins as a team by defeating Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin. “It’s a staggering number when you look at it. We thought we’d be stuck on whatever number we were at last year. I was just trying to get back out there to play one more match,” said Bob. Read More
Step By Step: Andy Murray made a winning return to the ATP Tour two months ago at The Queen’s Club, teaming up with Feliciano Lopez to win the Fever-Tree Championships in his first tournament since undergoing hip surgery. This week, the former World No. 1 took another step in his comeback, playing his first singles match in 210 days.
“I think I did okay,” said Murray, following his defeat to Gasquet. “I think there were a lot of things I would like to have done better in the match, but you also have to be somewhat realistic, in terms of what you can expect.” Read More
Britain’s Andy Murray says he is hoping “to get through a few matches” as he plays his second singles tournament since recovering from hip surgery.
The former world number one lost 6-4 6-4 to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati last week, in his first singles match since January’s Australian Open.
He has decided to play no part in this month’s US Open.
On Monday he will play the American Tennys Sandgren in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open.
“All matches are difficult at this level, and when you’ve been out for a long time, and with the severity of the operation I had, it is going to take time,” Murray told BBC Sport.
“I’m not setting my expectations too high, but I do want to try and get matches in just now. So I’d like to get through a few matches here, and hopefully have a decent run.”
It is very hot, and very humid in North Carolina. Murray will play his first round match at about 19:00 local time, when the temperature will be 30C, but feel more like 37C.
Sandgren, 28, reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 Australian Open, and the fourth round of this year’s Wimbledon. But he has lost all three of the hard court matches he has played in North America since.
“He was brought up playing on the American hard courts, he’s a very good mover and he’s quick: a good athlete,” said Murray, who has never played Sandgren before.
“I practised with him a little bit when he was pretty young – him and another player, Ryan Williams, were brought in by Ivan Lendl to do some training with me – so I actually practised with him a bit when he was like 18 or 19 years old.”
The winner will play the second seed and world number 38 Denis Shapovalov in the second round.
The tournament is taking place at the Wake Forest Tennis Centre, which is right next to the 31,500-seater stadium where the Wake Forest college football team play their home games.
“The university and the facilities that they have over here are unbelievable,” Murray added.
“A few of my friends played college tennis over here and had a brilliant time and the assistant coach here is Chris Eaton, who played Davis Cup for Britain. He seems to love it here. It’s nice.”
Dan Evans is the only other British player in the singles here, and as the fifth seed has a bye into the second round.
But there is a strong British doubles contingent, including Joe Salisbury, who is seeded two with his American partner Rajeev Ram.
Cincinnati Masters semi-finalists Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski are also in the draw.
This is the final ATP event before the US Open begins on 26 August. Andy Murray has already said he will not play doubles in New York, so he can focus all his energies on singles once again.
Andy Murray is ready to give singles his undivided attention. After testing the doubles waters in June with a successful foray that included a title at Queen’s Club (w/Lopez) and several high-profile wins, he begins his return to singles in earnest at the Winston-Salem Open. The former World No. 1 starts his week on Monday against American Tennys Sandgren.
Although Murray had always hoped to progress towards a singles comeback, it was during the Coupe Rogers in Montreal that he felt ready to take the plunge.
“I was hoping to be playing some doubles and practising some singles, but… being scheduled to play doubles at 10:30 pm was not allowing me to practise singles the way I wanted to,” said Murray. “Doubles was really helpful and beneficial for me to get back on the court and feel what my body was going to be like. But once I started thinking about singles, it was just slowing things down a bit.
“The opportunity came up to play [in Winston-Salem] and from everyone I chatted to, they said it’s a nice tournament. Very convenient, lots of practice courts. It felt like a smart move to come and play here before heading home. Hopefully I can get more than one match here and try to win my first singles match since coming back from the surgery.”
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Murray returned to singles action last week at the Western & Southern Open, falling in the opening round to eventual semi-finalist Richard Gasquet. Although the Brit was encouraged by how he felt physically in his first singles match since undergoing hip surgery in January, he is focusing on tangibles like movement, recovery time and remaining pain-free rather than lifting the trophy this week.
“My expectations are very low. I’m not thinking about winning events like this just yet. I’m just trying to get matches,” said Murray. “I’m hoping that by the end of this year, I can start getting back to the best that I’ll be. I just want to get through some matches and hopefully my body holds up well.”
Regardless of how this week goes, Murray finds himself in a position that would have been unfathomable earlier this year. Just six months ago, his wife needed to help him put his socks on. Now that he’s pain-free for the first time in years, Murray’s perspective on life has dramatically shifted. He’s striving for a more balanced life on Tour as he continues his quest for more success.
“When I was going out and playing golf or walking the dogs [pain-free], you’re just encouraged to get out and do more stuff,” said Murray. “Before that, I didn’t want to. I wanted to put my feet up because doing those things was detrimental and painful. I’m excited to go out and do other stuff, which you need. You don’t want to have your mind just on your tennis and your hip, which it was for a couple of years.”
But Murray’s mind will certainly be on tennis this week. His presence in Winston-Salem has captivated the North Carolina fans, many of whom crowded his practice on Sunday with Russian Andrey Rublev.
The Brit has been feeling the love ever since his emotional press conference at the Australian Open, where he admitted the state of his career was uncertain. Now that he’s firmly back on Tour, the love still hasn’t wavered.
“Even when I was walking down the street post-Australia, people were telling me to keep going and keep fighting and keep trying,” said Murray. “After I spoke in Australia, Rublev was one of the first guys I bumped into in the locker room. I didn’t even know him that well, but he gave me a huge hug and told me to keep trying. There’s been more moments like that over the past six months than before.”