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The Top 2 Grand Slam Matches Of 2017

Thu, 07/12/2017 - 1:26pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the best two Grand Slam matches of the 2017 season.

2. Del Potro d. Thiem, US Open, Round of 16 - 4 September 2017 (Match Stats)

Juan Martin del Potro appeared far closer to a plane ride back to Argentina than he did to a spot in the quarter-finals in Flushing Meadows when he faced the up-and-coming sixth seed, Dominic Thiem, on Grandstand in the fourth round at the US Open.

Thiem dominated the first two sets in just over an hour, and it seemed a lethargic Del Potro was wilting away — and quickly — due to a flu-like illness. There was no second wind in sight for the ‘Tower of Tandil’.

A thrilling 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4 victory to set up a rematch of the 2009 US Open final against third-seeded Roger Federer seemed completely unrealistic. But that is exactly what the New York crowd got. (Read Match Report)

Thiem played a sloppy second game in the third set out of nowhere to concede a break, allowing the raucous crowd into the match and shifting its momentum.

“I saw the crowd waiting for more tennis, waiting for my good forehands, good serves. I took all that energy to change in a good way and think about fighting and not retiring,” Del Potro said. “I started to enjoy little bit more about the fans. I think I did everything well after the third set. The crowd enjoyed with me all points. It was [an] unbelievable atmosphere.”

All around him, the same cry rang through the air.

“Ole! Ole Ole Ole! Delpo! Delpo!”

It was as if the fans chanting acted as a resurrection song for the 2009 US Open champion. All of a sudden, the shotmaking Thiem was getting caught far behind the baseline as if he were playing on his favoured clay. On the other side of the net, Del Potro was tap-dancing around his backhand to instead push Thiem around with monstrous forehands.

“I knew that it's not going to go all the way like this because if he felt really bad, he would have retired for sure,” Thiem said of his mindset after the easy start to the match. “I knew that I have to maintain my level. Of course, the third set was bad. I mean, I played some really bad minutes. It was a great match I think, sets four and set five.”

The fourth set was especially entertaining. Del Potro broke, but Thiem won four games in a row to surge to a 5-2 lead, and he would serve for the match at 5-3. But after failing to convert on a 30/0 advantage in the game, Thiem sailed a sitting forehand well long to hand the break back. And from there, the match only got crazier.

The Austrian somehow halted the momentum to earn two match points on Del Potro’s serve at 6-5. But two aces quickly saw off the opportunity, and Thiem would never recover.

After a one-sided tie-break for Del Potro, the first nine games in the fifth set went to the server. But facing his second match point, Thiem double-faulted to lose one of the matches of the year.

In the next round, Del Potro would shock Federer and advance to the semi-finals, denying the first Federer-Rafael Nadal match at the US Open and keeping the Swiss from having a shot at leaving New York with the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking. 

“I played one of the epic matches of my career here in the US Open,” Del Potro said. “I'm so glad to go through.”

1. Federer d. Nadal, Australian Open, Final - 29 January 2017 (Match Stats)

Whenever Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal meet on the tennis court, great things tend to happen. Make it a five-setter in a Grand Slam final and great is an understatement.

But it had been nearly six years since the longtime rivals met in a major final. And after both dealt with injuries toward the end of 2016, nobody believed they would face off in the final at Melbourne Park.

So when they battled their way to the championship match, that was a victory in itself. In fact, Federer, who before Melbourne had not played a tournament since 2016 Wimbledon, said after the match that he “would have been happy again to [just] be in the final”.

And it looked like that was as far as Federer would get when he sprayed a forehand wide to go down an immediate break in the fifth set. But he would storm back, winning the final five games to claim a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 victory in the Grand Slam match of the year. (Read & Watch Highlights)

In the moment, it seemed highly improbable that even Federer could come back from 1-3 down in a decider against Nadal. But after Federer failed to convert on five break points in the left-hander’s first three service games of the set, he finally found a way to even affairs at 3-3, Nadal barely missing an inside-out forehand wide to give the break back.

“I had the chance to keep holding serve,” Nadal said. “If I hold that one, you never know. You are [then] two games, just two games away.”

But Nadal would not win another game in the match. Federer swept the final five games to close out perhaps his unlikeliest victory ever, lifting an 18th Grand Slam trophy, which was his first win at a major against his greatest rival since the Wimbledon final in 2007.

“I told myself to play free,” Federer said. “ I didn't want to go down just making shots, seeing forehands rain down on me from Rafa… I kept on fighting. I kept on believing, like I did all match long today, that there was a possibility I could win this match.”

At one point between the fourth and fifth sets, Nadal won seven of nine games. And when the Spaniard gains momentum, it is usually like trying to stop a freight train that has no brakes. But Federer stepped into the court and played even more aggressively than normal, attacking with his one-handed backhand to keep Nadal from going on the offensive first.

And although the victory took confirmation — Nadal challenged a Federer forehand approach shot on match point that clipped the line — the oldest Grand Slam champion (35 years, 174 days) since Ken Rosewall (1971) seemingly burst into tears of joy after claiming the win against all odds, becoming just the second player (Mats Wilander, 1982 Roland Garros) to defeat four Top 10 opponents en route to a major title.

“It's a great draw because I'm in the draw,” said Federer before the event.

Little did he know that a fortnight later, he would be raising the trophy after a classic match in one of tennis’ most storied rivalries.

Vote For Masters 1000 Golden Hot Shot

Thu, 07/12/2017 - 3:50am

What's your pick for the 2017 Masters 1000 Golden Hot Shot? Re-live nine great hot shots from the season's ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments and help crown the best.

Watch the clips, selected based on views, and cast your vote before the poll closes at 6pm GMT/1pm ET on Tuesday, 12 December. Here are the candidates from each of the nine Masters 1000 events:

BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells): Del Potro Tweener
Miami Open presented by Itau: Kyrgios Tweener
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters: Nadal Impossible Angle
Mutua Madrid Open: Cuevas No-Look Winner
Internazionali BNL d'Italia (Rome): Thiem Backhand Blast
Coupe Rogers (Montreal): Zverev 49-Shot Rally
Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati): Dimitrov Dive Volley
Rolex Shanghai Masters: Nadal & Dimitrov Athleticism
Rolex Paris Masters: Schwartzman Behind-The-Back Shot

Watch & Vote Now!

Subscribe to our Hot Shot playlist, and watch match replays on TennisTV.

Best of 2017: Seven Questions With NextGenATP Khachanov & Medvedev

Thu, 07/12/2017 - 12:07am
ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot asks seven tough questions to NextGenATP players Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev.

Best Grand Slam Matches Of 2017: 5 To 3

Wed, 06/12/2017 - 1:13pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the third through fifth best Grand Slam matches of the 2017 season.

5. Wawrinka def. Murray, Roland Garros, Semi-finals - 9 June 2017 (Match Stats)

Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka have been top contenders at the Grand Slams for years, and you'd expect the same knowing they were the first and third seeds, respectively, at Roland Garros. But neither star was in top form when they arrived on Paris’ terre battue this season.

The Scot was just 5-4 on clay heading into the second major of the year, and he was also trying to find his game after dealing with an elbow injury. “I came in playing garbage,” Murray joked after his quarter-final victory.

On the other side of the court, the 2015 champion arrived having won at the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open. But he was 2-3 on clay in 2017 before that title.

So in a way, advancing to the semi-finals was a strong result for both players. But after Murray somehow snuck ahead with a two sets to one lead despite Wawrinka holding leads in each of the first three sets, it was the Swiss who reached his second Roland Garros final in three years with a 6-7(6), 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1 victory. (Read Match Report)

In the first few sets, Murray played jaw-dropping defense to stay in points against Wawrinka, using neutralising depth to turn defense into offense, especially in key moments. But as the four-hour, 34-minute clash wore on, Wawrinka’s power was overwhelming, and he fittingly ended it with a lasered one-handed backhand winner.

“I think it was mentally a tough battle today, especially in five sets against Andy,” Wawrinka said. “I'm happy with what I did on the court, the way I was fighting, even if I was down. The way I was trying to keep my line, trying to keep being aggressive, keep going even if I lost a lot of points by some incredible defense from him. But you know what's happening when you play in a semi. You have to accept it. You just need to keep fighting and keep going for it.”

Wawrinka served for the first set at 5-3 and held a set point at 6-5 in the tie-break before losing it, and also led by a break on two separate occasions (2-0 and 4-2) in the third set before dropping five of the final six games to fall into a hole. But in the fourth set, neither player broke and all it took was one strong tie-break from Wawrinka to even the score and gain all the momentum and confidence he needed to run away with the match.

“I was one tie-break away from getting to the final when I came in really struggling. So I have to be proud of that,” Murray said. “Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match. A lot of long points. When you haven't been playing loads, you know, over four, four-and-a-half hours, that can catch up to you a little bit. So, I only have myself to blame for that, for the way I played coming into the tournament.”

4. Muller def. Nadal, Wimbledon, Round of 16 - 10 July 2017 (Match Stats)

Beating Rafael Nadal at a Grand Slam is never easy. Doing it at the same major twice in a career is even harder, especially right after the Spaniard won his 10th Roland Garros trophy and his third without dropping a set.

So it was no surprise that Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller did not cruise past the fourth-seeded Nadal after capturing the first two sets in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon this year. But it was a shock that in a marathon fifth set, it was Muller who prevailed to clinch this fourth-round battle 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13, his second win at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club against Nadal (2005). (Read Match Report)

In the first two sets, the crafty server dropped just six total points on his first delivery, and saved all three break points he faced. The 34-year-old took advantage of two of the three break opportunities he earned, and that was all he needed to take a commanding lead.

But Nadal, who had come back from two sets down on three previous occasions and at one point in his career won 13 of 14 five-setters, stormed back and won the third and fourth sets in a combined 80 minutes to force a decider. The Spaniard lost just eight points during that time and appeared back on track.

Yet after more than two hours and 18 games, it was Muller who came out victorious in the fifth set, advancing to his second Grand Slam quarter-final.

“It's definitely one of the biggest, if not the biggest,” said Muller of the importance of the win in his career.

Inevitably, as you would expect from a 15-13 fifth set, both players had their chances in the decider, which was longer than the second through fourth sets combined.

Muller earned his first two match points on Nadal’s serve at 5-4. Little did he know that the set was not yet halfway over.

“I just told myself, Look, I mean, I'm doing the best I can. I'm playing well. Just hang in there and you're going to get your chances,” Muller said. “Got a few of them. Didn't take the first ones. But still kept believing. Yeah, somehow in the end I made it.”

After saving one break point at 6-6 and four more at 9-9, Muller would not face break point again. He converted on his fifth match point.

It was the fourth time that Muller, who would lose to eventual finalist Marin Cilic, had beaten a Top 5 player in the Emirates ATP Rankings. And all four of those victories came at a Grand Slam event, with both of his triumphs over Nadal occurring at Wimbledon (2005).

And while the result was a surprise, it was not like Muller came out of nowhere. Luxembourg’s star claimed a title on grass just weeks earlier at the Ricoh Open, and advanced to the semi-finals at The Queen’s Club in the Aegon Championships. Muller also won his first career trophy on the ATP World Tour at the Sydney International in January.

3. Nadal def. Dimitrov, Australian Open, Semi-finals -  27 January 2017 (Match Stats)

Only one player can win a tennis match. But in this Grand Slam semi-final, both competitors walked off the court with heads held high.

After a titanic four-hour, 56-minute battle, Rafael Nadal advanced to the Australian Open final with a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4 victory against an impressive Grigor Dimitrov. (Read Match Report)

There was not much to separate the two players. There was even a span of 26 consecutive games without a break of serve. But throughout, both competitors were unafraid to step in and take a rip at the ball.

The pair split intense tie-breaks in the third (Nadal) and fourth (Dimitrov) sets, meaning they would play one set to reach the final, which would have been Dimitrov’s first at a Grand Slam.

After the 26-year-old escaped a 15/40 hole in the finale’s opening game, he regained his rhythm, being aggressive on the backhand side to help set up his forehand. And at 4-3, 15/40 on Nadal’s serve, the Bulgarian hit a solid return to push the left-hander back. But the Spaniard found some of his best tennis, hitting a backhand winner down the line later in the rally before saving his second break point with a forehand volley.

In the very next game, at 4-4, Nadal was at his stunning best. He claimed the decisive break with a backhand winner and that was the only advantage he would need to close out the classic.

“I think Grigor played great. I played great. So [it] was a great quality of tennis tonight,” Nadal said. “I think both of us deserve to be in that final. [It] was a great fight.”

And while the Bulgarian lost the match, he gained the confidence that would lead him to his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati and later in the year the Nitto ATP Finals trophy in his debut at The O2. Dimitrov went shot-for-shot with Nadal for nearly five hours, and if he would have found a way to claim one of his two break opportunities while up 4-3 in the fifth set, the match might have ended differently.

“It's never easy to lose a match like that,” Dimitrov said. “For sure Rafa deserves pretty much all the credit right now since he's such a fighter, such a competitor. At the same time it was an honour for me to play a match like that against him. It also shows me that I'm in a good way, I'm on the right path.”

Nadal would go on to lose another epic against Roger Federer in the final, their first Grand Slam championship match against one another since 2011 Roland Garros.

Come back on Thursday for the Top 2 Grand Slam matches of 2017

Down The T or Out Wide? Depends What You Want

Wed, 06/12/2017 - 8:02am
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers investigates where successful players at the Nitto ATP Finals preferred to deliver their first serve. Getty Images photo.

The Top 2 ATP World Tour Matches Of 2017

Tue, 05/12/2017 - 1:39pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the best two ATP World Tour matches of the 2017 season.

2) Thiem d. Dimitrov, Mutua Madrid Open, Third Round - 11 May 2017 (Match Stats)
For power hitting, intensity and momentum shifts, Dominic Thiem and Grigor Dimitrov’s epic third-round clash in Madrid was both thrilling and cruel. Thiem, on his favourite surface, competed with great heart and conviction in saving five match points to edge past Dimitrov, who also owns a devastating single-handed backhand, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(9) over two hours and 34 minutes of intense tennis. Thiem rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the second set, from 2-4 in the third set, then held off match points at 3/6, 6/7 and 8/9 in the tie-break before converting his second opportunity on a Dimitrov backhand error. Read & Watch Highlights

“I think it was a very good match from both of us,” said Thiem. “The tie-break in the third set was amazing. That’s the bad thing about tennis, only one guy can win. I don’t always play good in the important points, but today yes. I saved five match points. I don’t know if I ever saved that many match points in one match, so it’s a really good feeling.”

With the crowd swelling in numbers, as the third-set tie-break drew closer, it was a case of which player wanted it more. Thiem appeared comfortable in returning deep behind the baseline — standing alongside the line judges — and allowed Dimitrov control of the baseline. At 3/6 in the tie-break, Thiem proved to be confident, highlighting just why he has become one of the sport’s leading clay-courters over the past two years. Dimitrov served for the match at 6/5, but struck a forehand wide, and at 6/7 on Thiem’s serve, doubt began to invade the Bulgarian’s game.

Although Dimitrov saved one match point at 7/8, Thiem held his nerve, wrestling control away from his opponent with clarity of thought and stroke. The margin of victory was slim in a terrific duel (Thiem won 112 points to 111, with Dimitrov winning 18 of his 21 net points), but it was Thiem who exacted revenge for Dimitrov’s Brisbane International presented by Suncorp quarter-final win in January. The Austrian went on to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final (l. to Nadal).

Watch Full Match Replay At TennisTV

1) Federer d. Kyrgios, Miami Open presented by Itau, Semi-finals - 31 March 2017 (Match Stats)
Opposites in temperament and playing styles, but both exciting and undeniably box office. A standing-room only crowd turned out for Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios in an eagerly anticipated and electrifying semi-final clash. In three tie-break sets of high energy, brilliant shot making and pulsating drama, Federer saved set points and Kyrgios saved match points, before the Swiss superstar came out on top over Kyrgios 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5) in the Key Biscayne night. The epic had come two weeks on from their aborted BNP Paribas Open quarter-final, when Kyrgios withdrew prior to the match due to illness. Read & Watch Highlights

“It did feel very good, because you don't very often play three breakers in a match,” said Federer. “It's nice to win those and winning breakers is always such a thrill. It's great winning this way, especially because I remember the loss against him a few years ago. It was rough.”

Bursts of emotion from 21-year-old Kyrgios in reaction to Federer’s clean striking almost dented his chances in the first set, yet the Australian remained calm when it mattered most, saving a set point at 5-6 with an ace and two more in the tie-break at 5/6 and 6/7 with some big hitting. Federer also showed off his trademark steely nerves in the tie-break, saving a set point at 7/8 and again at 8/9 with a backhand winner down the line. However, the Aussie’s penchant for going for broke at crucial moments cost him the opening set. He rolled the dice on a big second serve at 9/9 and missed badly, handing Federer a third set point opportunity. The 35-year-old Swiss star made good on his chance, wrapping up the set as Kyrgios sent a backhand into the doubles alley.

The drama remained at maximum levels in the second-set tie-break, with a slice backhand from Federer on match point at 6/5 floating just long as Kyrgios could only stand at the net and watch. On his second match point at 8/7, Federer dumped an 88 mile per hour second serve into the bottom of the net as the crowd groaned in unison. Kyrgios wouldn’t allow Federer another opportunity, firing an ace at 10/9 and looking to his box in celebration at levelling the match.

The third set, which lasted one hour, fittingly resulted in a sixth straight tie-break for Federer and Kyrgios, with the crowd on their feet to applaud the efforts of both players. Their previous clash at the Mutua Madrid Open in May 2015 also produced a similar scoreline, with Kyrgios saving two match points to take a 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) victory. However, Kyrgios didn’t learn his lesson from the first set of the Miami brawl with Federer, gambling with a 128 mph second serve at 5/5 and ultimately hitting a double fault for his most costly shot of the night. Kyrgios’ risk proved to be Federer’s reward, with the fourth seed hitting a big first serve to wrap up the match in three hours and 10 minutes. At the net, they shared a warm exchange.

“I feel like my level of tennis has always been high, but mentally I'm competing for every point now,” said Kyrgios. “That's making the difference. I showed a lot of fight. Obviously, I'm an emotional guy. I had some ups and downs, a bit of a roller coaster, but ultimately I think I put in a good performance. I think I've made an effort to try and put in [the work] every day. I've got a great team with me. Every day we're on the practice court trying to have fun.”

Watch Full Match Replay At TennisTV

Best of 2017: Monte-Carlo Player Party Uncovered

Tue, 05/12/2017 - 1:24am
In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot goes behind the scenes at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where the biggest names in tennis hit the stage for the annual players party.

Best ATP World Tour Matches Of 2017: 5 To 3

Mon, 04/12/2017 - 1:51pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the best ATP World Tour matches in 2017, starting with Nos. 5 to 3.

5) Nadal d. Pouille, China Open, Beijing First Round, 3 October 2017 (Match Stats)
Rafael Nadal was on a roll, seven matches unbeaten and at his indomitable best. Against Lucas Pouille, in his first competitive match since lifting his third US Open crown, Nadal found a way to win as he and other great champions so often do when they aren’t quite at their best. The Spanish star avoided an early exit in Beijing by fighting off two match points to beat Pouille 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5. Read & Watch Highlights

“He played well, I think, very aggressive. He’s serving well,” said Nadal, who at one point lost his shoe in a rally. “For me it was a little bit difficult at the beginning, then I started to play better. But still, I didn’t have the control of the match for almost all the time. I am very, very happy to be through.”

Pouille dictated the early exchanges with his forehand and it wasn’t until the second set that Nadal began to attack the net, to end long drawn-out points. Nadal was down 4/6 in the second-set tie-break, when Pouille struck a short forehand approach into the net. Nadal gained the impetus to win four consecutive points to even the match at one set-all. In the decider, Pouille kept attacking with a number of excellent low volley winners, but Nadal earned his lone break of the match in the 11th game and served out the contest a game later to 15.

Pouille, who had beaten Nadal at the 2016 US Open, struck 46 winners to 47 unforced errors in the encounter that lasted two hours and 31 minutes. “He had two match points, one of them with an easy forehand more or less,” said Nadal. “But it's like this. I remember the match against him in the US Open that I had 6-all in the tie-break, an easy forehand I missed at the net, too. That time was for him, today was for me.”

Watch Full Match Replay At TennisTV

4) Djokovic d. Murray, Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha Final, 6 January 2017 (Match Stats)
Remember the dramatic end to the 2016 season? Just six days into the new year, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic clashed once again for the Qatar ExxonMobil Open title. Murray appeared to have broken Djokovic’s psychological hold over him when he won their November 2016 meeting at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, when not only the prestigious title, but also the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings was on the line.

Djokovic, who saved five match points against Fernando Verdasco in the Doha semi-final, was hugely impressive in the title match — the 36th match of their FedEx ATP Head2Head series — out-hitting Murray for a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory over two hours and 54 minutes. It ended Murray’s 28-match winning streak. Read & Watch Highlights

“[It was] definitely one of the best ways to start a year,” said Djokovic. “When Andy turned it around I thought, ‘I hope this is not payback time’ [for the Verdasco comeback]. All the way to the last shot, you never know with Andy. It’s no strange occurrence for both of us to play three sets for three hours. It’s a very physical battle.”

Djokovic served for the match at 5-4 in the second set against Murray, and held three championship points but could not find a way through his opponent’s defences. Murray maintained his record of breaking an opponent’s serve in 112 consecutive matches since losing to Roger Federer in August 2015 at the Western & Southern Open, and at one point reeled off five straight games to force a deciding set. Having stayed in touch for 30 minutes, Djokovic sensed his chance and pounced at 3-3.

“It means a lot to me,” said Djokovic. “Because the last three months of 2016 I haven’t felt that confident on the court and I didn’t play so consistent. To start off the year with a win over the World No. 1 and the biggest rival, it’s a dream start, so I am hoping I can get the best out of it.”

After this epic match, the tennis world thought that the No. 1 battle in 2017 would again be a two-man race. It turned out so different...

Watch Final Highlights

3) Monfils d. Nishikori, Coupe Rogers, Montreal Second Round, 9 August 2017 (Match Stats)
Gael Monfils’ 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-6(6) win over Kei Nishikori — particularly the final 14 points — showcased the very best of tennis as a sport. The match featured shifts of momentum and intensity to a player’s psychology and how the crowd reacted and felt. It was the kind of never-say-die comeback you’d long hoped for from the talented Monfils, who recovered from a set down against a Top 10 opponent for the first time in seven years and only the third time in his career (3-62). Read & Watch Highlights

Monfils appeared out for the count and staring at his fourth straight defeat to Nishikori, but at 2/6 down in the deciding-set tie-break, the enigmatic and athletic Frenchmen fended off four match points — two of which came on Nishikori’s serve — in a superb fightback.

"It's a good victory for many reasons," said Monfils. "It's a big revenge, because last year around this time I had the same thing actually against Kei. I was up 6/2 in the tie-break in the [Rio] Olympics quarter-finals and I lost the tie-break. So I know exactly how he feels. Also, last year, a bit before, I played him in Miami. I also had five match points and I lost it 7-6 in the third. I'm more than happy because I fought through the toughness, because it was tough for me. It was a bit like a rollercoaster. I was a break down in each set."

Monfils had trailed 2-5 in the second set, 3-5 in the third set and was 2/6 in the deciding tie-break. At 3/6, Monfils cleaned the line with a backhand winner to end a lung-busting rally, almost collapsing in exhaustion and disbelief. At 5/6 he sent a powerful forehand into the corner that drew another standing ovation and at 7/6 he snared a forehand winner — his 28th of the two-hour and 41-minute encounter — before letting out a celebratory scream. Nishikori had won more points (116-108), but it was the Frenchman who was clutch in the big moments.

Watch Full Match Replay At TennisTV

Come back on Tuesday for the Top 2 ATP World Tour matches of 2017

Ebden, Stebe Among Biggest Challenger Movers Of 2017

Mon, 04/12/2017 - 12:13pm

Five years ago, Matthew Ebden and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe were playing the best tennis of their careers. Both the Aussie and German had made the leap to the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time and were on the ascent as they continued to realize their dreams on the ATP World Tour.

But no path to stardom is identical and everyone takes a different route to the top. Ebden and Stebe would see their thriving careers cut down due to serious injury setbacks and after many years on the sidelines, both players would make triumphant comebacks in 2017 as the top performers on the ATP Challenger Tour.

Ebden and Stebe were the biggest movers to the year-end Top 100 this year, with the Aussie rising a staggering 619 spots to No. 76 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and the German soaring 381 positions to No. 82. Looking to translate their Challenger success to the ATP World Tour in 2018, both find themselves within just 15 spots of their career-highs attained in 2012.

On the comeback trail following knee surgery, Ebden not only enjoyed great success on the Challenger circuit as a two-time titlist in Canberra and Toyota, but the 30-year-old reached his first ATP World Tour final on the grass of Newport in July (l. to Isner). At age 27, Stebe, who underwent hip impingement surgery and pelvic surgery, won titles in Poprad Tatry, Slovakia, as well as Vancouver, Canada and Sibiu, Romania, in addition to reaching the second round at the US Open as a qualifier. He was a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year in the 2017 ATP Awards Presented By Moët & Chandon.

Ebden and Stebe were two of nine players to make leaps of 100+ spots to the Top 100 this year. Nicolas Jarry was the only other player to soar at least 300 places, while Rolex Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic and #NextGenATP stars Denis Shapovalov, Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas also enjoyed breakthrough campaigns.

Biggest Jumps To Top 100 Of Emirates ATP Rankings

Player Jump Year-End 2016 Year-End 2017 Matthew Ebden +619 No. 695 No. 76 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe +381  No. 463 No. 82 Nicolas Jarry
+300  No. 400 No. 100
Filip Krajinovic +203  No. 237
No. 34
Denis Shapovalov +199  No. 250 No. 51 Peter Gojowczyk +130  No. 190 No. 60 Blaz Kavcic +123  No. 220 No. 97 Stefanos Tsitsipas  +118  No. 209  No. 91  Andrey Rublev +117 No. 156  No. 39 

In his return from a broken wrist, 22-year-old Jarry is wasting no time in picking up where he left off two years ago. On the heels of a trio of clay-court Challenger crowns, including one in his hometown of Santiago, Chile, he made his Top 100 debut after rising 300 spots. Meanwhile, Krajinovic, who led the ATP Challenger Tour with five titles, moved up 203 spots to No. 34, capping his campaign with a stunning runner-up finish at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris.

Shapovalov (+199 to No. 51), Rublev (+117 to No. 39) and Tsitsipas (+118 to No. 91), meanwhile, carried the teenage torch with their own Top 100 breakthroughs. Shapovalov thrust himself into the spotlight at the Rogers Cup, but the Canadian had already began plotting his ascent with Challenger titles on home soil in Drummondville and Gatineau. Tsitsipas also notched his maiden crown, prevailing on the clay of Genova, Italy, in September.

Peter Gojowczyk and Blaz Kavcic are the only other players to rise at least 100 spots to the Top 100, with the German becoming one of six to win on both the ATP World Tour (Metz) and ATP Challenger Tour (Happy Valley, Australia) this year. Slovenia's Kavcic led the Challenger circuit with 50 match wins, lifting trophies on Canadian soil in Winnipeg and Granby.

Significant Emirates ATP Rankings boosts weren't exclusive to the aforementioned group, however, with many others making great strides on the ATP Challenger Tour. After five years of battling on the circuit, Tennys Sandgren finally made his mark in 2017. The American enjoyed a jump of 97 spots to year-end No. 96, behind titles on home soil in Tempe and Savannah. Germany's Maximilian Marterer, aged 22, is contributing to his nation's youth movement with an increase of 87 spots to a career-high No. 90. He capped his campaign with a 21-3 run and titles on clay, hard and carpet.

Notable movers poised to break into the Top 100 following impressive seasons include 22-year-old Cameron Norrie, who vaulted 164 spots to No. 114 behind a trio of titles, and #NextGenATP stars Sebastian Ofner and Matteo Berrettini. Ofner and Berrettini broke onto the scene in 2017 with moves of over 200 spots to the Top 150.

In addition to Marterer and Stebe, other Germans celebrating standout seasons were Yannick Hanfmann, titlist on home soil in Ismaning and runner-up at the ATP World Tour 250 in Gstaad, and Oscar Otte, who lifted his maiden trophy in Lisbon. Both players will look to complete their stunning climbs to the Top 100 next year, having combined to post just a 3-16 record in Challenger main draws entering the year. Hanfmann rose 195 spots to No. 119, while Otte vaulted 379 positions to No. 131.

Germans On The Rise

Player Jump Year-End 2016 Year-End 2017 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe +381  No. 463 No. 82 Oscar Otte
+379 No. 510 No. 131
Yannick Hanfmann +195  No. 314
No. 119
Peter Gojowczyk +130  No. 190 No. 60 Maximilian Marterer +87 No. 177 No. 90 Alexander Zverev +20  No. 24  No. 4 

Best of 2017: The Backhand Behind Federer's Success

Mon, 04/12/2017 - 12:25am

In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot talks to Roger Federer about his phenomenal start to the 2017 season and the importance of his backhand.

Best of 2017: Andy & Mischa Chat Fatherhood And Brothers

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 12:07am

In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, Mischa Zverev chats to World No. 1 Andy Murray about fatherhood and having brothers on tour while hosting ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot.

St. Petersburg Open 2017 Tournament Highlights

Sat, 02/12/2017 - 5:31pm
Take a look back at the 2017 St. Petersburg Open tournament highlights.

Best Of 2017: Elias Ymer Visits Ethiopia

Sat, 02/12/2017 - 4:23am
In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's Best of 2017 series, ATP World Tour Uncovered presented by Peugeot joins Elias Ymer and his father on a special visit to Ethiopia, where Elias explored his heritage and where his family came from.

Wawrinka Speaks For 1st Time Since Ending Season

Sat, 02/12/2017 - 2:38am

Stan Wawrinka is looking forward to returning to the ATP World Tour in 2018, but admitted to media at the Geneva Country Club that he is still working hard to overcome his knee cartilage injury, which required two surgeries.

“The last five months were the most difficult ones of my career,” Wawrinka said. “Even today I’m not 100 per cent yet physically and with my tennis. I’m working hard each day to improve. But at least it’s going in the right direction and I’m very satisfied with that.”

The 32-year-old advanced to the final at Roland Garros and the BNP Paribas Open, the semi-finals at the Australian Open and also won the title in Geneva, but did not play the rest of the season after losing his opener at Wimbledon due to his knee injury.

“The first surgery was arthroscopy to have a look at the problem and the second one was to reconstruct the cartilage,” Wawrinka said. “It was very difficult and tough, a big surgery. I needed crutches for eight weeks and lost a lot of muscles because of that.”

Nevertheless, Wawrinka still aims to play in the 2018 Australian Open, and has been working with longtime fitness trainer Pierre Paganini, who also trains Roger Federer, to prepare for the Australian summer. He is also seeking a new coach to work alongside Yannick Fattebert after Magnus Norman’s departure in October.

“I still have many weeks to work on what is still missing. Everything went well during the last few weeks, there were no delays,” Wawrinka said. “I was very lucky to have Pierre Paganini in my entourage. Without him I would have stopped. I really needed someone who knows me inside out and who knows what I need to be fit again.”

Best of 2017: Brown And Tiafoe Put Houston Partygoers In Hot Seat

Fri, 01/12/2017 - 7:16pm

In this installation of ATPWorldTour.com's best of 2017 series, Dustin Brown and Frances Tiafoe caught up with their fellow stars, such as Juan Monaco, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco, at the players' party in Houston!

Fun In London With Felix Auger-Aliassime

Fri, 01/12/2017 - 5:27pm
Get to know 17-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of his good friend Denis Shapovalov after winning two ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2017.

Rivalries Of 2017: Dimitrov vs. Goffin

Fri, 01/12/2017 - 12:54pm
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Continuing our Season-In-Review series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2017. Today we feature Grigor Dimitrov vs. David Goffin

What makes a rivalry — is it the mix of playing styles or personalities, the intensity of each battle or something different? In 2017, two perennial grafters with great potential clashed on five occasions, improving both tactically and mentally for year-end Top 10 finishes in the Emirates ATP Rankings. While Grigor Dimitrov beat David Goffin in four of their five FedEx ATP Head2Head series meetings this year, the statistic as read is too simplistic to be dismissed as one-sided — a non-rivalry. For while Dimitrov and Goffin are never going to relentlessly overpower an opponent, the fluency of their games and the risks they take under pressure in their pursuit of victory made them leading players of the 2017 season.

Visit Best Of 2017 Series

When Dimitrov reached the 2014 Wimbledon semi-finals, to first break into the Top 10, the achievement was heralded. Here was a former junior World No. 1, finally making his mark, a disruptor to the established order. But the potential threat failed to materialise and he dropped outside of the Top 40. In 2017 and under the guidance of Dani Vallverdu, Dimitrov got off to a 16-1 start — the best record of any player. “There is no hiding from the Australian sun, and when the new season begins you see who has been working and who hasn’t when you come out of the garage,” said Dimitrov, who certainly justified his off-season statement.

In the space of four weeks, Dimitrov and Goffin — both 26 years of age — faced off three times. First there was the Australian Open quarter-finals, a nerve-wracking affair that Dimitrov won 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; then, two weeks later, the Garanti Koza Sofia Open final, when, under enormous pressure on home soil, the Bulgarian collapsed to his knees and burst into tears after a 7-5, 6-4 win. Goffin exacted revenge five days later 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament quarter-finals, playing throughout with great aggression.

Goffin, at 150lbs and one of the lightest players on the ATP World Tour, harking back to the weights of Michael Chang, Lleyton Hewitt and Gilles Simon in their playing primes, had finished 2016 at a year-end No. 11. So the calibre of the Belgian, the consistent threat he posed, was a known factor. But this year, upon overcoming an ankle injury in a freak accident at Roland Garros, his performances were laced with aggressive intent, a willingness to step into the court — particularly on his backhand wing – and hit his serve with greater power. The new approach, backed by his coach Thierry Van Cleemput, resulted in back-to-back ATP World Tour titles at the Shenzhen Open and his first 500-level event at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2017 in Tokyo. And, just like Dimitrov, who had won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in August, the reward for a career-best season was a much-deserved spot at the elite eight-player Nitto ATP Finals in London.

By the time of their fourth meeting of 2017, at the Nitto ATP Finals, Dimitrov had recorded a debut round-robin win against Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 at The O2, while Goffin had opened his season finale account with a first victory over World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, albeit hindered by a knee injury, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4. A semi-final berth at the Nitto ATP Finals was up for grabs and both players were full of confidence, yet Dimitrov blitzed Goffin in an eagerly-anticipated clash, 6-0, 6-2 in 74 minutes. “It’s a special win for me,” said Dimitrov, who won the first 10 games. “You get a few days out of the year that whatever you touch turns to gold, and that was the first set. My movement was great, I was reading the game really well and believing in my shots.”

It was a signal of intent for Dimitrov, who afterwards admitted, “I am not here just to participate”. Goffin soon recovered with victories over Dominic Thiem, then Roger Federer in the semi-finals. He had been 0-6 against the Swiss superstar, including a 6-1, 6-2 loss in the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel three weeks earlier and prior to the semi-final, Goffin had admitted, “Honestly, I don't know what to do tomorrow." The Belgian did some quick thinking and shocked Federer 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to become only the sixth player to beat Nadal and Federer at the same tournament. What next? Dimitrov, four days on from that thumping loss.

The size of the prize and the opportunity to hold aloft the Nitto ATP Finals trophy guaranteed nerves aplenty in the final, but also terrific drama in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000 fans in east London. Dimitrov and Goffin were at their athletic and resilient best, yet once Dimitrov saved four break points in the first game of the deciding set, Goffin was visibly tired, but continued to fight. Dimitrov ultimately claimed the biggest title of his career 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to follow in the footsteps of Spain's Alex Corretja, who won the title on his debut in 1998. The fifth and final match of their 2017 series was perhaps their finest, showing the desire and mental fortitude, potential and threat both World No. 3 Dimitrov and No. 7-ranked Goffin possess, and, importantly, can inflict at the top of the sport next season.

View FedEx ATP Head2Head (Dimitrov leads 5-1)

Dimitrov vs. Goffin: 2017 Meetings

Event Surface Round
Winner
Score Australian Open Hard QF Dimitrov 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Garanti Koza Sofia Open Indoor Hard F Dimitrov 7-5, 6-4
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament Indoor Hard QF Goffin 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
Nitto ATP Finals Indoor Hard RR Dimitrov 6-0, 6-2
Nitto ATP Finals Indoor Hard F Dimitrov 7-5, 4-6, 6-3

Stepanek Joins Djokovic’s Coaching Team

Fri, 01/12/2017 - 12:05pm

A couple weeks after announcing his retirement from professional tennis, Radek Stepanek already has a new gig: coach to Novak Djokovic. The pair broke the news Thursday on Instagram Live. 

“I’m ready to go,” said Stepanek to Djokovic on the split screen as they spoke to each other from their phones. “Where are you?” Djokovic asked, before opening a door to reveal the recently retired Czech on the other side. “All right guys, this is the new team, baby!” said Djokovic.

Stepanek joins Andre Agassi on the Serbian’s coaching team, and will be working with Djokovic in Monte Carlo as he prepares for the 2018 season. Djokovic is scheduled to return to the court at the season-opening Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, where he is a two-time defending champion, after being sidelined since Wimbledon with a right elbow injury.  

“Radek is one of my very close friends on the tour and I was always impressed with his level of determination, passion and love for the sport,” Djokovic posted in a statement on his website. “He has lot of experience and knowledge, and he has played on a high level for many years. I am excited to join our forces together and cannot wait to compete again having a new team to back me up.

“On Andre’s suggestion I pursued Radek, therefore I am sure the two of them will work well together. The new season is about to start and there is a long way to go back to where I left off. We are aware that I need to go step by step, not hurrying anything. I feel much better now, and I can’t wait to play matches again.”

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The 38-year-old Stepanek had stated upon his retirement that he planned to stay in tennis, and he looked ahead to his new collaboration with Djokovic.

“I’m honoured to be a new member of Novak’s team,” said Stepanek, who ranked in the Top 10 of both the singles and doubles Emirates ATP Rankings. “It is a new and exciting challenge for me, which I’m looking forward to and I believe that as a team we can help Nole to reach his goals. As longtime friends off the tennis court, I believe that our friendship and similar views will translate onto the court as well, and we will share some memorable moments together.”

Rivalries of 2017: Nadal vs. Dimitrov

Thu, 30/11/2017 - 1:15pm
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Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com revisits the fiercest rivalries of 2017. Today we feature Rafael Nadal vs. Grigor Dimitrov.

They are two of the most exciting players to watch on the ATP World Tour. No one fights harder and for longer than Rafael Nadal, who always engages the crowd with his patented “¡Vamos!” shouts and left-handed upper cuts. It's as if Nadal, the master of the mental game, is seeking a body blow to his opponent when he delivers the fan-favourite celebration.

But few players leave you in awe when they're in the zone as Grigor Dimitrov does. The Bulgarian's one-handed backhand will have you writing “Did you see that?” texts to friends, and his do-everything game gives him the chance to compete for “Big Titles”, as he first did in 2014, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and beating defending champion Andy Murray along the way.

But when Nadal and Dimitrov faced off in the first of their three 2017 FedEx ATP Head2Head matchups, all of which went the distance, it was a surprise meeting of sorts, considering the stage – the Australian Open semi-finals – and what both had been through during the past year.

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Just three months before the season's first Grand Slam tournament, Nadal couldn't even comfortably rally on court. In what seems unbelievable now, in mid-October 2016, when Roger Federer helped the Spaniard open his academy in Mallorca, Spain, neither was in good enough shape to play. Nadal was still recovering from his left wrist injury, and Federer was still recuperating from knee surgery that had made him end his season after Wimbledon.

Dimitrov, meanwhile, had also endured a frustrating 2016. His Emirates ATP Ranking had dropped to No. 40 in July, his lowest spot in more than three years, and he had fallen in all three of his title matches.

Yet here they both were, in the semi-finals of the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, reigniting their careers to kick off 2017. Nadal had prevailed in five sets against German Alexander Zverev, and rolled into the semi-finals by beating sixth seed Gael Monfils and third seed Milos Raonic. His wrist injury seemed well in the past.

Watch Dimitrov's Intense Off-Season Training In Monte-Carlo:

Dimitrov, after a productive off-season in Monte-Carlo, had started 10-0, including three Top 10 wins (Thiem, Raonic, Nishikori) en route to the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp title. The Bulgarian had another reason to be confident in his second Grand Slam semi-final: He had gained his first win against Nadal the last time they had played, in October during the China Open quarter-finals.

“I feel like I have all the tools to go further, and my job isn't over yet,” Dimitrov said before facing Nadal. “I'm looking forward to my match on Friday. I think I'm prepared. I think I'm ready to go the distance.”

Nadal started quicker in their semi-final, though, taking the opener in only 35 minutes with a steady supply of looping crosscourt forehands to Dimitrov's one-handed backhand. The tactic that had helped Nadal for years against Federer was also working against Dimitrov.

But the Bulgarian, who had struggled with consistency in big matches in the past, stayed in the semi-final, encouraging himself with frequent “Come ons” and fist pumps. He smacked a forehand to lead 4-1 in the second set and later evened the match.

Nadal's backhand, not his forehand, helped him clinch the 70-minute third set, as he crushed back-to-back shots from that wing on set point. It looked as if he would take over and wrap up the semi-final in four sets. But Dimitrov refused to fade, staying aggressive, attacking the net and matching Nadal's level.

Midway through the fifth set, however, Nadal snapped a run of 26 consecutive holds and later served out the match. He overcame a staggering 79 winners, including 22 aces, from Dimitrov, who, according to John McEnroe, played the “match of his life”.

Read & Watch: Nadal Edges Dimitrov In A Thriller

Nadal would fall to Federer in the final, the Spaniard's first Grand Slam title match since 2014 Roland Garros. But it was the start of another banner year for Nadal in Grand Slams. He would go on to win a record 10th Roland Garros crown and his third US Open title.

Read & Watch: Federer Tops Nadal In Epic To Win 18th Grand Slam Title

“I feel very happy to be part of this match,” Nadal said after the Melbourne semi-final. “There was a moment in the fifth set that for sure I wanted to win. I said to myself, 'I am giving my best, I am playing very well. If I lose, that's it. Grigor deserves it, too.' I think both of us deserved to be in that final.”

The two wouldn't meet again until the final stretch of the season, and the circumstances had drastically changed since Melbourne. At the China Open in Beijing, top-seeded Nadal was closing in on his first year-end No. 1 finish in the Emirates ATP Rankings since 2013. Dimitrov had cracked the Top 10 for the first time since February 2015 and was looking to secure his debut at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London.

A year ago, Dimitrov had upset Nadal in the Chinese capital, and the Spaniard was eager to earn revenge for that lone blemish on his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against the Bulgarian. He blitzed Dimitrov to start, leading by a set and a break. But Dimitrov, the 2016 finalist, broke twice in the second set and evened the match with a stunning backhand winner.

In the third, however, Dimitrov's level slightly dipped, and Nadal seized his moment, breaking three times to prevail 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Nadal earned his 60th match win of the season and sprinted into the Beijing final, the 110th of his career. He would beat Nick Kyrgios in the final to celebrate his sixth title of the season.

He and Dimitrov wouldn't have to wait long for their third and final contest of the season. A week later, on the quick hard courts of the Shanghai Rolex Masters, they again met late in a tournament, this time in the quarter-finals of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.

And it was another treat for fans as both players showed off their world-class athleticism and array of hot shots. Nadal took the first set but Dimitrov roared back, overcoming a 2/4 deficit in the second-set tie-break to force a third set. It marked the seventh time in their 11 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings that they were going the distance. Nadal was again too good in the third set, though, and he served out the match with a service winner to advance 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3.

The Spaniard would finish the season at year-end No. 1 for the fourth time (also 2008, 2010 and 2013). But Dimitrov would end the year on a career-high note as well. In his debut, the 26-year-old went unbeaten to win the Nitto ATP Finals, becoming the first debutant to capture the title since Spain's Alex Corretja in 1998. The last player to go undefeated and win the season-ending crown on debut was John McEnroe in 1978.

The title, Dimitrov's fourth of the year, pushed him to a career-high No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Should Dimitrov and Nadal meet once more in Melbourne, in January 2018, it could again be in a semi-final. But this time around, no one should be surprised.

View FedEx ATP Head2Head series (Nadal leads 10-1)

Nadal vs. Dimitrov: 2017 Meetings

Event

Surface

Round

Winner

Score

Australian Open

Hard

SF

Nadal

6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4

China Open

Hard

SF

Nadal

6-3, 4-6, 6-1

Shanghai Rolex Masters

Hard

QF

Nadal

6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3

Best of 2017: Bublik Interviews Murray, Federer and More

Thu, 30/11/2017 - 1:50am
Alex Bublik takes on the role of #NextGenATP reporter as he puts Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and more on the spot with his tricky questions.