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  • 39 Stats For Roger Federer's 39th Birthday

    In honour of Roger Federer's 39th birthday, the ATP Tour is celebrating by reliving 39 facts, moments or memories that have made his tennis career spectacular thus far.

    39 - Combined wins against Novak Djokovic (23) and Rafael Nadal (16)
    38 - Winner of a record 38 ATP Tour Awards: ATP Tour No. 1 (2004-07, 2009), Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of Year (2006, 2013), Comeback Player of the Year (2017), Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship (2004-09, 2011-17) and Fans' Favourite (2003-19)
    37 - Age when Federer won his 100th tour-level title at the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The only player who has also reached that milestone is Jimmy Connors, who captured 109 trophies
    36 - Federer’s age the last time he was No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 18 June 2018, making him the oldest World No. 1 in history
    35 - Consecutive service points won against Lukas Lacko at 2018 Wimbledon and Feliciano Lopez at the 2007 US Open, both Open Era records at each event
    34 - Combined wins against former Top 10 players David Ferrer (17-0) and Mikhail Youzhny (17-0) without losing a match
    33 - Wins needed to pass Jimmy Connors’ 1,274 victories for the most in the Open Era
    32 - Five-set wins in his career
    31 - Different tournaments won in 19 different countries
    30 - Consecutive Grand Slams as the first or second seed between the 2003 US Open and the 2011 Australian Open
    29 - Days to win three titles on three different surfaces in 2004 (Wimbledon, Gstaad, Toronto)
    28 - ATP Masters 1000 titles
    27 - Longest Grand Slam win streak of his career (twice), snapped by Rafael Nadal in 2006 and 2007 Roland Garros finals
    26 - Indoor titles, leading all active players. Andy Murray is second among active players with 15 indoor trophies
    25 - Years old when he won his 500th tour-level match, defeating David Ferrer in the quarter-finals of the 2007 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters
    24 - Straight finals won from 2003 Vienna through 2005 Bangkok
    23 - Consecutive Grand Slam semi-final appearances (2004 Wimbledon through 2010 Australian Open)
    22 - Years since winning his first ATP Tour match at 1998 Toulouse against Guillaume Raoux
    21 - Age when he won his first Grand Slam title at 2003 Wimbledon
    20 - Grand Slam titles
    19 - Grass-court titles, nine more than second on the Open Era list, Pete Sampras
    18 - Age when Federer reached his first ATP Tour final at 2000 Marseille (l. to Rosset)
    17 - Seed at the 2017 Australian Open when he came back from knee surgery to win the title
    16 - Number of times Federer has won at least 50 tour-level matches in a season. This is a record
    15 - Losses in a three-year span (2004-2006) in 262 matches
    14 - Consecutive years spent inside the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings (2002-2016)
    13 - Number of match wins in his first full season on the ATP Tour in 1999
    12 - Career-high titles won in 2006
    11 - Grand Slam runner-up finishes
    10 - Consecutive Grand Slam finals reached from 2005 Wimbledon through the 2007 US Open.
    9 - Or more titles on clay, grass and hard courts – only Jimmy Connors has matched the feat
    8 - Wimbledon titles/Age at which Federer began playing tennis
    7 - Number of Grand Slam finals won before first loss (2006 Roland Garros to Nadal)
    6 - Nitto ATP Finals trophies
    5 - Year-end No. 1 finishes
    4 - Number of children Federer has with his wife, Mirka Federer. They have two sets of twins: Myla & Charlene (born 23 July 2009) and Leo & Lenny (born 6 May 2014)
    3 - Won three Grand Slams in a calendar year on three occasions, in 2004 and 2006-07. Federer is the only player to accomplish that feat
    2 - Tournaments at which Federer has won 10 titles. He has done so at the Swiss Indoors Basel and the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle
    1 - Federer has spent a record 310 weeks atop the FedEx ATP Rankings, finishing atop the year-end standings five times

    - Statistical assistance provided by Joshua Rey.



  • Bring On Nowitzki! Zverev Challenges NBA Legend

    NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki played tennis growing up and remains a huge fan. But does he have enough knowledge of Alexander Zverev's career to ace this special quiz?

    On this week’s episode of Tennis United, Nowitzki and Zverev have fun answering questions about a sport other than their own.

    Is Zverev taller than Steve Nash and Luka Doncic, shorter than them both, or in between? What team was Nowitzki originally drafted by?

    “You don’t even need to give me the options. I know straightaway,” Zverev says.

    #NextGenATP stars Brandon Nakashima and Thiago Seyboth Wild also join the show, playing a game of 'Truth or Dare'.

    One truth Nakashima answers: What are three wishes he’d request from a genie?

    “Be No. 1 in the world,” Nakashima says for one of them.

    Find out what other wishes the American has and what Seyboth Wild, this year's Chile Dove Men+Care Open champion, adds to the game.



  • Roberto Bautista Agut: 'I Can't Wait To Return'

    Roberto Bautista Agut last played an ATP Tour match on 25 February at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. A few weeks later, the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Five months later, in this interview with ATPTour.com, Bautista Agut looks back at everything he has done during this exceptional period before returning to the Tour at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

    It was difficult to imagine something like this happening looking back five months, which is practically the period for which the ATP Tour has been suspended due to the pandemic.
    On a social level I’ve been very on top of everything that has been happening, helping with various local and national initiatives. It has been a difficult time, but if sport teaches you anything, it’s the ability to overcome. I am sure we will come out of this stronger.

    Now, finally, the return of the Tour is on the horizon at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. How excited are you?
    I can’t wait to return to competition. After so much training, I feel that the wait is getting a little long for me. In the end, what you want is to get back to the courts as soon as possible.

    Perhaps this period has been like an unusual preseason, just longer than normal?
    The main difference has been that this time we’ve had many more weeks of training than usual. A ‘normal’ preseason is much shorter, three or four weeks, which means they are more intense than what this return to the courts after isolation has turned out to be. We’ve had three months on top of the preseason, so we’ve had to take breaks and be patient.

    Have you worked on any specific part of the game with your team?
    We’ve been able to work calmly on my net game. Also, [we have put] more emphasis on the physical side of things than normal because we didn’t have any tournaments in the short term. The on-court work is the most similar to normal, working in the same way as before isolation. The main difference has been that the training time before the tournament is bigger, so there’s been time to work on all aspects on court: the serve, return and the net game.

    If this break has benefitted a certain type of player in any way, would it be the veterans or the young players?
    It doesn’t help us veterans, because we have less of our career left. We’ve been practically a year without playing. In the end, I think that the best players will be back at the top as always and everyone will have to fight for their position, their new [FedEx ATP] Ranking.

    Has this situation had any positive sides for you?
    I would say the biggest thing is that I’ve been able to better combine training with life off the court, to enjoy being at home, sleeping in my bed, things that you miss during the season.

    Has it meant more time for doing other things?
    Not exactly. When I train, I do long sessions both on court and in fitness training. I have very little time the rest of the day for other things beyond tennis and I’m already pretty tired from training. So all I can do is be at home and rest.

    Where have you been able to train during these months?
    In Castellon. I’ve also managed to train in other parts of Spain like Alicante, at Juan Carlos Ferrero’s Academy in Villena and in Valencia. Above all, it’s been on clay. This week I made the switch to fast courts.

    In this time have you played with various ATP Tour players?
    In Spain in general, and in the Valencian community in particular, there are a lot of very good tennis players. I’ve trained with Pablo Carreno Busta, Carlos Alcaraz, Alex de Minaur, Pablo Andujar, Jaume Munar and Carlos Taberner, among others. They’re very good players, and I’m able to complete demanding training sessions with them. 

    How has this situation affected your goals?
    All I want is to return to competition. From there, I think that the ATP’s points system is a very good one. It’s pretty logical and fair with everyone. We will have to see exactly how many tournaments we’ll be able to play. The more tournaments we can, the better.

    Is there anyone on the Tour that you would like to meet up with that you haven’t been able to because of the pandemic?
    Of course, many of my peers I’m with in my daily life in competition. You are often with them. We’re used to living this kind of life 80 or 90 percent of the year and of course you miss it. I’ve also missed the tournaments.

    Did it hurt not being able to play any one specifically?
    All of them. I’m a player that doesn’t have favourite weeks. I like playing everywhere, I find something to like in every surface and at every tournament. Everywhere is unique.

    Is there anything you haven’t missed?
    The airports [laughs]. The travel time, the stress and pressure of competition. Tennis is a very demanding sport and being able to be at home, with peace of mind, has been good for me.



  • 'I Feel Like This Is The End': Murray's 3 A.M. Washington Marathon

    If there’s one match that shows how much tennis means to Andy Murray, it might be his third-round battle against Marius Copil at the 2018 Citi Open. After the match, which ended at 3:02 a.m., the former World No. 1 sat in his chair and broke into tears.

    That January, Murray had undergone hip surgery, but he was nowhere near full health. The three-time Grand Slam champion mustered all the energy he could to defeat the big-serving Copil 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4) after three hours and two minutes.

    “I told him I’m happy that he’s back and it’s great to play against him again,” Copil told ATPTour.com. “I really enjoy playing against him. He always brings the best out of me. I was happy that he came back to the Tour. When we went back to the locker room we spoke again and he was still crying, maybe because he had the pain in his hip.”

    Marius Copil, Andy Murray

    A couple hours later, Murray laid in his hotel bed and recorded a video message on his phone at 5:09 a.m., as seen in the documentary ‘Andy Murray: Resurfacing’, which came out last year.

    “I feel like this is the end for me,” Murray said. “I really want to keep going, but my body is telling me no.”

    Murray told reporters that evening that his tears simply came from the emotions of a long match finishing late in the evening, but the former World No. 1 had more on his mind. His Romanian opponent didn’t realise it at the time.

    “When I watched the documentary, I felt something in my stomach, it was weird. It was a weird feeling, because I know it was tough for him,” Copil said. “I respect Andy so much because he’s a really great fighter and warrior and this is something to admire and for a lot of sportsmen to look up to. The way he fights is just unbelievable.”

    Many people will remember the moment because of Murray’s emotions, but the match itself was memorable, too. Copil crushed 20 aces and won three more points than Murray in their clash, which was suspended by rain, leading to the late finish.

    “It was a crazy match. We both played well and when we finished, we just had 200 to 300 people watching us, maybe less,” said Copil, who has lost each of his three ATP Head2Head matches against Murray, with two of those going to a deciding set. “Normally when you play against Andy it’s a full stadium, and that time when we played there were not many people left.

    “I saw by the way he was walking that I thought he had something, but during the match I thought he moved well. I cannot say his level was lower. I think he played well against me, but I didn’t think about his injury and that his level could be lower because he is one of the top four guys who will remain in history [from this era]. His level, even if he’s not 100 per cent, is still very, very high.”

    Copil sliced a backhand into the net on match point to give Murray the victory. While the Brit was recording his video in the early hours of the morning, the Romanian was still awake trying to find a flight to Toronto, where he had to play Rogers Cup qualifying about 31 hours later.

    Copil couldn’t find any direct flights, so he was forced to fly to a city in the United States — he can’t remember where — and then ride in a car for more than five hours, arriving in Toronto at around 6 a.m. the morning of his 12 p.m. qualifying match against Yoshihito Nishioka. After winning the first set easily, he was too tired to maintain his level, falling in another final-set tie-break, just like he did against Murray. That completed a wild two-day stretch for Copil.

    “I was sad because I finished [against Murray] with a backhand slice into the net. I was just disappointed at that particular shot. The rest of the match I played really well. I liked the way I was playing and the attitude I had. It was a great match,” Copil said. “One guy has to lose and I was the guy who lost.”



  • When British Legends Murray & Rooney Met In Washington

    Editor's Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 28 July 2018..

    It’s not often that you find two iconic athletes from different sports on the same court. But on Friday, British stars Andy Murray and Wayne Rooney met at the Citi Open for a short hit and game of football-tennis.

    “He’s obviously had an incredible career, one of the best players ever in English football history,” said Murray, whose grandfather played for Scotland’s Hibernian F.C. “It’s nice to finally meet him. I’ve never met him before, so it’s very cool.”

    Rooney, the leading goal-scorer in England National Team and Manchester United history, currently plays for local club D.C. United of Major League Soccer, so he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to meet Murray. The football legend was in the stands when the Scot captured his first Wimbledon title in 2013 to end Great Britain’s 77-year wait for a home champion.

    Rooney Murray

    “It was incredible, a real achievement, and [Novak] Djokovic at the time looked unbeatable, so it was a great victory and a great experience to be there,” Rooney said. “It was the first time I was at Wimbledon, and [it was] history for Britain, so it was a fantastic moment to be there.”

    Murray, who was joined by brother Jamie Murray — the fourth seed in the doubles draw with Bruno Soares at the Citi Open — on Stadium Court, grew up playing football and follows the Premier League as he travels the world. Rooney hasn’t been able to pick up a tennis racquet much, but he says he loves watching the sport. His game was put to the test when the pair rallied, and Murray hit some serves to the football star.

    Murray Rooney

    “It was decent. Forehand was alright, he almost returned a couple serves. But yeah, not bad. Backhand needs a bit of work,” Murray joked. “He did alright for someone who doesn’t play much. It was good.”

    Murray will now turn his attention to the ATP World Tour 500-level tournament in Washington D.C. The 31-year-old will face American Mackenzie McDonald in the first round, and could face compatriot and fourth seed Kyle Edmund in a second-round blockbuster.

    Rooney Murray Murray



  • Bob Ryland, First African-American Pro, Dies Aged 100

    Robert 'Bob' Ryland, the first African-American pro tennis player and a coach to future trailblazing generations of global stars including Arthur Ashe, Venus and Serena Williams, passed away on Monday aged 100.

    His parents, Irishman Robert Sr., and mother, Gussie, who died of tuberculosis when Ryland was aged two, were forced to move from Alabama to Chicago. Upon the death of his mother, Ryland, who received his first tennis racquet at the age of eight, was raised by his grandmother in Mobile, Alabama, where his father taught him to play on clay courts in the segregated Brooklyn Park.

    Returning to Chicago after almost 10 years away, Ryland went on to become the first African-American to win the Illinois State title, beating Chris Evert’s father, Jimmy, in the 1939 final. Around this time, he received a scholarship to Xavier University, a Historically Black College and University in New Orleans, and served in the U.S. Army between 1941 and 1945.

    Ryland returned to another scholarship at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he resumed his tennis career. But during away matches was forced to eat separately from his teammates and occasionally slept on the team bus. He was one of the first African-Americans to play in the NCAA Championships, and gained a bachelor of science degree at Tennessee A&I in Nashville, where he coached and led the team to two small college national championships.

    A combination of American Tennis Association (ATA) advocacy, an open letter from Alice Marble to the American Lawn Tennis Magazine in 1950, and a perception shift helped to start breaking down barriers in tennis across the next decade. Ryland, who moved to California after his studies, played tennis with Pancho Gonzalez and competed in ATA tournaments, becoming singles champion in 1955 and 1956.

    In 1955, the United States Lawn Tennis Association awarded Ryland a wild card into the US Nationals at Forest Hills, having picked up that year’s ATA crown, and four years later, at the age of 39, he received an invitation to join promoter Jack Kramer’s World Pro Tour Championships, receiving $300 a match. At 5'9" and 155 pounds, Ryland had a powerful serve, a solid game, backhand and net game. 

    For a short time, Ryland was a YMCA physical education director in Montclair, New Jersey, taught tennis in Washington D.C., including to the Kennedy family, and coached at the Mid-Town Tennis Club in New York City from 1963 to 1990, honing the games of Arthur Ashe, a young Harold Solomon, Bruce Foxworth, and dozens of celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett and Dustin Hoffman. Richard Williams also brought Ryland to Florida to oversee his daughters, 14-year-old Venus and 13-year-old Serena.

    Ryland, who continued to volunteer his services at Harlem’s Frederick Johnson Playground each Saturday, passed away alongside his partner, Nancy, at his home in New York City, the oldest of more than 13,000 tennis court permit holders in the metropolis.

    Robert Ryland, tennis player and coach, born 16 June 1920, died 3 August 2020.

    Photo courtesy: BurroughsLamarPhotographs.com



  • Murray Highlights US Open Wild Cards

    Andy Murray, the former World No. 1 and 2012 US Open champion, headlines the wild cards for the US Open, the USTA announced Thursday.

    The 33-year-old, who is No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings as he continues his recovery from hip surgery, will compete in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2018. The three-time Grand Slam champion owns a 45-12 record at the US Open, where he also reached the final in 2008.

    The USTA also announced that Americans Ulises Blanch, Maxime Cressy, Sebastian Korda, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Michael Mmoh, Brandon Nakashima and J.J. Wolf will also receive singles main draw wild card entries to the tournament, which begins on 31 August.

    A #NextGenATP player, World No. 220 Nakashima has risen more than 500 spots in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the past eight months. He reached the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com in February.

    World No. 242 Blanch won his second ATP Challenger Tour title in Ann Arbor this January and defeated then-World No. 54 Pablo Andujar in Monterrey. Another player who enjoyed ATP Challenger Tour success at the start of the season is 23-year-old Cressy, who made two finals in February, winning the title in Drummondville.

    Former junior World No. 1 Korda won the 2018 Australian Open boys’ singles title. His father, Petr Korda, won the 1998 Australian Open men’s singles title. Kwiatkowski, 25, lifted his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy in February at Newport Beach.

    A former Top 100 player who received a wild card is Mmoh. The American beat then-World No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets to reach the third round of the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau. Wolf, 21, has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year.



  • Flashback: Del Potro's Washington Hat Trick

    Juan Martin del Potro always brings his best tennis to the North American hard-court swing and the Citi Open has become the most successful hunting ground of his career.

    The Argentine prevailed in three of his five appearances in Washington, D.C., (2008-2009, 2013) enabling him to rack up a 15-match run at this event before Kei Nishikori snapped his winning streak in 2017. It remains the only tournament in which Del Potro has stood in the winner’s circle on three occasions.

    ATPTour.com looks back at Del Potro’s trio of thrilling runs.

    2008
    Del Potro was on a confidence high as he rode a three-tournament, 14-match winning streak. The 19-year-old Argentine prevailed at clay-court events in Stuttgart and Kitzbühel before completing a hat trick in Los Angeles by defeating Andy Roddick in the final.

    Playing with the confidence of a man who hadn't lost in several weeks, he charged through the draw and overpowered Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-3 in the final. After falling behind 1-3 in the opening set, Del Potro quickly recovered and wrapped up his perfect week with an ace on championship point. The victory made Del Potro the first man in ATP Tour history to win his first four singles finals.

    “Today I was very, very nervous because I was the favourite to win the tournament,” Del Potro said. “In a final, if you play your best you can win, for sure, but I think today I played more with my mind than my body.”

    2009
    Despite being the defending champion, Del Potro arrived in a different mood having not won a title in seven months. After struggling to victory in his first two rounds, he benefitted from receiving a walkover in his quarter-final against Robin Soderling and soon found himself facing Roddick on championship Sunday.

    The sweltering conditions wore both men down as they battled from the baseline for more than two hours. With almost nothing left to give physically, the Argentine turned to his serve and cracked five aces in the third-set tie-break to prevail 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(6). Del Potro squandered his first three championship points, but made good on his fourth chance and became the first man to successfully defend his title at this event since Andre Agassi (1998-1999).

    "I did my best serves ever in my life,” Del Potro said. “After the first set, I couldn't move any more. It was impossible. It was serve and one more ball. If you run, you die.”

    Buoyed by his second title of the year, the Argentine went on to capture his maiden Grand Slam crown one month later at the US Open (d. Federer).

    2013
    Del Potro delighted local fans by returning to this event after a four-year absence and quickly made up for lost time. After marching to the final without dropping a set, he shook off a slow start in the final to defeat John Isner 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

    The Argentine became energised early in the second set after returning a timid overhead from Isner with a clean forehand winner. Del Potro repeated that effort later in the set and stole the momentum from his opponent to sprint through the remainder of the match.

    "It’s amazing. I’m so happy to win here once again," Del Potro said. "Always when you win a tournament, it’s special [and] it’s big. In the third set, I played my best tennis of the tournament.”



  • Yevgeny Kafelnikov: The Man Who Sparked Tennis' Russian Revolution

    In the latest profile on the 26 players to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, ATPTour.com looks back on the career of Yevgeny Kafelnikov. View Full List

    First week at No. 1: 3 May 1999
    Total weeks at No. 1: 6

    At World No. 1
    Yevgeny Kafelnikov overtook Pete Sampras to become No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 3 May 1999, remaining atop tennis’ mountain for six weeks. “I think it’s the ultimate goal for every professional tennis player, to be able to reach that pinnacle. That’s what we play for,” Kafelnikov told ATPTour.com. “It’s one of the most enjoyable accomplishments from my career.”

    Kafelnikov made national history by becoming the first Russian to reach World No. 1. At the time, there was only one other Russian in the Top 100: Marat Safin, who reached World No. 1 the following year.

    Grand Slam Highlights
    Kafelnikov arrived at 1996 Roland Garros as one of the tournament favourites, crushing World No. 1 Pete Sampras in Dusseldorf the week before the clay-court Grand Slam. Four of the Top 5 seeds lost by the fourth round and Kafelnikov took full advantage.

    The 22-year-old felt in great physical shape during the fortnight, going for four eight-kilometre runs around Court Philippe Chatrier during the tournament. Kafelnikov earned his second and final ATP Head2Head win against Sampras in the semi-finals before overcoming surprising cramps late in the championship match against Michael Stich to become the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion. He also won the doubles title alongside Daniel Vacek. No man has won the singles and doubles trophy at the same major since.

    “I’ve got news for you: Nobody will [do it again] for a very long time,” Kafelnikov said. “If you ask me when the next time we’re going to see a champion in singles and doubles at the same Slam, I don’t see that happening for many, many years to come.”

    Kafelnikov won his second and final major singles title at the 1999 Australian Open, beating five players who reached the Top 5 of the FedEx ATP Rankings to lift the trophy. That victory helped propel the Russian to World No. 1 later in the year. He also won Grand Slam doubles titles at Roland Garros in 1997 (w/Vacek) and 2002 (w/Haarhuis) as well as the 1997 US Open (w/Vacek).

    Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
    Kafelnikov competed at the ATP Tour’s season finale, now called the Nitto ATP Finals, seven times. The Russian advanced through round-robin play three times, highlighted by a trip to the championship match in 1997. He battled past Carlos Moya in two tie-breaks to reach the final in Germany, but was unable to challenge Sampras, who triumphed in straight sets.

    Tour Highlights
    The International Tennis Hall of Famer (inducted in 2019) won his first ATP Tour match at 1992 Moscow, defeating Spaniard Marcos Aurelio Gorriz. That proved a happy hunting ground for the home favourite, as Kafelnikov won five consecutive titles at the tournament from 1997-2001. He lost in the 1996 final against Goran Ivanisevic before winning 28 consecutive matches in Moscow.

    Kafelnikov was a model of consistency during his career, winning multiple titles each year from 1994-2002. Kafelnikov claimed 26 tour-level singles titles. Although he never claimed ATP Masters 1000 glory, the right-hander made five championship matches at that level. He proved capable on all surfaces, winning ATP Tour titles on clay, hard, grass and carpet. He completed his singles career at 2003 St. Petersburg, falling in the second round against rising Russian star Mikhail Youzhny. In doubles, Kafelnikov won 27 tour-level titles, including seven Masters 1000s.

    Biggest Rivalries
    There wasn’t one man who served as a consistent foil for Kafelnikov. The Russian believes his generation was so saturated with talent, that there were many rivals to contend with.

    “You take Marcelo Rios, Guga, Moya. Pete and Andre were dominating the Tour at the time,” Kafelnikov said. “To me, the whole field was a big competition. I played many great matches against Guga. Me and Marat didn’t play any big matches against each other, thank God. We both had about 20 guys who were great rivals for both of us.”

    If you had to pick one rival for Kafelnikov, it might be Gustavo Kuerten. The Brazilian beat the Russian in three Roland Garros quarter-finals (1997, 2000-01), needing five sets in two of those matches. Kuerten lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in each of those years. It wasn’t always the biggest stars who frustrated Kafelnikov, either. He never enjoyed playing Dominik Hrbaty (4-9) or Thomas Johansson (5-9).

    “Dominik’s game was such a solid game that he had every answer to all my shots,” Kafelnikov said. “If I was hitting the ball hard, the ball was coming back twice as hard. That stuff was driving me nuts. Those two players [Hrbaty and Johansson] read my game so well.”

    Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 609-306

    Overall Titles/Finals Record: 26-20

    Legacy
    The Russian maximised his all-around game and stellar fitness to compete — and in many cases, beat — the best players in the world. Kafelnikov’s strength was his backhand, especially up the line. His two-hander was one of the best of his generation.

    “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.” 

    Besides his work ethic, Kafelnikov will be remembered for showing young Russians they could enjoy success on the ATP Tour. He was the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion and World No. 1. Today, three Russians are inside the Top 15 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

    “Yevgeny was the guy who really made it click for me that it was possible to become an unbelievable tennis player,” Safin told ATPTour.com. “Yevgeny achieved to be the elite in tennis, so for me that was the goal, it was like, ‘Wow’. To that point no Russian guy like him made it, so because of him I [knew] I had a chance.”

    Memorable Moment
    Kafelnikov does not consider one achievement from his career greater than the rest. Instead, he cherishes his Grand Slam victories, reaching World No. 1 and winning the singles gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

    In familiar circumstances, Kafelnikov played Kuerten in a consequential quarter-final, defeating the Brazilian 6-4, 7-5. With gold on the line, the Russian battled hard to scrape past rising German Tommy Haas 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. 

    Marat Safin on Kafelnikov
    “I learned a lot from him when I was younger, practising with him. I understood the intensity of the tennis ball, the way he played from the baseline and how close he stood to the line. For me it was the most shocking moment in my tennis understanding. It was due to him. I never told him, but I understood what it meant to take the ball early [because of Yevgeny]. It clicked and from that point I started to play better and better because of him.”

    Larry Stefanki on Kafelnikov
    "He was a workhorse, playing both singles and doubles most weeks. Yevgeny and competition merely went together. He always showed up to win. He loved the big matches and played his best tennis under the most extreme pressure. He absolutely cherished being under the gun to have to win a match."

    Kafelnikov on Kafelnikov
    "
    All my success came because I worked hard. That's how I will always be remembered."

    Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
    Strong and tall with a powerful and reliable baseline game, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a handful for all those who had to face him across the net. The poker-faced Russian was also adept at volleying when he chose to be and that made him a difficult player to outmanoeuvre.

    His no-fuss approach to the game didn’t make him a box office headliner like some of his peers, but his results spoke for themselves. He became the first Russian to win a Grand Slam title when he defeated Michael Stich at Roland Garros in 1996 and he added to his haul that same year by winning the doubles crown as well. In doing so, he remains the last player to win both the singles and doubles titles at the same Slam event, a record that will likely stand for a long time.

    After retiring at the St. Petersburg Open in October 2003, the multi-talented Russian turned himself to a variety of different endeavors. He played successfully in the World Series of Poker, competed at the Russian Open, Austrian Open and Czech Masters on the European golf tour, and briefly coached fellow Russian Marat Safin.

    When not engaging in those activities, he also had interests in fishing, watching football, baseball and ice hockey and spent two years playing on the ATP Champions Tour.



  • For Daniil, Depth Is A Diamond

    It’s easy to be mesmerised by Daniil Medvedev’s unorthodox groundstrokes.

    To better wrap your head around what makes the 6’6” Russian so potent from the back of the court, don’t focus on his flailing follow-throughs. Keep your eye on the ball as it travels like a laser beam to the other side of the court, and notice how deep it lands near the baseline.

    Daniil dines on depth.

    An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Medvedev’s maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last summer, identifies that he never lost the depth battle in his six matches. Hitting the ball deep in the court is arguably the best thing you can do to force an error in tennis, as your opponent has to either move back to hit the ball in their strike zone or shorten their swing to successfully time the ball on the rise. Quite often, they do neither, and errors abound.

    Deep Groundstrokes (Percentage Shots Deep Of Service Line)
    In Medvedev’s opening round 6-2, 7-5 victory over Kyle Edmund, both players hit 85 per cent of their rally balls past the service line. From then on, Medvedev hit the ball deeper than every opponent. Overall, Medvedev hit on average 85 per cent of his shots past the service line, while opponents managed just 79 per cent.

    Medvedev's Run To 2019 Cincinnati Title

    Round
    Opponent Opp. % Shots
    Past Service Line
    Med. % Shots
    Past Service Line
    Final
    David Goffin 83%
    88%
    SF
    Novak Djokovic 80%
    82%
    QF
    Andrey Rublev 86%
    91%
    R16 Jan-Lennard Struff 77%
    86%
    R32
    Benoit Paire 62%
    79%
    R64
    Kyle Edmund 85%
    85%
    -
    Average 79%
    85%

    Winners & Unforced Errors
    You would naturally associate hitting more winners with winning more matches, but it’s not always the case. Medvedev failed to hit more winners than his opponent in every match, and only 39 per cent (55/103) of overall winners came off the Russian’s racquet. In four of the six matches, Medvedev’s winners were all in single digits. His opponents were always in double digits, with Paire and Djokovic leading the way with 19 winners each in their respective matches against the Muscovite.

    Where Medvedev did excel was committing fewer unforced errors. He only committed 41 per cent (103/250) of total unforced errors, and only once, against Djokovic, did he commit more (24-19) than his opponent.

    Cross-Court & Down-The-Line
    Hawk-Eye ball-tracking technology uncovered that almost two out of three shots for both Medvedev and his opponents were directed cross-court, with the other third struck down-the-line. The Russian hit 63 per cent of his shots on average cross-court and 37 per cent down-the-line, which were the same combined percentages for his opponents.

    Speed Of Shot
    While Medvedev hit the ball significantly deeper (85% to 79%) past the service line than his opponents, his average groundstroke speed was slightly slower from both wings.

    Average Forehand Speed

    Medvedev = 72mph
    Six Opponents = 73mph

    Average Backhand Speed

    Medvedev = 65mph
    Six Opponents = 66mph

    Medvedev has risen to No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and will be looking to defend his Western & Southern Open title in New York later this month. Of all the jewels in his game, depth is a diamond.