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Canadian 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov is looking to build on a breakthrough 2016, which saw him leap 880 places in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The NextGenATP player is a main draw wild card in Marseille this week.
David Ferrer, closing in on the 700th match win of his career, reflects on his 2015 title run at the Rio Open presented by Claro and the challenges ahead. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Watch highlights of the 2017 Argentina Open final, featuring Alexandr Dolgopolov and Kei Nishikori in Buenos Aires. Photo: Argentina Open/Sergio Llamera
Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci is bidding to break a two-match losing streak at the Rio Open presented by Claro this week, but will be looking to draw on local support in his match versus Kei Nishikori. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
American Ryan Harrison is continuing his charge up the Emirates ATP Rankings – moving up 47 spots since the start of the 2017 season.
The 24-year-old Texas resident, who started the year at No. 90 has today equalled his career-high of No. 43 – first attained on 16 July 2012 – by virtue of lifting his first ATP World Tour trophy at the Memphis Open (d. Nikoloz Basilashvili) on Sunday. Basilashvili moved 14 places to a career-high No. 53 as a result of contesting his second final (also 2016 Kitzbühel). Read Report
Harrison became the first first-time winner in Memphis since Sweden’s Joachim Johansson in 2004 and second first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season, joining Gilles Muller - the Apia International Sydney titlist. Read Harrison First-Time Winners’ Spotlight
Two weeks ago, Harrison was also named the Top 100 Mover of the Week as a result of capturing his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title in Dallas (d. Taylor Fritz), moving from No. 78 to No. 62 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Read Update
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga picked up the first ATP World Tour 500 tournament title of 2017, representing his first trophy for 18 months (since the Moselle Open in Metz) by beating David Goffin in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final in Rotterdam. Tsonga, now up three spots to No. 11 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is at his highest placing since 29 August 2016 with his 13th ATP World Tour crown. Read Report & Watch Highlights
The 26-year-old Goffin, who was contesting the third ATP World Tour 500 final of his career (also 2014 Basel, 2016 Tokyo), became the first Belgian to break into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings by rising one place to No. 10.
Alexandr Dolgopolov recorded his 10th Top 10 victory over No. 5-ranked Kei Nishikori 7-6(4), 6-4 at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires for his first ATP World Tour crown since July 2012 at the Citi Open in Washington D.C. The Ukrainian jumped 16 spots to No. 50 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, his highest position since being No. 37 on 15 August 2016. Read Report
Rotterdam qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert surged 41 spots to rank a career-high No. 68 as a result of beating No. 8-ranked Dominic Thiem en route to the semi-finals (l. to Goffin) in the Netherlands. Kazakhstani Mikhail Kukushkin, a semi-finalist in Memphis (l. to Basilashvili), moved up 25 places to No. 78.
Watch highlights of the 2017 Memphis Open final, featuring Ryan Harrison versus Nikoloz Basilashvili. Photo: Alex Smith/Memphis Open
American Tennys Sandgren reflects on his victory in Tempe, USA, claiming his second ATP Challenger Tour crown. Video courtesy of USTA Southwest.
Pablo Carreno Busta believes he's in the best moment of his career and is ready to stake a claim for the title at the Rio Open presented by Claro. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
World No. 5 Kei Nishikori recalls his appearance at the Rio 2016 Olympics and how he's looking forward to making his debut at the Rio Open presented by Claro. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
It appears either Matt Renshaw or Usman Khawaja will miss out on selection for the first Test against India, after coach Darren Lehmann says "it's a tight call" between the Queensland pair.
Only one ATP World Tour tournament is played in Juan Martin del Potro's home country of Argentina. But for the affable Argentine, every stop can feel like home. Much like Roger Federer, del Potro draws cheers from all over the world.
“It means a lot to have this support because many players can’t feel that sensation,” del Potro told ATP World Tour Uncovered. “When I go around the U.S. or Europe or Asia, it feels like a hometown tournament because people are coming to watch me play. They don’t care if I win or lose. They just want to see me play tennis and that’s important for me.”
The 28 year old must feel especially welcome at the Delray Beach Open in south Florida. He started his award-winning 2016 comeback season here by reaching the semi-finals, and he'll begin his 2017 campaign at the ATP World Tour 250 this week. Del Potro was also a titlist in Delray Beach in 2011.
“It’s a really good tournament to be my first tournament of the season. I’m so happy to be playing here. I have great memories from winning the title in 2011, and it was a special memory for me reaching the semi-finals here last year, so I’m looking forward to a good tournament this year,” he said.
Del Potro skipped the ATP World Tour tournaments Down Under and the Australian Open last month to extend his off-season and improve his fitness. His 2016 lasted longer than usual because he helped Argentina win its first Davis Cup title on 27 November.
But the right-hander starts the 2017 season in a much different place than he did the 2016 campaign. Twelve months ago, del Potro was coming back from another wrist injury – his third in two years – and had played only two tournaments in the prior year.
This season, del Potro can look back on a season that saw him win his first title in 33 months (If Stockholm Open), notch wins against Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, and reach No. 38 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
“I’m very happy with how last year went. I only played 12 tournaments and I finished in the Top 40. This year is a big challenge for me because if I can play 20 tournaments, I can move up more in the rankings and get closer to playing the top guys,” del Potro said.
Del Potro also remained healthy throughout the season, which has allowed him to be optimistic with his 2017 schedule.
“This pre-season is completely different from the last one. I know 80 to 90 per cent of my schedule for the whole year, which is important. I worked hard in my pre-season in Tandil and came to Miami to finish the training. I did everything I can do before a tournament. I’m starting to do yoga every morning before practise and some exercises for my wrist and my body, All of these things help you to get into form,” del Potro said.
He's not looking too far ahead, though. On Tuesday, del Potro faces former Top 10 player Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Del Potro leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-0, but Anderson is also a Delray Beach titlist, having won the title in 2012.
“I don’t know where my game is yet. In the first tournament, the first match, the sensations are pretty different compared to the last match of the year. I have a tough first-round ahead,” del Potro said. “But I love to play here. The atmosphere on the court is great. Many fans come to support me, so that gives me a special energy to play.”
“You’re going to be super pumped anytime you can win an ATP title, but to win one so close to home is really special,” said Baker. “Nikola and I have had instant chemistry so far, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
The American-Croatian duo scored an immediate break of serve in their opening return game and rode that momentum to the opening set. Harrison/Johnson fought valiantly from 1-3 down in the second set to even the score at 3-3, but Baker/Mektic secured another break at 4-4 and converted on their first match point to prevail in 61 minutes.
Baker and Mektic didn’t drop a set in clinching the title this week. Both players excelled in doubles last year on the ATP Challenger Tour, with Baker winning five titles on U.S. soil and Mektic winning four tournaments in Europe. They pick up 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and split $34,810.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Mektic. “It’s a special feeling to win it with Brian because we really enjoy being play each other.”
Harrison, who took the singles title earlier in the day over Nikoloz Basilashvili, was looking for his first ATP World Tour doubles title since Atlanta in July 2012 (w/Ebden). Johnson was seeking his second doubles crown, having prevailed last May in Geneva (w/Ram). He’s now 0-2 in Memphis doubles finals, having also finished runner-up last year with Sam Querrey. They earn 150 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and split $18,300.
Ryan Harrison stormed to his first ATP World Tour crown at the Memphis Open, not dropping a set en route to the title. He defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday, joining Gilles Muller (Sydney) as first-time winners on the ATP World Tour this year.
ATPWorldTour.com spoke to Harrison after his victory:
How does it feel to win your first ATP World Tour title in a rich tradition tournament like Memphis?
It feels amazing. Memphis was the club I first came to, to watch a pro event. It was the closest club to my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, that hosted an event. It just feels surreal to win here.
When you saw your name going up on the wall with so many great American champions, how did that feel?
It's amazing. I looked at the board and the last American that won it was Andy Roddick. Then I saw all the other guys that won here and it's just an incredible moment. Andy's been someone special for me in my career and we have a great relationship. He lives 10 minutes from me in Austin. When I saw my name go up next to his, I thought it was so cool.
You grew up in the South and played many junior and pro tournaments in this region. Does it mean a little extra to win in Memphis?
Definitely. I grew up coming to all the tournaments in the USTA's Southern section. They were called Bullfrogs. We'd get in the car and drive all over, to Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and everywhere through the South. So this is like a hometown event for me.
How did you approach going into your first ATP World Tour final?
I was super nervous. Had the excitement of what could happen if you win and all the things that go through your head to play well. I was down 15/40 in my first service game and when I got through that, the nerves let up and I was ready to go.
You turned pro at the age of 15 and had many ups and downs over the years. How does it feel?
I came on the scene early and it's a good thing now, considering how persistent and resilient I am. I've gone through a lot in my life, with the spotlight on it. That is, in terms of maturity and becoming a man. For me, it was really an interesting way to grow up with people expecting a lot of you and then not expecting you to be there. I feel I can achieve my dreams again.
You didn’t lose a set en route to the final and saved all 12 break points against Basilashvili. What part of your game were you most pleased with?
I wasn't trying to think about it too much. I was trying to go day-by-day, do things correctly like eating well on top of my therapy, so I can play well each day. Day in and day out I was able to play at a high level. I've always relied heavily on my serve and I was trying to hit my spots a lot (down break point).
You’re back in the Top 50 of the Emirates ATP Rankings now for the first time since your career-high of No. 43 on July 16, 2012. How does that feel?
I never knew how to get back here again. I've looked at the ATP website and seen the First-Time Spotlight winners every year. Five years ago, I didn't know if I was ever going to get there. After making four or five semi-finals in your teenage years, you expect to at least make one final. But that never happened. I'm just overwhelmed with excitement now.
Not many people realize you’ve been playing as a pro for 10 years, but you’re only 24. Talk about the process.
That's the thing. I started so young that when I wasn't winning Grand Slams by 22 or 23 years old, people felt like my name had come and gone. When you first hear about me by 2009 or 2010 and years later I'm outside the Top 100, people don't expect much from you. That's why the people around me told me to turn it into a positive and that I've had these experiences at such a young age. You can still do something great. That's been my mentality.
Who are the people who have helped you the most during your career?
My parents and my fiance. She's been there the whole way. Whenever I'd come off of a tough loss, she'd always be there and is so supportive. My mom is always there and my dad is the driving trust factor. When I was outside the Top 100 and someone told my dad that I wouldn't be Top 10 one day, he would have lost his mind. He just has that much belief in me. They have always been just so loving.
Wow. Words can't desribe how much this means to me. So blessed with all the love and support I have in life. Thank you all! pic.twitter.com/ORdorj7kPg— Ryan Harrison (@ryanharrison92) February 20, 2017
Rio Headlines Week #7: The busiest month of the season continues with three tournaments, highlighted by the 500 level event in Rio de Janeiro returning for the fourth year. World No. 5 Kei Nishikori and No. 8 Dominic Thiem headline an outstanding field in Rio. In Marseille, the top two seeds are the top two Frenchmen, No. 10 Gael Monfils and No. 14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. In Delray Beach, the first outdoor tournament in North America features World No. 4 Milos Raonic and No. 20 Ivo Karlovic as the top two seeds. Overall, 10 of the Top 20 (as of Feb. 13) Emirates ATP Rankings are in action in the three tournaments.
RIO OPEN presented by CLARO (Rio de Janeiro): The first of two Brazilian tournaments on the ATP World Tour takes place in Rio, with the beautiful Jockey Club Brasileiro featuring eight clay courts, including a 6,200-seat stadium. This is the second (of 13) 500 level tournaments of the season. Six of the Top 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings (as of Feb. 13) are entered. Along with Nishikori and Thiem, the other seeds are: reigning champion No. 3 Pablo Cuevas, No. 4 Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 5 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, No. 6 David Ferrer, No. 7 Paolo Lorenzi and No. 8 Joao Sousa. The other former winner in the field is Ferrer (2015).
-- Nishikori Top Seed: Nishikori, who competed in Sunday’s Buenos Aires final (l. Dolgopolov), finds himself as the top seed again in a February ATP World Tour tournament. He is making his Rio de Janeiro debut. For the past three years the Japanese star was the No. 1 seed in Memphis where he won the title each time. Overall, he won Memphis four straight years. He won his last 17 matches in Memphis and owns a 17-1 career record. The World No. 5 Nishikori has a 9-2 match record on the season (not including BA final). He is trying to win his 12th career ATP World Tour title. He was runner-up in Brisbane (l. to Dimitrov) and followed with 4R at the Australian Open (l. to Federer in five sets).
-- Cuevas Reigning Champ: No. 3 seed Cuevas is the reigning champion and the 31-year-old Uruguayan has enjoyed playing in Brazil. After winning last year’s Rio title, he went on to capture the Sao Paulo title. He also won in Sao Paulo in 2015. He has a 5-3 career record in ATP World Tour finals. He finished a year-end best No. 22 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after reaching a career-high No. 19 on Aug. 15.
-- Ferrer Looks to End Drought: No. 6 seed Ferrer enters with a 10-2 career record in Rio, reaching the semi-finals in his 2014 debut (l. to Dolgopolov), winning his last clay title two years ago (d. Fognini) and reaching the quarter-finals last year. The 34-year-old Spaniard finished last year outside the Top 20 at No. 21 for the first time since 2004 and also failed to reach an ATP World Tour final for the first time since ’04. His last ATP World Tour title came in Vienna in October 2015.
-- Ruud on the Rise: The youngest player in the draw is 18-year-old wild card Casper Ruud of Norway. Ruud is No. 16 in the Emirates ATP Race to Milan standings and at a career-high No. 201 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The future #NextGenATP star is looking for his first career ATP World Tour match win (0-2), losing in the 1R in Chengdu last year and Chennai last month.
-- Brazilian Title Hopes: The top four Brazilians in the Emirates ATP Rankings are in the main draw, led by No. 75 Thomaz Bellucci, who takes on top seed Nishikori. The others are: No. 84 Thiago Monteiro, No. 88 Rogerio Dutra Silva and wild card No. 133 Joao Souza. Bellucci, who has four career ATP World Tour titles, is 2-3 in Rio with his best result being the quarter-finals in 2014. Souza advanced to the quarter-finals in 2015. Last year was the first year a Brazilian didn’t reach the quarters in Rio.
-- Doubles Draw: The doubles draw features last year’s No. 1 duo in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings, Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares. The other seeds are: No. 2 Lukasz Kubot & Marcelo Melo, No. 3 Pablo Carreno Busta & Pablo Cuevas and reigning champions No. 4 Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah, who also won the 2014 title. Cabal and Farah won the Buenos Aires final on Sunday.
OPEN 13 PROVENCE (Marseille): The second of five French tournaments on the ATP World Tour features a strong line-up with six of the Top 20 players in the Emirates ATP Rankings, led by the top French duo of Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who won Sunday’s Rotterdam final. There are four other French seeds: No. 3 reigning champion and top Aussie Nick Kyrgios, No. 4 Lucas Pouille No. 5 and top German Alexander Zverev, No. 6 Richard Gasquet, No. 7 Gilles Simon, and No. 8 Benoit Paire. There are three former champions in the field – Kyrgios, Simon (2007, 2015) and Tsonga (2009, 2013).
-- Monfils Top Seed: Monfils is playing in his second tournament of the season after opening with a 4R showing at the Australian Open last month (l. to No. 9 Nadal in four sets). The 30-year-old Frenchman is making his eighth appearance in Marseille (5-7 record) and his best result is a runner-up two years ago (l. to Simon). Prior to that he was 1-6 in Marseille. This is the 10th time in his career Monfils is the top seed in an ATP World Tour tournament. He has won two titles and reached another final:
-- Kyrgios Defending Champ: No. 3 seed Kyrgios is the reigning champion and the 21-year-old Aussie is looking to defend an ATP World Tour title for the first time in his career. Last year Kyrgios entered No. 41 and he cruised to his first ATP World Tour title without losing serve (held 47 games). He closed with wins over No. 10 Gasquet (QF), No. 8 Berdych (SF) and No. 12 Cilic (F). He went on to capture two other titles (Atlanta, Tokyo) and finish a year-end best No. 13. Kyrgios is 2-1 on the season and he reached the 2R at the Australian Open (l. to Seppi 10-8 in fifth set) and won a Davis Cup match (d. Satral) to help Australia into the QFs vs. the U.S. in April.
-- Simon Success: No. 7 seed Simon comes in with a 21-8 career record in Marseille. He won the title in 2007 (d. Baghdatis) and 2015 (d. Monfils). He also advanced to the semi-finals in 2009 and 2013. He opens in the 1R against #NextGenATP Russian Karen Khachanov.
-- #NextGenATP Trio: There are three #NextGenATP stars in the main draw, led by Emirates ATP Race to Milan leader Alexander Zverev, who won his second career ATP World Tour title one week ago in Montpellier (d. Gasquet).and moved to a career-high No. 18 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. The others in the draw are Russians Karen Khachanov, who is ranked a career-high No. 48, and Daniil Medvedev, who is No. 2 in the Race to Milan and a career-high No. 60. There are two other future #NextGenATP players making their Marseille debut: wild cards Stefanos Tsitsipas (18) of Greece and Denis Shapovalov (17) of Canada. Tsitsipas is ranked No. 205 and Shapovalov is ranked No. 256.
-- Doubles Draw: The top seeds in the doubles draw are Frenchmen Julien Benneteau & Nicolas Mahut, who are teaming together in a tournament for the first time since the 2012 US Open (QF). They last paired up in a 2015 Davis Cup 1R tie vs. Germany. The other seeds are: No. 2 Mate Pavic & Alexander Peya, No. 3 Rohan Bopanna & Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and No. 4 Wesley Koolhof & Matwe Middelkoop, who lost in Sunday’s Rotterdam final.
DELRAY BEACH OPEN (Delray Beach): The first outdoor North American tournament of the season is the 25th edition of the Delray Beach Open. Leading the way is World No. 4 Milos Raonic, who is making his tournament debut. The other seeds are: No. 2 and 2015 champion Ivo Karlovic, No. 3 and top American Jack Sock, No. 4 and reigning champion Sam Querrey, No. 5 Steve Johnson, No. 6 Bernard Tomic, No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro and No. 8 Kyle Edmund. There are five former champions in the draw: Querrey (2016), Karlovic (2015), Kevin Anderson (2012), del Potro (2011) and Tommy Haas (2006).
-- Raonic Top Seed: Raonic is the top seed in an ATP World Tour tournament for the second time this season and sixth time in his career. The 26-year-old Canadian is coming off his best career season in 2016 when he finished No. 3. He began this year with a semi-final in Brisbane where he was top seed (d. No. 9 Nadal, l. to eventual champion Dimitrov) and followed with a quarter-final at the Australian Open (l. to Nadal). Raonic withdrew from the 1R Davis Cup tie vs. Great Britain due to an adductor injury he suffered during the Australian Open.
-- Querrey Defending Champ: No. 4 seed and wild card entry Querrey is the reigning champion. The 29-year-old Californian is making his fifth straight Delray Beach appearance and ninth overall (13-7 record). Last year he came in ranked No. 61 and capped off his title run with wins over del Potro in the SF and Ram in the final. He also was a semi-finalist in three tournaments (Memphis, Acapulco, ‘s-Hertogenbosch) and quarter-finalist at three other events, including Wimbledon where he beat No. 1 Djokovic in 3R. This season Querrey has a 3-3 record, with his best result being the 3R at the Australian Open (l. to Murray).
-- Delpo Makes 2017 Debut: One year ago Juan Martin del Potro returned to Delray Beach ranked No. 1,042 and for the first time since his title run in 2011 (d. Tipsarevic). This was the start of his second ATP Comeback of the Year season (2011). The 28-year-old Argentine finished No. 38 with a 32-12 match record on the season, highlighted by his 19th career title in Stockholm (d. Sock). He also earned a silver medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics where he beat No. 1 Djokovic in 1R and No. 5 Nadal in SF, (l. to No. 2 Murray). He closed the season by leading his country to a first Davis Cup title (d. Croatia) with two wins (d. Karlovic, No. 6 Cilic). The No. 7 seed in this year’s tournament opens against fellow big man Kevin Anderson, who won the title in 2012 and reached the final in 2014. Anderson has a 14-6 career record in Delray Beach.
-- #NextGenATP Foursome: There are four #NextGenATP stars in the main draw, led by World No. 61 Borna Coric, who is looking for his first win of the season (0-3). The others are: No. 100 Jared Donaldson, No. 114 Taylor Fritz, who was last year’s ATP Star of Tomorrow recipient, and No. 120/wild card Stefan Kozlov, who is from nearby Pembroke Pines.
-- 2015 Repeat Final: Karlovic, who was not broken en route to the 2015 title, opens against Donald Young, the player he beat 63 63 in that final. The 37-year-old Croat also reached the final in 2010 (l. to Gulbis). He has an 11-7 career record and six other times the Croat didn’t get past the second round, losing in 1R four times and 2R twice. He opened the season with a quarter-final in Doha (l. to Verdasco) and followed with a 3R showing at the Australian Open where he opened with a 22-20 win over Zeballos in 1R, hitting a tournament record 75 aces.
-- Tommy Returns: Tommy Haas, who won the 2006 title, is playing in Delray Beach for the first time since 2014 (l. to Johnson in 2R). Haas an 11-7 record here. The 38-year-old German is playing on a protected ranking. He is the tournament director at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and he plans to retire this season.
-- Doubles Draw: The top seeds in the doubles draw are four-time champions Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan, who are playing for the first time since their Australian Open runner-up effort last month (l. to Kontinen/Peers). The other seeds are: No. 2 Raven Klaasen & Rajeev Ram, No. 3 Treat Huey & Max Mirnyi and No. 4 Oliver Marach & Fabrice Martin, the defending champions (d. Bryans).
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Milos Raonic thinks he knows how to close the gap between himself and the very best players on the ATP World Tour: Become more unpredictable.
Raonic, the top seed at the Delray Beach Open this week, always wants his opponents wondering about his game, his location on the court and his next move. He wants all of his rivals, and especially those at the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings, to feel discomfort when he faces them across the net.
“You have to make them feel uncomfortable. Because as soon as you start giving them the same scenario too many times, they adjust in a fantastic manner and they're the best in the world at that,” Raonic said of the top players during a pre-tournament call with reporters.
The 6'5” right-hander has taken steps to become less predictable. In December, he hired former World No. 4 Richard Kraijcek as his coach. The 1996 Wimbledon champion captured 17 tour-level titles with a charge-the-net mindset. Early on in 2017, the Canadian has also done his best to continue improving his attacking style, reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open (l. to Nadal).
“What I feel like I needed to add to my game was not only the element of serving well and following it up with a big forehand, I felt like I needed to be able to get myself forward to take time away from them and make them always feel like I could make that step forward,” Raonic said.
The Canadian will make his debut appearance this week at the Delray Beach Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tournament. The World No. 4 will be the highest-ranked player to participate in the tournament during its 25-year history. In 2003 and 2007, respectively, World No. 6 Andy Roddick and World No. 6 James Blake played at the tournament. Roddick fell in his opener to countryman Mardy Fish; Blake lost in the final to Xavier Malisse.
When Raonic was ranked much lower, at No. 361, he had hopes of playing at the 2010 Delray Beach Open. But he didn't make the cut for the qualifying draw.
“It's definitely nice to be able to come back. I'm very excited to play there and create a different storyline rather than it being the tournament that I didn't get into,” Raonic said.
The Delray Beach field is packed with top players again this year. Argentine Juan Martin del Potro starts his season at the tournament for the second year in a row. Del Potro reached the semi-finals last year during the beginning of his comeback year. The right-hander skipped the ATP World Tour events Down Under and the Australian Open last month to have a longer off-season and build up his fitness.
In many ways, last season was the best year in Raonic's career. He finished with a career-high year-end Emirates ATP Ranking of No. 3. The Canadian reached his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon before falling to Murray. During the semi-finals of the ATP Finals, the right-hander held a match point against World No. 1 Andy Murray.
But Raonic feels he's even better than he was a year ago. “I think that I'm a player that's moved along mentally and physically quite significantly over where I was 52 weeks ago, even where I was at the end of last year. That makes me very excited,” he said. “I've tried to be more outward with my energy in a positive way to get out a higher level continuously throughout the match, and I think that's what's going to make a difference in the important moments.”
Raonic last played in the quarter-finals in Melbourne. An old adductor injury bothered him during the match but he said he's feeling ready to play in south Florida. The 26 year old took about two weeks off from tennis to rest the injury.
“Everything's feeling good. The doctors and the physios are very happy with the progress I'm making and now it's really about just easing my way into it,” he said.
He will have plenty of fan support to help push him through any niggles this week. The Delray Beach tournament is a favourite among Canadians who have moved south.
“I'm well aware that there is a huge Canadian contingency down there. I know that people will come out. It's a tournament that I've always wanted to play,” he said. “I'm very excited about [it] and hopefully it leads to good things for me to getting my year going and getting some good matches in.”
Ryan Harrison's game was on song all week at the Memphis Open and the American was rewarded with his maiden ATP World Tour title. Harrison upended Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-4 in just 76 minutes on Sunday, displaying a dogged defence that saw him deny all 12 break points faced.
The 24 year old is the second first-time winner this year, joining Sydney champion Gilles Muller. He is also the second player to clinch an ATP World Tour title without dropping a set, in addition to Alexandr Dolgopolov, who won in Buenos Aires earlier on Sunday.
"It's always going to be special, but it's even better here in front of a group of people that drove up from your hometown and have known you since you were five years old," Harrison said. "To do it in front of friends and family and people that saw the work I was putting in and my dedication, it definitely makes it more special.
"This was the first place I saw a professional tennis match, driving up from Shreveport. I will always remember Memphis. All those emotions were coming out there at the end. You have dreams and aspirations in life and for me it's trying to be as great as I can in tennis. For me to come back here and win this title when I had thought it was impossible, it's amazing."
Basilashvili rode his bludgeoning forehand to the final, but was unable to penetrate Harrison's defences. The American snatched the first break in the fourth game and forced a backhand error to take a commanding 5-1 lead. After closing out the opener in 25 minutes, Harrison came under pressure often in the second set, but escaped break points in all five of his service games.
The Louisiana native survived a 0/40 deficit in the sixth game and would consolidate the decisive break for 4-2. He crossed the finish line with one of his nine aces after just over an hour.
"I don't think I had a single easy hold in the second set," Harrison added. "He came out and was playing really good tennis. Honestly, he outplayed me most of the second set and I managed to save a bunch of break points and convert on the only one I had. But that happens in tennis. I was fortunate to be the one saving the opportunities."
Harrison has won 10 matches - and 20 sets - in a row after also lifting the trophy at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Dallas two weeks ago. He is the first player to win Challenger and ATP World Tour titles in consecutive tournaments since David Goffin reeled off four victories in four weeks, including his maiden tour-level crown in Kitzbuhel, in 2014. He is also the first to win on both circuits this year.
The World No. 62 adds $114,595 and 250 Emirates ATP Rankings points and is projected to return to the Top 50. The first American winner at the Racquet Club of Memphis since Andy Roddick in 2011, he also finished runner-up with Steve Johnson in the doubles final on Sunday.
Basilashvili, meanwhile, was contesting his second ATP World Tour final, having finished runner-up to Paolo Lorenzi in Kitzbuhel last year. He was bidding to become the first player representing the Republic of Georgia to lift a trophy. The big-hitting 24 year old takes home $60,355 and 150 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
"In the first set, I could not find any rhythm. I was not going for my shots and playing very defensive. Ryan was serving really well on the break points. I had a lot of chances in the second set, but the energy wasn't great today. It hurts so much, but you have to learn from this for the next matches.
"Ryan was playing unbelievable in the 12 break points," said Basilashvili. "He was playing really well. If I had just one, I could have found the rhythm, but I wasn't able to. He made me play a lot of shots, which helped him. He has been playing very good all week."
The encounter between the American and the Georgian was their first in eight years. Harrison triumphed in the semi-finals of an ITF Futures event in Shingle Springs, California in 2009, when both players were 16 years of age.
Jason Day's 47-week stint as the world's number one golfer has ended, with American Dustin Johnson taking the top spot.
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