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Updated: 29 min 8 sec ago

Peter McNamara: 1955-2019

3 hours 39 min ago

Peter McNamara, who joined forces with Paul McNamee to become one of the best doubles teams of the early 1980s and reached the singles Top 10 in the ATP Rankings, passed away aged 64 on Saturday, at his home in Sonthofen, southern Germany, after a long and private battle with prostate cancer.

McNamara, whose fun-loving personality, dry sense of humour and no-nonsense Australian attitude lit up the sport, as much as his consistent clean ball-striking on a variety of surfaces, was a universally respected professional, inspirational coach and mentor for more than 40 years.

Hard to believe that after 50 years of friendship Macca is gone... you lived life to the full mate and will be missed by your loved ones and many more...a toast to the great times mate pic.twitter.com/0RVbCD6ZRd

— Paul McNamee (@PaulFMcNamee) July 21, 2019

“Peter was a hero of mine,” Pat Cash told ATPTour.com. “In fact, I ball boy-ed for him in a state final in Melbourne when I was a kid. He was someone I looked up to as he was the top Australian at the time. We were so proud that a fellow Melbournian had cracking the Top 10 in 1981.

“As a player he possessed one of the game’s greatest single-handed backhands, which he thumped with incredible power, taking the ball on the rise with consistency and precision. At times it was unplayable, breath-taking and I tried to emulate it. He was truly a forerunner and ahead of the game with this shot, which can be seen today in a player like Roger Federer.”

As the best prospect to come out of Australia since the era of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe, Melbourne-born McNamara broke into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings on 27 July 1981 — the first Australian man to do so since John Alexander in 1975 — two months after he had beaten Jimmy Connors 7-6, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the German Open final on Hamburg’s clay. The 6’1”, 160-pound right-hander also defeated then World No. 1 Ivan Lendl 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 for the 1983 Brussels Indoors title — his fifth singles crown in his 12th final.

McNamara’s best Grand Slam championship singles performances came at the Australian Open, where in 1980 and 1982 he advanced to the semi-finals. He held one match point at 5-3 in the fifth set of his 1982 semi-final against Johan Kriek, when he was left to rue not attacking a second delivery. He also made the quarter-finals at 1981 Wimbledon and 1982 Roland Garros.

His turnaround in singles fortunes came about in February 1981, when McNamee and Kiwi Chris Lewis, both using over-sized racquets, consistently got the better of McNamara in reflex volleying drills on courts in Florida, close to where he lived in Madiera Beach. Having broken a string in his only racquet, McNamara picked up one of Lewis’ spare frames and found it to his liking. The switch provided marginal improvement on his serve, but his forehand — once a problem for the Australian — became a major weapon.

McNamara’s greatest successes were in tandem with his childhood friend McNamee, which included the 1979 Australian Open and two Wimbledons in 1980 and 1982, among 14 doubles titles in under four years. The pair also won the 1981 Masters Doubles title on the World Champions Tennis tour, which lasted until the emergence of the ATP Tour in 1990. They were later significant influences on the ‘Woodies’, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

Their nickname, ‘Super Macs’, originating from a poster produced by their racquet sponsor Prince shortly after their first Wimbledon win, may never have seen the light of day. In June 1980, their form was scratchy and a run to the Roland Garros semi-finals did not dissuade McNamara from securing a new partner, Bruce Manson, for that year’s championship. But while McNamee admitted they needed a break, and the Wimbledon doubles deadline looming, upon his visit to McNamara’s hotel room, he managed to talk around his partner.

McNamara sprained an ankle in his first-round singles loss to Warren Maher and two days later, ahead of their first doubles match, he couldn’t put any weight on the leg. Miraculously, they persisted and beat Byron Bertram and Bernard Mitton, before three days of rain ensured McNamara was able to sufficiently recover to continue at The Championships. By the time they beat Robert Lutz and Stan Smith 7-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-4 in the final on the old No. 1 Court at Wimbledon, as a result of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe epic 18-16 fourth-set tie-break match on Centre Court, their partnership was cemented.

In 1982, the ‘Super Macs’ captured their second Wimbledon title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Peter Fleming and McEnroe, who, still seething from his five-set singles final loss to Connors earlier in the day, had successfully petitioned the All England Club committee to make doubles final be best-of-three sets, rather than best-of-five because of the fading light.

When back spasms sidelined McNamee, McNamara partnered Heinz Gunthardt to four trophies, but the pair had to default ahead of the 1981 US Open doubles final after the Swiss became ill.

A couple of days after beating Lendl for the 1983 Brussels title, McNamara’s peak performance days were significantly dented in a freak accident in Rotterdam, when one of his legs twisted in the joins of the indoor carpet during a first-round match against Czech Jiri Granat. It resulted in a near two-year absence and upon his return at the 1985 Western Australian Open, and later that season at Wimbledon, where he reunited with McNamee, McNamara wore long trousers to cover up the full extent of his injury.

He attained a singles career-high of No. 7 on 14 March 1983, rose to No. 3 in the ATP Doubles Rankings on 13 December 1982 and represented Australia in 21 Davis Cup singles and doubles rubbers over a six-year period, culminating in the 1986 title run. McNamara missed out of being a part of Australia’s 1983 Cup-winning team due to his knee injury.

After retiring as a player aged 28 in 1987, McNamara enjoyed a successful coaching career with the likes of Mark Philippoussis, Grigor Dimitrov (as a part of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Paris from 2009), Matthew Ebden and, until February this year, with China’s Wang Qiang, who broke into the Top 20 of the WTA Rankings shortly prior to illness preventing him from undertaking further international travel. For many years, he was a highly entertaining competitor on the ATP Champions Tour, regularly featuring in December at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Ebden told ATPTour.com, “He was a real genuine, honest guy, very disciplined and hard working. He called it how it was and didn’t beat around the bush. He was really respectful, with sound ethics. An authentic person. He is a great Australian. He always liked to say he’d take the front seat in the car, as he got to No. 7 in singles.”

McNamara, who lived in Melbourne and Florida during his playing career, and most recently in Germany for many years, is survived by his wife, Petra, and two children, Justin and Rochelle.

“He never ever complained about his illness and just got on with his coaching work,” Cash told ATPTour.com. “He achieved great results with his Chinese players and was a regular on the legends tour. His baseline hitting, and net play made any match he played in fantastic entertainment. I’m proud to say that he was an inspiration to me. Peter will be sadly missed around the circuit.”

Peter McNamara, tennis player and coach, born 5 July 1955, died 21 July 2019

TENNIS WORLD PAYS TRIBUTE

McNamara family statement: We are sad to announce the passing of tennis icon and former professional player Peter McNamara who passed away in Germany on the 20th of July after a long-losing battle with cancer.

“Peter, “Macca”, was a former top ATP player who won five singles titles on the ATP tour and 19 doubles titles throughout his career. He reached his highest career ranking of No. 7 in March 1983. Through his passion for tennis, he touched many lives and shared his wealth of experience through coaching juniors as well as professional players such as Mark Philippoussis, Grigor Dimitrov and Qiang Wang. Macca lived his life to the fullest, and was always a great company with a good sense of humour. He’ll be remembered very fondly in the tennis community around the world and he leaves behind his wife, children, grandchildren and the rest of his family and friends.

“The family is incredibly proud of Peter’s achievements, but most of all the strength and determination he showed in his battle with cancer. For more than 10 years he kept it discreet and never allowed it to stop him from doing what he loved — to play tennis.”

Peter Fleming told ATPTour.com, “Macca was one of the most talented players of our era and a fierce competitor. More importantly, he had a heart of gold, a great friend to a lot of people.”

Stan Smith told ATPTour.com, “Peter was one of the great Australians who along with Paul McNamee beat us in the Wimbledon doubles final. More than that he was a great guy who was always enjoyable to be with and had a great attitude about life. I always liked him.”

.@PaulFMcNamee reflects on 50 years of friendship with Peter McNamara. #RIPMacca pic.twitter.com/vR8A2clIEj

— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) July 22, 2019

We are all so sad to hear of the passing of Peter McNamara, a much-loved and respected member of our tennis family. His contribution to the sport as a player, coach and mentor will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) July 21, 2019

Great player. Great coach. Great role model

Kubler Caps Perfect Week With Gatineau Crown

10 hours 48 min ago

A LOOK BACK
Challenger Banque Nationale de Gatineau (Gatineau, Canada): We've heard this story all too often... Jason Kubler kicked his comeback into high gear, lifting a trophy in his return from injury. On Sunday, the Aussie tasted success on the hard courts of Gatineau, seizing his first title of the year.

Kubler, who missed three months with a knee ailment earlier in the year, is hoping to stay healthy and gather momentum in the second half of 2019. This was the perfect start. One week after finishing runner-up in Winnetka, he did not drop a set en route to the title in Gatineau. The 26-year-old defeated Enzo Couacaud 6-4, 6-4 to capture the crown.

"It's very humid and bouncy here, which I like," said Kubler. "Similar to Brisbane, where I'm from. I love the people here too, so it's a home away from home in Canada. But to be honest, I got lucky not having to play three-set matches this week. Everyone else was having long matches and I was lucky enough to get through without a grinding match. It takes a lot out of you."

For Kubler, it has been a battle to stay healthy over the years. His story is well-documented, having been forced to play exclusively on clay earlier in his career due to a hereditary knee condition. Then, a shoulder injury proved another setback in 2017. But the Aussie has shown incredible resilience and fortitude and he would proceed to climb 841 spots in 2018, breaking into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings. He's hoping this latest obstacle is just a minor setback.

"I just have to keep grinding and fighting. I'm going to enjoy this win and head to Granby tomorrow morning. We'll see how it goes."

Kubler's victory in Gatineau was his fifth Challenger title and first since he triumphed in Winnipeg exactly one year ago. Canada has become a second home for the Brisbane native, who also reached the final in Vancouver last August. Now, he is plotting his Top 100 return, vaulting 22 spots to No. 189.

San Benedetto Tennis Cup (San Benedetto, Italy): One year ago, Renzo Olivo strongly considered hanging up his racquet. Coming off an impressive 2017 campaign, which included an upset of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Roland Garros and a Top 100 breakthrough, the Argentine was soaring. But, 2018 proved to be a trying year for Olivo and he would fall outside the Top 500 of the ATP Rankings.

"I was close to stopping, but mentally I came out of it," said Olivo. "And I'm ready to start again."

Now, the 27-year-old is back on track after clinching his third ATP Challenger Tour title, triumphing in the Italian coastal city of San Benedetto. He defeated Alessandro Giannessi 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-4 in a marathon two-hour and 54-minute final.

Back inside the Top 300, Olivo earned a 71-spot boost thanks to his victory on Sunday. The former World No. 78 will hope to carry the momentum to the Challenger in Tampere, Finland, opening against Ivan Gakhov on Tuesday.

Located on the Adriatic Sea, the tournament in San Benedetto is just steps from the beach and is the perfect mid-season retreat for players. Fans packed the stands all week, providing a festive atmosphere for tennis under the lights.

President's Cup (Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan): Evgeny Donskoy has played his best tennis over the years in Kazakhstan. This week, it was more of the same from the Russian. Donskoy battled to his third title in Nur-Sultan, defeating Sebastian Korda 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 on a scorching Sunday afternoon in the Kazakh capital.

Donskoy previously lifted the trophy in Astana in 2012 and 2016. Earlier this year, the city was renamed Nur-Sultan after former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

For the 29-year-old Russian, it was his 12th Challenger title in total and first in two years. He is projected to rise to No. 115 in the ATP Rankings on Monday.

Meanwhile, the week was also a special one for Korda, who became the sixth teenager to reach a Challenger final in 2019. The 19-year-old advanced to his first title match on the circuit, securing impressive wins over three seeded players. The Australian Open junior champion a year ago, Korda rises 75 spots to a career-high No. 307.

Van Mossel Kia Dutch Open (Amersfoort, Netherlands): Professional tennis returned to Amersfoort after an 11-year hiatus, with Mats Moraing emerging victorious on Sunday. The fifth-seeded German captured his second ATP Challenger Tour title with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win over Kimmer Coppejans.

Moraing converted five of nine break chances to lift the trophy, returning to the winners' circle in efficent fashion. It was his first victory on tour since claiming his maiden title in Koblenz, Germany, last year.

Welcome to the @mats_moraing

Granollers/Stakhovsky Clinch Newport Doubles Crown

11 hours 52 min ago

Marcel Granollers and Sergiy Stakhovsky completed a wild week at the Hall of Fame Open in Newport by taking the doubles title on Sunday over Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela 6-7(10), 6-4, 13-11.

“Marcel wanted to play with me here, but I wasn’t sure because I was supposed to play [singles] qualifying in Atlanta [this weekend]," said Stakhovsky. "I still wanted to play well, so I had to commit. I ended up having to skip Atlanta, but we won the doubles here, so it was nice.”

Granollers/Stakhovsky, who teamed up for the first time this week, were unable to convert on four set points in the opening set. They fought back to force a Match Tie-break and prevailed on their fourth championship point after one hour and 59 minutes. The Spanish-Ukrainian pairing saved three match points in their semi-final victory over third seeds Marcus Daniell and Leander Paes.

Their triumph gave Stakhovsky his fourth ATP Tour doubles title and first in eight years (2011 Dubai). He is still undefeated (8-0) in ATP Tour finals.

Granollers, who also reached the singles semi-finals this week, picked up his first ATP Tour doubles title of the season and the 17th of his career. He has won with 11 different players and six of his titles came in his ATP Tour debut with a partner.

“It’s always nice when you leave a place with a title,” said Granollers. “We enjoy playing doubles and playing together, so I think we’ll play together again.”

Arevalo/Reyes-Varela drop to 1-2 in ATP Tour doubles finals. They also finished runner-up last year in Newport (l. to Erlich/Sitak).

Granollers/Stakhovsky earned 250 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split $33,000. Arevalo/Reyes-Varela walked away with 150 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split $16,920.

Lajovic Lifts Maiden Trophy In Umag

13 hours 54 min ago

Dusan Lajovic capped his week at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag by reaching a career milestone on Sunday.

The fourth-seeded Serbian claimed his maiden ATP Tour title after rallying from 3-5 down in the opening set to defeat qualifier Attila Balazs 7-5, 7-5. Lajovic dropped one set en route to the title, making further progress in a year of improvement on the ATP Tour.

“It was a match that I’ll remember for the rest of my career,” said Lajovic. “I couldn’t be happier that I won. I had to work for every point, so I’m tired now, but also relieved to have to won my first title.”

In April, Lajovic became the second player since 2013 to reach his first tour-level final at an ATP Masters 1000 event. The Serbian did not drop a set en route to the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters championship match before falling to Fabio Fognini. Eight days later, Lajovic reached a career-high No. 23 in the ATP Rankings.

Lajovic improves to 17-16 at tour-level this year and 7-5 at the ATP 250 event following his one-hour, 50-minute victory. The 29-year-old broke serve on four occasions, winning 44 per cent of return points (36/82).

It was Balazs who made the first move in the opening set at 3-3, taking control of points with depth on his returns to break. But Lajovic soon raised his level at the perfect time, bringing his forehand into play on his third break point of the match to reach 5-5. Lajovic repeated the strategy two games later to convert his third set point, moving around his backhand to rip a cross-court forehand return. 

Lajovic rode the momentum into the second set, playing with great court coverage to earn his second break point of the fourth game. The World No. 36 played with consistency before driving a backhand to the laces of his opponent to move into a 3-1 lead.

Two games away from the title at 4-2, Lajovic surrendered his serve as Balazs increased his aggression on his forehand. But Lajovic soon refocused, breaking serve at 6-5 on his first championship point, before collapsing to the clay in celebration.

Balazs was aiming to become the first qualifier to capture an ATP Tour trophy this season. Five years after retiring from the sport, the Hungarian was contesting his first tour-level final. His previous best mark at an ATP Tour event came in 2012, when he reached the Bucharest semi-finals (l. to Fognini).

“I was ready for him to play at a high level. He was very fresh and motivated, so I knew he was going to play his best,” said Balazs. “I also tried my best, but he was better today.”

Lajovic receives 250 ATP Ranking points and €90,390 in prize money. Balazs earns 150 ATP Ranking points and €48,870.

Isner Makes History With Fourth Newport Title

15 hours 9 min ago

John Isner lived up to his top seed status on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Open, becoming the first player to win four titles in Newport with a 7-6(2), 6-3 win over seventh-seeded Kazakh Alexander Bublik.

“My very first ATP Tour event was here in 2007 and I didn’t enjoy the courts that much back then because I didn’t know how to play on them,” said Isner. “To say that I’ve won this event four times isn’t something I thought would be possible.”

The American won his first ATP Tour title of the year on the back of landing 79 per cent of his first serves. He converted all three of his break points en route to the 76-minute victory. The match also marks Isner's first ATP Tour title since becoming a father. He and his wife, Madison, welcomed their first child last September, a baby girl named Hunter Grace.

Isner will also be encouraged by remaining at full strength after this week. Newport is his second tournament back from a broken left foot, which he sustained in April during his Miami Open presented by Itau final against Roger Federer. Isner's foot withstood three-set battles in three of his four matches this week, which saw him spend nearly eight hours on court.

“I’ve definitely lacked court time in the last three months. The best way to get back in shape is by spending time on the court and playing matches, which is the most important thing,” said Isner. “I haven’t played many tournaments this year, but I still feel like I’ve had a pretty good year.”

Despite the loss, Bublik can be pleased at reaching his first ATP Tour final. He has primarily competed on the ATP Challenger Tour and picked up four Challenger titles in the past year. Bublik is guaranteed to reach a career-high ATP Ranking when the newest standings are released on Monday and will crack the Top 75 for the first time.

“It’s my first final and I’m going to remember this day forever,” said Bublik. “John’s a great player and he showed me how to play in the important tournaments.”

Bublik earned the first break of the match at 5-5 in the opening set after Isner pushed a backhand long, but the Kazakh promptly double faulted in the next game to send the set to a tie-break. Isner fired a forehand passing shot for a 2/0 mini-break lead and raced through the tie-break to clinch the early advantage.

The 22-year-old Bublik dropped serve at 2-2 after gambling on a 124 mph second serve that landed well long. With the seventh seed serving at 3-5, Isner ended the match emphatically by ripping a forehand passing shot winner for his 15th ATP Tour singles title.

Isner picked up 250 ATP Rankings points and $100,600, while Bublik earned 150 ATP Rankings points and $54,395.

Both men will compete next week at the BB&T Atlanta Open and could meet in the second round. Isner, a five-time champion in Atlanta, has a first-round bye as the top seed. Bublik will start his week against American Reilly Opelka.

Jarry Chases Down First Title In Båstad

19 hours 48 min ago

In his third ATP Tour championship match, Nicolas Jarry made his breakthrough at the Swedish Open on Sunday.

The 23-year-old defeated Juan Ignacio Londero 7-6(7), 6-4 to earn his first tour-level trophy in Båstad, landing 10 aces and converting both break points he created to triumph in 90 minutes. Jarry did not drop a set en route to the trophy in his maiden appearance at the clay-court ATP 250 event. The Chilean advanced to the final last year in Sao Paulo and this season in Geneva.

“It is amazing. I am really happy for [the title],” said Jarry. “It was a really tough match… Juan Ignacio was playing great. There was a lot of wind and I couldn’t manage to play as well as the other days, but [with] titles, you have to win them as you can and I am really happy to be able to pull this one off.”

Jarry produced his best tennis on the Swedish west coast to improve to 19-15 at tour-level in 2019, powering past Henri Laaksonen, home favourite Mikael Ymer, Jeremy Chardy and Federico Delbonis before overcoming Londero for the first time. In February, Londero defeated Jarry in their first FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter during his title run at the inaugural Cordoba Open.

Jarry joins his grandfather, Jaime Fillol Sr., as a tour-level titlist. Fillol Sr. lifted six tour-level trophies between 1971 and 1982, including four crowns on clay, and reached a career-high No. 14 in the ATP Rankings in 1974.

“I had some chances back in Geneva and I think this time it went to my side. I am extremely happy. I have been working for this for a long time and it really means a lot. We are a big team back home and I really appreciate everybody that has been behind me for a long time.”

Jarry made a quick start to his third tour-level championship match, breaking Londero to love with depth on his return en route to a 3-0 lead. The Chilean failed to maintain his advantage, dropping serve in the fifth game of the match with a forehand unforced error, and soon found himself facing two set points at 4/6 down in the tie-break. But Jarry raised his level under pressure, increasing his aggression in all areas to overpower his opponent, converting his first set point with his sixth ace of the match.

The Santiago-born star made the crucial breakthrough at 3-3 in the second set with powerful play, stepping inside the court to extract errors from his opponent. Jarry maintained his composure from that point, taking the title on his second match point with a familiar combination. After a powerful first serve out wide, the Chilean fired a forehand into the corner before falling to his knees in celebration.

Londero was aiming to double his ATP Tour trophy count, after earning his first crown at the Cordoba Open in February. The 25-year-old has earned 18 wins from 30 tour-level clashes this year.

Jarry collects 250 ATP Ranking points and €90,390 in prize money. Londero gains 150 points and €48,870.

Vliegen/Gille Lift Maiden ATP Tour Trophy In Båstad

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 11:13pm

Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen captured their first tour-level trophy as a team at the Swedish Open on Sunday, recovering from a set down to beat third seeds Federico Delbonis and Horacio Zeballos 6-7(5), 7-5, 10-5.

The Belgian tandem saved three of four break points and claimed 77 per cent of first-serve points (48/62) to clinch the title after one hour and 48 minutes. Two months ago, Gille and Vliegen also claimed silverware on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning each of the eight sets they contested on the clay at the Bratislava Open.

“I am super happy," said Gille. "It is just something we didn't expect at the beginning of the week. We haven’t played many ATP Tour events yet and… we felt good right from the start, started winning matches and then, all of a sudden, we are getting the title. It is just an unbelievable feeling and I am very happy.”

Gille and Vliegen were forced to battle through three Match Tie-breaks throughout the week in Båstad, having also rallied from a set down to beat Sander Arends and David Pel in the first round and top seeds Roman Jebavy and Matwe Middelkoop in the semi-finals.

It is a first tour-level trophy for No. 76 Gille and No. 58 Vliegen, who are both currently competing at career-high positions in the ATP Doubles Rankings. Gille and Vliegen’s previous best performance on the ATP Tour came at the inaugural Cordoba Open in February, where they reached their first ATP Tour semi-final (l. to M. Gonzalez/Zeballos).

“We have been playing together a long time, progressing through Futures, Challengers and occasionally ATP Tour events, but [I have] no words yet. We need some time to process this,” said Vliegen.

Competing in their first tour-level event as a team, Delbonis and Zeballos were bidding to lift their first team trophy. Their only prior appearance as a partnership came at Challenger level in 2011, where they reached the championship match in Marburg (l. to Emmrich/Phau). Zeballos was also aiming to lift the Båstad doubles trophy for the second straight year after triumphing in 2018 alongside Julio Peralta.

Gille and Vliegen gain 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and share €29,650 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Delbonis and Zeballos earn 150 points and split €15,200.

Emotional Kafelnikov Inducted Into The Hall Of Fame

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 12:44pm

Yevgeny Kafelnikov predicted that he would get emotional on Saturday evening when speaking to the crowd in Newport, Rhode Island, where he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But what he might not have expected, as the sun set on the Newport Casino, was to talk about omelettes.

It’s been a long journey for the Russian to reach this moment, having his name permanently etched into tennis’ history books for the rest of his life. The former World No. 1, who won two Grand Slam singles titles, an Olympic gold medal in singles in 2000, 27 tour-level doubles titles including four major triumphs, and much more, started his career like all other professionals — working his way up the tennis ladder.

Kafelnikov took the crowd in the stands and the countless watching on television throughout the world back to the start of 1992, when he was competing in Portugal, with coach Anatoly Lepeshin by his side.

“He basically was like a second father to me, who told me how to compete, how to behave on the court, and how to be very professional,” Kafelnikov said. “It was six in the morning. He woke up and basically was looking after me, making me ham and cheese omelettes. That's the story. Then obviously my success at the young age really belongs to him, winning my first major in Paris in 1996. He was never giving me any freedom, so-called, if I can say that. We were practising five, six hours a day. So I'm thankful to him very much.”

Kafelnikov’s speech was entirely dedicated to thanking those around him who helped him to this day. He was introduced by another coach of his, Larry Stefanki, who worked with him from 1999-2001, helping the Russian win the 1999 Australian Open and become the first man from his country to reach No. 1 in the ATP Rankings later that year.

“We had a very similar thought process about competing at the very top level. Yevgeny learned the game of tennis old-school style. He was definitely a workhorse. Early on, he learned the importance of fundamentals, footwork, repetition, fitness and a work ethic that would bring him great success on tour,” Stefanki said. “He definitely had the mindset of a champion early on, and the self-belief that would propel him to the top of the game.”

Kafelnikov also thanked his first coach, Valery Shishkin, who taught him the fundamentals of the game, straight from how to hold the racquet. He even helped set him on a path to develop what would become some of the signatures of his tennis.

“Juniors at the age of nine, 10, they trying to imitate their idols. I was nine years old [and] I was trying to figure out what should I have, a one-handed backhand or two-handed backhand?” Kafelnikov remembered. “He said to me, ‘Look, Yevgeny, I don't know what you're thinking, but your two-handed backhand will make you win so many titles.’ So ever since I never had a one-handed backhand. [The] two-handed backhand was my shot, especially up the line.”

In introducing Kafelnikov, Stefanki said that as much as his former charge accomplished on the court — Kafelnikov tallied a combined 967 tour-level wins in singles and doubles — he did plenty off of it, too, something that should be remembered alongside his efforts as a player.

“Yevgeny is a very generous individual. He donated his [winnings from the] 2001 and fifth Moscow Open victory in a row to the [victims of the] Siberian air disaster on the Black Sea. He started a pediatric hospital in his hometown where the kids could not afford surgeries. He also started an academy in his hometown outside Sochi, which started his playing career,” Stefanki said.

Kafelnikov made sure to pay homage to the most important people in his life: his parents. They could not make the ceremony, but he knew they’d be watching back home in Russia.

“I felt nothing but love, warmth and care. Mom and Dad, I know you're watching it, I love you so much,” Kafelnikov said. “You've been there for me through thick and thin. I love you. When I come back home, we will celebrate this wonderful day.”

Kafelnikov was keen to take in all the history around him throughout the weekend. And now, after the induction ceremony, he is now part of that history as a Hall of Famer.

“I know what it's like and how to be a Hall of Famer, and I will definitely carry that responsibility for the rest of my life.”

Martin Breaks Down Kafelnikov's Strengths: 'He Made You Do Something Special'

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 12:14pm

Todd Martin, the CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the tournament director of the Hall of Fame Open, knows this year’s male inductee plenty well. The American, former World No. 4, played Yevgeny Kafelnikov 10 times, with the Russian winning seven of their 10 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings.

Nine of the pair’s 10 meetings came at the Nitto ATP Finals, a Grand Slam, or an ATP Masters 1000 tournament, so Martin and Kafelnikov consistently competed against one another on the biggest stages in tennis. Martin spoke exclusively to ATPTour.com about the challenges in playing the former World No. 1, the Russian’s accomplishments, and more.

What were the challenges facing Yevgeny?
I found Yevgeny and then Lleyton Hewitt to be the two most challenging returners of serve that I faced. Everybody rightly gives Andre Agassi a lot of credit for being the great returner he was. But Yevgeny was a punishing returner, so if you didn’t hit your spot or if he guessed right, he could hurt you.

I hit my spot with my serve most of the time, so Yevgeny did a wonderful job of still getting the ball back with one hand if I stretched him. And then anything that was hittable, the ball was always in the court and for me, the fewer free points that I could get, the more work it was for me.

How frustrating was that when you could do what you wanted, but still be put in a difficult position against him?
I felt like I could always play against his serve, If Yevgeny had Sampras’ serve, I wouldn’t want to play him, ever. Yevgeny was great, but you got to play. The interesting thing, and I didn’t experience it because I played so aggressively, was that he had to attack me or else I was going to attack him.

I remember watching a Davis Cup match of his against a teammate of mine and he played so calmly and really passively. I didn’t think you could play great tennis passively. I felt like you had to take the initiative. But it almost looked like a bull fight in that my teammate was the bull and Yevgeny was the bull fighter. He was constantly poking. He wasn’t trying to knock my teammate out. He just let the guy lose. So it might have been 3, 3 and 4, but it probably took three hours, which especially then, was a crazy match.

How impressive was it that he could change his game and succeed on each surface?
He was spectacular on hard courts and obviously he won the French. But… in large part because of his grips, winning the French was a huge accomplishment for him. It wasn’t like we were at that point where everybody was spinning the ball like crazy. But for a guy who was backhand-dominant and not a Spaniard with just an amazing amount of spin, I was a little surprised that he won the French, although the French played so fast back then.

In spite of that, I don’t think he ever did great on grass, but I wouldn’t have wanted to play him [on grass] because he got his racquet on every return. He figured out how to make you play and usually made you do something special.

Speaking of Roland Garros, Yevgeny won there in singles and doubles in the same year, which is something that hasn’t been done since. How special was that accomplishment?
I think it’s going to be difficult for it to happen again. We’ve gotten more and more specialised in singles and doubles. But with Yevgeny, I really felt like doubles helped him. Doubles made him a better player — it forced him to volley and get comfortable at net. And not because he was ever going to be Stefan Edberg, but because all the players are challenged to be the best form of themselves. There’s a lot of improvement that needs to occur along the way and competing, in many ways, is the quickest way to improve.

What’s it like to see someone who you played so often get inducted?
With my tongue somewhat in my cheek, in some ways it’s the worst part of my job. I have to participate in the celebration of everybody who put me out of business (laughs).

With so much time passed, I’ve been retired for 15 years, we’re just excited to see each other and I think it’s especially nice for me. Last year, Michael Stich, a couple years ago Andy Roddick, three years ago Marat Safin and this year Yevgeny. It’s nice because I know these guys. Whether we were great friends, good friends, acquaintances or even unfriendly rivals, it doesn’t matter. You know somebody and you know how much they are touched by the honour.

As CEO of the Hall of Fame, it’s like I’m a little bit of both. In fact, I’m much more CEO of the Hall of Fame now than I am a former player. My memory is fading. But for me, knowing these guys, knowing where they come from and seeing a life in tennis rewarded is fun. It’s more fun knowing who they are.

Isner One Win Away From Fourth Newport Title

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 8:54am

Top seed John Isner struggled with stifling heat in Newport and the aggressive game of fourth-seeded Frenchman Ugo Humbert, but the American regrouped strongly to reach the Hall of Fame Open final with a 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3 victory.

The hard-fought comeback win puts Isner into his second final of the season, having finished runner-up in April at the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Federer). He improved to 22-4 in Newport and moved closer to his fourth title at this event (2011-2012, 2017).

Most importantly, Isner is still at full strength in just his second tournament back from a broken left foot, which he sustained in his Miami final with Roger Federer. His foot has withstood three-set battles in all three of his matches so far this week, which has seen him spend six hours and 35 minutes on court.

There were no service breaks in the first two sets of Isner and Humbert's semi-final match. A missed backhand volley from Isner at 2/2 in the first-set tie-break was all the momentum that the #NextGenATP Frenchman needed to grab the early advantage. A double fault put Isner down an early mini-break in the second-set tie-break, but he charged back by winning five consecutive points and ripped a backhand winner on his second set point to level the match.

Isner found a new gear in the third set, earning the first break of the match for a 2-0 lead and winning 12 of the first 14 points. The American comfortably served out the match on his first attempt to advance in two hours and 45 minutes.

Next up for Isner will be seventh seed Alexander Bublik. The 22-year-old Kazakh is into his first ATP Tour final after his 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 victory over Spaniard Marcel Granollers.

“I’ve worked hard for this, so I’m very happy,” said Bublik. “I have to try and be the best version of myself for tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens.”

Like Isner, Bublik has needed three sets for all of his matches this week. He improved to 9-1 in deciding sets at tour-level with his win over Granollers, which took two hours and 10 minutes to complete.

Bublik has primarily competed on the ATP Challenger Tour and picked up four Challenger titles in the past year. He’s guaranteed to reach a career-high ATP Ranking when the newest standings are released on Monday and crack the Top 75 for the first time.

Granollers/Stakhovsky Save 3 M.P. For Doubles Final Berth

Granollers and Sergiy Stakhovsky survived a wild 3-6, 7-6(8), 10-8 semi-final over third seeds Marcus Daniell and Leander Paes. Granollers/Stakhovsky saved match points at 5/6 and 7/8 in the second-set tie-break and another at 8/9 in the Match Tie-break. Awaiting them in the final are Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes-Varela, who defeated fourth seeds Ben McLachlan and John-Patrick Smith 7-5, 4-6, 10-4.

Haase/Oswald Save 2 M.P. To Take Umag Title

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 7:54am

Second seeds Robin Haase and Philipp Oswald made sure their first week as a team was a memorable one. Just before midnight on Saturday, they saved two championship points and took the title at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag over top-seeded Austrians Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer 7-5, 6-7(2), 14-12.

“It’s always great to win a title. That’s what counts in the end,” said Haase. “We always talked about playing together over the years and never did, so to win in our first time together is really great.”

Haase/Oswald erased championship points at 8/9 and 10/11 in the Match Tie-break and converted on their third championship point after one hour and 56 minutes. The Dutch-Austrian duo needed Match Tie-breaks for all three of its wins this week. They also saved four match points in their first-round victory over Andrey Rublev and Andrei Vasilevski.

“It was a lovely week for us,” said Oswald. “The key was that we had good energy and a lot of fun and off the court. It was tough to play against good friends and I feel sorry for them now, but we were lucky to win in the end.”

Both Haase and Oswald picked up their first ATP Tour doubles titles of the season. The win also completed a successful title defence for Haase, who prevailed here last year with Matwe Middelkoop.

Marach/Melzer were competing in their first ATP Tour doubles final as a team. Melzer prevailed this year in Marrakech (w/Skugor) and Sofia (w/Mektic), while Melzer took the title in Geneva (w/Pavic).

Haase/Oswald picked up 250 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split €29,650, while Marach/Melzer earned 150 ATP Doubles Rankings points and split €15,200.

Kafelnikov On Hall Of Fame Induction: 'Finally My Whole Career Is Completed'

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 6:58am

This January, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was on holiday in Dubai when his phone rang. The Russian didn’t know the number, but he knew it was from the United States. When Kafelnikov picked up, International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith was on the line.

“I just want to tell you that you’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Smith told him.

“I got stunned for five seconds and just replied, ‘Thank you, Stan. It’s great news that you’ve brought me.’”

That is when it started to set in for Kafelnikov, a 26-time tour-level singles titlist and 27-time doubles champion, who won nearly $24 million in combined prize money during his career. In his own words, finally, he was in.

“It’s one of those things where I understand that finally my whole career is completed,” Kafelnikov said. “This was the last sort of pinnacle that every professional athlete wants to accomplish. To be recognised as a Hall of Famer, it’s a huge honour.”

On Friday afternoon, Kafelnikov arrived at the Newport Casino for the first time, and he certainly took in his surroundings with a smile on his face. Immediately upon walking up the stairs of the museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the Russian was examining every corner to learn about the history of the game and the sport’s legends.

“It’s beyond understanding. Unless you really see for yourself what it’s like, what this place is all about, you’re not going to believe it,” Kafelnikov said. “For me, it was mind-blowing yesterday when I walked in. You really understand the history of the game. On top of that, you understand the whole value, being a member of the Hall of Fame.”

To earn this recognition, Kafelnikov finished inside the Top 5 of the year-end ATP Rankings five times, claimed Grand Slam singles titles at 1996 Roland Garros and the 1999 Australian Open, captured four major doubles trophies and the 2000 Olympic gold medal in singles. Combining both disciplines, Kafelnikov won 967 tour-level matches, and he is the last person to win the singles and doubles title at the same Grand Slam, doing so in Paris 23 years ago.

“I cannot put one above the other, talking about being No. 1 in the world, winning the Davis Cup, winning Olympic gold and winning two majors,” Kafelnikov said. “They all stand on the same plateau for me. They’re all important. I’m here because of those accomplishments.”

The Russian took great interest in all of the exhibits in the museum, recalling the matches from which there were racquets or clothing on display. Now, when fans visit Newport, Rhode Island, they will see that Kafelnikov is part of the illustrious group that has gained induction.

“Trust me, I would never in the slightest imagine myself accomplishing what I accomplished in my career,” Kafelnikov said. “If you ask me the question if it would be possible to go back in time to do it again, to go back to the age of 10, 11, I would never do that because I understand how difficult it was in terms of working hard and what kind of effort I put in to become what I am. It’s really special.”

To Kafelnikov, his story is one of hard work. He doesn’t feel that he won his matches and titles purely because of his skill.

“I was not even close to being as gifted as John McEnroe or Roger Federer or even Marat Safin, or Marcelo Rios or Nick Kyrgios,” Kafelnikov said. “I was never that gifted. But I was a really hard worker. I’m sure that because of that, I’ve got all my titles, all my goals.”

International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith was particularly impressed by Kafelnikov’s ability to succeed in both the singles and doubles court, as well as how well he was able to be like an “iron man”, doing both at the same time as well as shine for his country.

“Yevgeny was really solid. He was good on all surfaces. On the clay [of Roland Garros] he won the doubles three times, but he was also good on the hard courts. He had a relatively short career compared to Federer or somebody like that. Everybody is in that boat. [But] when he was playing, he was a tough opponent for anybody, any style of play, because he could play aggressively, play as a counter puncher. He had a good all-around game,” Smith said. “He wasn’t the type of guy where you’d say you’re not playing him on clay, so he’s not as good or you’re playing him on hard courts and he’s not as good. He was good on all surfaces.”

Today, Kafelnikov wakes up at 9 am, showers, has breakfast, and then heads to the local golf club where he enjoys a round with his close friends. He’s also the vice president of the Russian Tennis Federation, keeping him closely involved in the sport. So even though he enjoys his down time on the golf course, he has certainly not left tennis, and knows that his induction is also a responsibility.

“It’s a wonderful experience,” Kafelnikov said. “I understand that many years from now, I will understand how important it was for me to get into the Hall of Fame.”

One of the first things an emotional Kafelnikov did when he set foot in the Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery was look for the plaque there for his good friend Marat Safin, who was inducted in 2016. He remembers the conversation he had with Safin after he received the news of his own honour in January.

“He said, ‘Yevgeny, I’m very happy for you. I don’t know if I should say this, but you should be way before me into the Hall of Fame’,” Kafelnikov recalled. “I said, ‘Man, it’s better than never. Sooner rather than later. Now we’re both Hall of Famers.’ It’s definitely a big one for both of us, big one for Russia.”

Kafelnikov was the first Russian to reach No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, which he did in 1999. And he also was the first Russian man to win a Grand Slam singles title. He is happy to see the success of his countrymen since, with both Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev cracking the Top 10 this year.

"They’ll understand looking at myself and Marat, I’m sure they understand by now, everything is possible,” Kafelnikov said. “You just need to work hard. You just need to have goals and be really dedicated to the sport that you love most and I think that’s how I want to be remembered: as a player who just sacrificed many things to get to where I am right now.”

Kafelnikov’s tour finished in the Peggy Woolard Library, where he once again got emotional as he signed the museum’s memory book, with notes that the Hall of Famers sign just before their induction. He wrote the below, pausing to take in the moment:

Never ever I have been so emotional visiting this wonderful place! I am very honored to become a member of this place for the rest of my life! Love you all,

Yevgeny Kafelnikov

Balazs Reaches First ATP Final In Umag

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 4:23am

Five years ago, Attila Balazs retired from tennis. Now, the 30-year-old Hungarian is into his first ATP Tour final at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag.

The qualifier continued his dream week on Saturday by ousting third-seeded Serbian Laslo Djere 6-2, 6-4. There were understandable nerves from Balazs and he failed to convert a match point when trying to serve out the semi-final at 5-2, but the Hungarian made good on his second attempt to prevail in one hour and 39 minutes. 

Balazs’ only other ATP Tour semi-final came seven years ago in Bucharest. Currently No. 207 in the ATP Rankings, he is guaranteed to break his career-high standing of No. 153 when the new standings are released on Monday.

The Hungarian retired from the ATP Tour in August 2014 due to injury woes, four years after he reached his career-high ATP Ranking. But after life as a tennis coach ended up not being what he envisioned, Balazs returned to action two years later.

“It was just too boring,” he told ATPTour.com in April. “I said that I’m too young for coaching and felt the motivation in myself to make a comeback. I felt that I had nothing to lose and obviously now I’m very happy with the decision.”

Awaiting Balazs in the final will be fourth-seeded Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who moved into the final when qualifier Salvatore Caruso was forced to retire due to injury after dropping the opening set 7-5. Serving at 5-6, 0/15, the Italian hurt his right leg attempting to run down a ball. He received a medical timeout after the first set and played three points in the second set before he conceded defeat. 

Lajovic is seeking his first ATP Tour title. The World No. 36 in the ATP Rankings recorded his maiden ATP Tour final in April at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Fognini).

Jarry, Zverev To Meet Again In Hamburg

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 3:11am

Alexander Zverev will face a familiar opponent in his opening match at next week’s Hamburg European Open.

The World No. 5 will meet Nicolas Jarry of Chile, for the third time on clay this season, with a place in the second round on the line. In their previous two FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, Zverev and Jarry went all the way to final-set tie-breaks with the winning player saving match points on each occasion.

At the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in April, Jarry saved one match point to defeat a Top 3 player in the ATP Rankings for the first time. One month later, in the Banque Eric Sturdza Geneva Open final, Zverev withstood two championship points before claiming his 11th ATP Tour trophy.

The Hamburg-born star, who owns a 4-4 record at the ATP 500 tournament, is aiming to earn his first victory at his hometown event since reaching the semi-finals in 2014 at No. 285 in the ATP Rankings. If he overcomes Jarry, who will meet Juan Ignacio Londero in the Swedish Open final on Sunday, Zverev will face Argentina Open champion Marco Cecchinato or Swedish Open semi-finalist Albert Ramos-Vinolas for a spot in the quarter-finals. Zverev shares the top quarter of the draw with sixth seed Laslo Djere.

Defending champion and fourth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, who could meet Zverev in the semi-finals, begins his title defence against a qualifier. The fourth seed is joined in the third quarter of the draw by fifth seed Benoit Paire, Båstad finalist Londero and Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag semi-finalist Salvatore Caruso, who meets Dusan Lajovic for a place in the championship match.

Top seed Dominic Thiem will open his campaign against Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. Thiem owns a 4-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record against the World No. 46, including wins in Buenos Aires and Roland Garros this year. Two-time ATP Tour titlist Cristian Garin also features in the top quarter of the draw. The Chilean will meet Andrey Rublev in the first round.

The second quarter of the draw is headlined by Fabio Fognini of Italy. The third seed, who lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April, owns a 14-6 record at the clay-court event, highlighted by his title run in 2013 (d. Delbonis). Fognini could meet two-time winner Leonardo Mayer in the second round. Mayer faces German wild card Rudolf Molleker in the first round. Seventh seed Jan-Lennard Struff joins Fognini as a fellow seed in this section.

"It was my big tournament that I won in 2013," said Fognini. "I saved match points in the final, so I have good memories, for sure... Hamburg is a beautiful city, so I will try to enjoy as much as I can and try to do my best. It is a big tournament."

Five Things To Know About Ugo Humbert

Sun, 21/07/2019 - 1:32am

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was first published on 7 July 2019. Humbert is now through to the semi-finals at the Hall of Fame Open in Newport and is seeded fourth at the event. He also cracked the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday. Humbert will face top seed John Isner as he seeks his first ATP Tour final.

Ugo Humbert reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, his best result at a Grand Slam, after high-profile victories over Gael Monfils and Felix Auger-Aliassime. The rising #NextGenATP player, who plays top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic on Monday, is guaranteed to surpass his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 61 when the newest standings are released. 

Read Humbert Upsets Auger-Aliassime

ATPTour.com takes a look at five things to know about the 21-year-old Frenchman. 

1. He’s Soared Up The ATP Rankings
Twelve months ago, Humbert was ranked No. 290 and playing an ITF Pro Circuit event in France. Since then, he’s won four ATP Challenger Tour titles and finished runner-up in three others.

His success hasn’t been limited to Challengers, though. Humbert defeated Borna Coric en route to his maiden ATP Tour semi-final this February on home soil in Marseille.

2. Humbert Joins Rare Company This Fortnight
Prior to this season, Humbert had never played a professional match on grass. But with his grass-court run, he became the 43rd man in the Open Era to make the Round of 16 in their Wimbledon debut. Only five other players have accomplished this in the past 10 years.

Men To Reach #Wimbledon R16 On Debut In Past 10 Years

 Player Year   Ugo Humbert  2019  Mackenzie McDonald  2018  Nick Kyrgios  2014  Brian Baker  2012  Daniel Brands  2010

3. He Also Hits The Right Notes Off The Court
Music has been an essential part of Humbert’s life since the age of five. Playing piano has provided an outlet for the Frenchman to disconnect off the court that has ultimately benefitted his tennis.

"I love music and I play piano and guitar. It is a big part of my life,” said Humbert. "When I am at the [French Tennis] Federation, they have a piano there for me. It helps me to focus and relax, even on the court. It is important to have something like this outside of tennis."

More On The Championships
* Nadal Talks Big 3 Grand Slam Success
* 21 Years Later, Federer's Hunger Remains
* Kukushkin: By Any Means

4. He's In Contention To Qualify For Milan
Humbert looks to make his debut this year at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. He currently sits at ninth place in the ATP Race to Milan, but will move into one of the seven qualifying positions if he can beat Djokovic. A loss on Monday will put him in eighth place.

5. Humbert Backs Himself Against Djokovic
Some players might be content with their best Grand Slam result and the opportunity to play Djokovic. But with his strong results this season, Humbert believes he has the game to dethrone the defending champion.

"I would like to play my game, and yes, I have the chance,”said Humbert. "If not, I'm not coming on the court.”

Jarry Downs Delbonis To Reach Båstad Final

Sat, 20/07/2019 - 11:39pm

Nicolas Jarry advanced to his third ATP Tour championship match on Saturday, beating Federico Delbonis 6-3, 6-2 in 64 minutes at the Swedish Open.

The 23-year-old, who is yet to drop a set in Båstad, saved three of four break points to improve to 18-15 at tour-level this season. In May, Jarry also reached the championship match in Geneva without dropping a set. The Chilean held two championship points against World No. 5 Alexander Zverev, before falling in a final-set tie-break.

“Today was a very good match, I played really well,” said Jarry. “The key things were to try to have a high percentage of first serves and to return as well as possible. At the beginning, he was serving very good and I had to wait for my chances.”

Jarry is aiming join his grandfather, Jaime Fillol Sr., as a tour-level titlist. Fillol Sr. lifted six tour-level trophies and reached a career-high No. 14 in the ATP Rankings in 1974.

Jarry will meet Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero for the title. The Argentine overcame 2016 titlist Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4 to reach his second ATP Tour final of the season. En route to the Cordoba trophy in February, Londero claimed victory in his only previous FedEx ATP Head2Head clash against Jarry.

“I am really looking forward to [the final],” said Jarry. “Juan Ignacio is a friend and he is playing really good this year. He already won his first ATP [Tour title] and I am looking for mine. It is going to be a tight match. I have to fight a lot.

“He is very fast. He is a grinder, so I have to play very aggressive and try to serve well. The key will be the returning games. I have to keep playing them well.”

Londero is making his second straight appearance in Båstad, after a first-round loss to Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland last year. The sixth seed has survived two three-set matches this week, including a quarter-final victory against last year’s runner-up Richard Gasquet.

How Less Counting Is Turning Into More Winning For Bublik

Sat, 20/07/2019 - 1:59pm

Alexander Bublik advanced to his first ATP Tour semi-final on Friday, recovering from a slow start to defeat home favourite Tennys Sandgren at the Hall of Fame Open 0-6, 6-3, 6-0. But one thing you won’t find him doing in Newport, Rhode Island, is checking out how high he’ll climb in the ATP Rankings because of his efforts, and how high he can soar if he continues his career-best run.

“This was my problem when I was a kid. I was counting the points. Even if I didn’t win the match, before the match I started counting points, how much I’d earn,” Bublik told ATPTour.com. “This was my problem. I deleted all the apps, the live scoring, rankings. Especially when there’s a deadline week and I needed to make something and I’d be like ‘Yes, I need to do it,’ I’d choke 0 and 1.”

In September 2017, the Kazakh broke into the Top 100 for the first time, spending four weeks there. But early in 2018, at the BNP Paribas Open, Bublik broke his ankle during qualifying, halting his momentum and forcing him to miss nearly two months of competition.

Bublik dropped to as low as World No. 253 last November. But ever since, the 22-year-old has been on the ascent. And even though he won’t be looking into it, the six-time ATP Challenger Tour champion is projected to crack the Top 75 for the first time on Monday regardless of what happens the rest of the week.

“I entered two years ago for the first time, then I fell down. I have the level to play the guys here,” Bublik said. “This year I entered in April and I’ve stayed, so I hope to stay here a while. Maybe for all my career, hopefully.”

Bublik’s first big splash came in 2016, when as a 19-year-old he qualified in Moscow and advanced to the quarter-finals. He then accomplished the same feat at the same event the following year.

“When I was a kid I got in mental troubles a lot because I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to win this match. I want to win this tournament’,” Bublik said. “Then last year when I broke my ankle is when I realised it’s fine... I’ve got to work hard to make it here, to make more and more, so that’s why I’m working hard every day trying to succeed.”

If you haven’t seen Bublik play, his talent is apparent. Just this week, in the second round, he hit a forward-facing tweener lob for a winner against Viktor Troicki, which landed him a spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. In Friday’s quarter-final against Tennys Sandgren, Bublik hit four aces in a row at 4-0 in the third set, punctuating the game with an underarm ace.

"I entertain myself first. That’s the most important thing for me,” Bublik said.

The World No. 83 has no problem being himself, on and off the court. In fact, it’s one of several tattoos on his right arm.

“Always be a leader, not a follower,” one of the tattoos reads. “You just have to be your own leader, make your own decisions,” Bublik said about the quote.

Another one reads, “You won’t break me, you’ll just make me stronger.” That is a song lyric from ‘Stronger Than I Was,’ a song by Eminem.

Bublik also has a bird, a nod to his flying because he travels a lot as a tennis player. He has a map that shows where he is from: Gatchina, Russia. Bublik has a tennis ball in the grip of a skeleton’s hand, his parents’ birthdates and a phrase from a Russian book that he had translated into Italian.

Part of Bublik’s maturation has also included him not putting as much pressure on himself as he once did. The Kazakh knows that he will not always bring his best tennis to the court every day, specifically pointing out that most days will be an average day. He’s just going out there, doing his best, and hoping the results will follow.

“At the end of the day it’s about hitting the yellow ball, making money, making wins,” Bublik said.

“I’m not playing my best tennis now, but I’m winning."

Bublik will hope to emerge victorious again in Newport on Saturday against Spaniard Marcel Granollers with a spot in his first ATP Tour final on the line.

Paes Still Going Strong After 28 Years On Tour

Sat, 20/07/2019 - 10:15am

Leander Paes made his Hall of Fame Open debut in 1995. Everyone in the singles and doubles draws that year has long since retired, but nearly 30 years after turning pro, the Indian is still creating memorable moments.

Paes and Kiwi Marcus Daniell saved three match points on Friday to reach the doubles semi-finals in Newport over Robert Lindstedt and Matthew Ebden. At age 46, he’s the oldest ATP Tour semi-finalist since John McEnroe (age 47) at 2006 San Jose. But Paes prefers not to talk about age. With his volleys and reflexes around the net as youthful as ever, it's easy to understand why.

“These are the nights that I live for,” said Paes. “The hard work, playing when you have a fever, being in the gym when you don’t want really want to be there… Most people see us travelling to lovely places and being on show courts, but the hard yards are what allow me to still compete at this level. The experience is still there, the legs are still there, the knowledge and strokes are there. It’s about finding the right doubles partners and I’ll have success.

“Being a student of life and the game, I used to try to learn from the older players. Now, I try to learn from the younger ones!”

Twenty-one years after winning his lone ATP Tour singles title in Newport, Paes’ passion for the game burns just as brightly. He’ll pump himself up after great shots and even throw in a chest bump or two with his partner. Paes is aware that he’s closer to end of his career than the beginning, but his remaining years on the ATP Tour are far from a mere nostalgia moment.

He’s already reached four ATP doubles semi-finals this season and continues to break records. Two months ago at Roland Garros (w/Paire), he became the oldest man in the Open Era to win a match at the second Grand Slam of the year.

Paes’ tireless commitment to improving has even sparked significant changes to his training in recent years.

"I have to work three times as hard now as I did 10 or 15 years ago. That's just age, but I love the work,” he explained. “When I was younger, I’d waste a lot of energy practising for five or six hours a day. My training is very specific now, focusing on improving specific areas of my game, focusing on my diet and recovery. The knowledge we have nowadays in tennis on fitness, health and recovery is why the margins of winning and losing are so slim.” 

With 766 match victories, Paes is sixth on the all-time doubles match win list. He’s just one of six players to pick up 750 tour-level doubles match wins, which he achieved in April 2018.

DOUBLES MATCH WINS LEADERS (Since 1973)

Player Career Doubles Match Record 1) Mike Bryan (USA) 1,135-366 2) Bob Bryan (USA) 1,094-343 3) Daniel Nestor (CAN) 1,062-448 4) Todd Woodbridge (AUS) 782-260 5) Max Mirnyi (BLR) 780-445 6) Leander Paes (IND) 766-450

His versatility has also produced staggering numbers. Paes has partnered with more than 100 players throughout his career and won ATP Tour doubles titles with 14 of them. He’s also won every Grand Slam doubles title with a different partner, racking up eight men’s doubles titles and 10 mixed doubles titles in his career.

The hunt for more big titles is a big part of what keeps Paes going. As long as he feels that he can remain competitive, his name will continue to appear in draws across the globe. But with nothing left to prove in his career, his motivation for playing is much more simple.

“I’d love to win another Grand Slam. I have 18 Grand Slams, but 20 sounds better than 18,” he joked. “But I’m playing for a lot of passion now. I really love my life and travelling the world. When I was younger, I was playing to put bread and butter on the table. I still am, but now I’m playing because I get a lot of happiness out of playing tennis.

“Every morning, I put on [tennis clothes] and have fun. Whether it’s an ATP Challenger Tour event or a Grand Slam, to me, tennis is tennis. It’s a beautiful sport to bring happiness to a lot of people.”

Stan Smith Reveals Key To Federer's Late-Career Success

Sat, 20/07/2019 - 6:56am

Swiss superstar Roger Federer turns 38 in less than three weeks. But he is still the No. 3 player in the ATP Rankings, and his 38 wins in 2019 lead the ATP Tour. The eight-time Wimbledon champion was within one point of claiming his 21st Grand Slam title at The Championships, falling just short against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

For International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, one thing in Federer’s game today stands out, even after lifting 102 tour-level titles.

“One of the keys I think for him is his balance. He stays in good balance when he hits the ball and so it prevents him from being injured and it also makes him consistent and also enables him to recover much better after he hits a wide shot, for instance,” Smith said. “He’s in such good balance, he doesn’t have to take an extra couple of steps to recover his balance. He hits the ball on balance even when he’s moving hard to get back into the point. That’s one of the reasons he’s been so effective.”

The Swiss is not the only one, though. Smith points to the other members of the Big Three — World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Rafael Nadal — as strong movers, which has helped them maintain their spots atop the sport despite being the three oldest players in the Top 10.

“Djokovic is like a rubber man. He’s got unbelievable flexibility. I think part of it is genetics and part of it is he works at it. He works at his flexibility. Jimmy Connors had tremendous flexibility in the upper body, kind of contorting,” Smith said. “Even Rafa is able to get in some very tough positions and be able to recover back into the court. Flexibility is quite important. Some of it is genetic and some of it is really, really working on it and that also helps prevent injury as well as gives players more power. They’re able to be flexible like that.”

Read Newport QF Report 

Before Smith returned to Newport, Rhode Island for Saturday’s International Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he was at Wimbledon, where he was delighted with the level of play at The Championships, specifically pointing to the blockbuster semi-final in which Federer defeated Nadal and the championship match.

“It was great tennis. The Federer and Nadal match was unbelievable tennis, really high quality tennis all the way through. Nadal could play on the grass. He has won the tournament and he’s certainly not a pushover on the grass,” Smith said. “Federer played at a very high level to win that match.

“I thought Federer played really, really well the whole match [in the final] and Djokovic sort of went up and down, especially in the second set. He just sort of went away for a while and in the fourth set he wasn’t as sharp. But he was sharp in the three tie-breaks and that made the difference with him winning all three of them.”

The Big Three shows no signs of slowing down, either. Although Smith mentioned elite players such as Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Jimmy Connors to reference players who have enjoyed success at an older age, he also acknowledged that the game has changed since then.

“There are different eras of players — players used to play fairly long. Then you went through an era where they stopped, 35 would be the max. Now, you’ve got Federer taking it to the next level and it’s more difficult now because there’s so much competition out there,” Smith said. “There are very few easy matches and so you’re playing tough matches all the time and you’re playing on these slower surfaces. We used to just play on grass at the US Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon and then the tournaments in between like Newport, between Wimbledon and the US Open, were on grass. So you weren’t playing points that were quite as long and I don’t think it was quite as hard on the body.

“But for the players today, it’s really tough on the body and to be able to hang in there… is quite impressive.”

Federer, Nadal and Djokovic each holds plenty of records. And one thing that may also be helping them stay near the top is that they are still striving for more.

“Federer’s done so well, he doesn’t need to play, and Djokovic doesn’t need to play and neither does Nadal. It depends upon how much they really want to compete, want to play and travel," Smith said.

Lajovic Prevails In Umag Marathon

Sat, 20/07/2019 - 6:52am

Fourth-seeded Serbian Dusan Lajovic moved closer to his first ATP Tour title on Friday at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag, advancing to the semi-finals over Slovenian Aljaz Bedene 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Lajovic squandered a 5-3 lead in the opening set, but regrouped to break Bedene four more times and prevailed in two hours and 33 minutes. The 29-year-old achieved his maiden ATP Tour final this April at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Fognini) and recorded his career-high ATP Ranking of No. 23 that same month.

Next up for the fourth seed is Italian qualifier Salvatore Caruso, who moved into his first ATP Tour semi-final with a 6-4, 6-0 over Argentine Facundo Bagnis. Caruso only had one ATP Tour victory to his name two months ago, but came through qualifying to reach the third round at Roland Garros before his latest run in Umag. The 26-year-old is projected to crack the Top 100 in the ATP Rankings if he can reach the final.

Fellow Serbian and third seed Laslo Djere continued his excellent year on clay by battling past eighth-seeded Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3. A determined Djere saved six points in the second set before Mayer finally evened the score with a backhand winner on his seventh opportunity. But the Serbian remained calm and scored the lone break of the deciding set to advance in two hours and 40 minutes.

Djere improved to 2-0 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Mayer and is still on track for his second ATP Tour title of the season. He won his maiden crown this February in Rio de Janeiro (d. Auger-Aliassime).

He’ll now play Hungarian Attila Balazs for a place in the final. The 30-year-old qualifier continued his dream week by outlasting Italian Stefano Travaglia 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 for his first ATP Tour semi-final in seven years. Balazs, currently No. 207 in the ATP Rankings, reached two ATP Challenger Tour finals last month in Prostejov and Bratislava.

Marach/Melzer March Into Doubles Final

Top seeds Oliver Marach and Jurgen Melzer advanced to the doubles final with a 7-6(5) 7-5 victory over fourth-seeded Argentines Mayer and Andres Molteni. The Austrian duo will face second seeds Robin Haase and Philipp Oswald, who defeated third seeds Denys Molchanov and Igor Zelenay 7-5, 1-6, 10-8.