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  • Roland Garros Flashback: Teenage Safin Stuns Agassi In R1

    Editor's Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now be underway. During the next two weeks ATPTour.com will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September.

    It was always going to be a question of when and not if Marat Safin announced his arrival on Tour. That moment came in his Grand Slam debut at 1998 Roland Garros, when the 18-year-old Russian qualifier stunned Andre Agassi 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 and handed the American his first opening-round defeat in Paris.

    Agassi was enjoying a career resurgence and had already climbed from No. 110 to No. 20 that year in the FedEx ATP Rankings. But he struggled to find his footing that day, committing 82 unforced errors and allowing the fearless Russian to dictate their baseline rallies.

    “He didn’t serve so well the last three sets,” Safin said. “But his other shots were very good - forehand, backhand. So it doesn’t matter if he serves good or serves bad.”

    Safin, then No. 116 in the rankings, already possessed some of the biggest groundstrokes in the game. Although he was still learning how to reign his power in, his knockout punches landed on Court Suzanne Lenglen as the crowd gasped at the speed of his winners.

    Meanwhile, Agassi lamented not playing more aggressively against his opponent. He cited a shoulder injury and said he didn’t feel comfortable swinging out in the latter stages of the match.

    “My normal play would be taking a lot of those balls in the air and finishing the point,” Agassi said. “With my shoulder hurting, I was letting those balls drop. I just didn’t close them out.”

    Safin’s draw didn’t exactly open up after his breakthrough win. After learning he would face defending champion and No. 8 seed Gustavo Kuerten in the next round, the teenager mentally booked a flight back home.

    “I’m not ready to win this tournament,” Safin declared. “I’m very happy to be in the second round, but for sure I will not beat Kuerten.”

    But the qualifier did just that, stunning Kuerten in five sets and going on to reach the fourth round. Two years later, Safin secured his first Grand Slam at the 2000 US Open and became World No. 1 two months later.

    Agassi's lowest moment in Paris would be followed by his greatest one. He returned the following year and scored a five-set win over Andrei Medvedev in the championship match to complete his Career Grand Slam, joining Rod Laver as the only men in the Open Era at that time to accomplish the feat.



  • Flashback: Trungelliti’s 2018 Family Trip To Roland Garros

    Editor's Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now underway. During the next two weeks ATPTour.com will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September.

    Marco Trungelliti began his 2018 ATP Tour season with two goals. Alongside his ambition to enjoy a breakout year, the Argentine also wanted to reach the main draw at Roland Garros for the third straight season.

    Trungelliti entered the tournament with confidence, having won eight consecutive matches from qualifying to claim his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Barletta in April. But the 5’10” right-hander fell just short of his goal, losing in three sets to Hubert Hurkacz in the final qualifying round.

    “Even though I had come this close to one of my goals, I was still at peace with the outcome,” said Trungelliti. “I felt secure about my level of play and just happy with what I had accomplished so far [in 2018].”

    Following his loss, Trungelliti eventually made it back to Barcelona on a delayed flight, where he had relocated a few months earlier with his wife Nadir. His mother, Susi, his grandmother, Lela, and his brother, Andre, were also waiting there. His family had made the trip from Argentina, with plans to see him play in Paris.

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    Plan B was soon created, with sightseeing, trips to the beach and barbecue food at the top of the agenda. But one conversation would soon throw those ideas out of the window. During a call with his coach on Sunday morning, the Argentine was told he could still make the main draw in Paris as a lucky loser.

    "Grandma, change of plans, pack your bags, we're going to Paris,” said Trungelliti.

    With train strikes and the risk of further flight delays, Trungelliti made the decision to take the trip in his rented Seat Ibiza. With his mother and grandmother in the back seats, Trungelliti and his brother shared driving duties for the 10-hour trip to the French capital. All he had to do was sign in the following morning and he would book his place in the first round against Bernard Tomic at 11am on Court 9.

    After arriving at his hotel around midnight, the 28-year-old managed just five hours of sleep before his encounter with the former Top 20 star. But that didn’t stop him from earning a memorable victory and a place in the second round for the third straight year.

    [ATP APP]

    With his 88-year-old grandmother sitting courtside for the first time, unable to keep score, Trungelliti moved past the Aussie in four sets.

    “This isn’t the first Grand Slam match I’ve won, but what makes it so special is having my family around me to witness this marvellous moment… I don’t know if what I’ve accomplished is that big a deal; what’s important is that I’ve enjoyed every moment of what led up to this with my family by my side,” said Trungelliti.

    Trungelliti’s journey was ended in the second round. The Argentine lost in straight sets to Marco Cecchinato, who went on to defeat Novak Djokovic to reach his maiden Grand Slam semi-final.

    From one Marco to another, both players will look back on their remarkable 2018 trips to Paris with fond memories.



  • Roland Garros Memories: Nadal's Dominance, Career Slams & Teenage Breakthroughs

    Roland Garros would typically make its mark at this time of year as the only Grand Slam to begin main draw action on Sunday. Although the tournament was moved this year to September because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still plenty of unforgettable memories to reflect on.

    From Rafael Nadal’s first Grand Slam title to Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic completing their respective Career Grand Slams, ATPTour.com looks back on some of the greatest moments of this event.

    1968: A New Beginning
    The 1968 Roland Garros tournament marked the first Grand Slam tournament of the Open Era and the first major championship that allowed professionals to compete against amateurs. The final featured an all-Aussie clash between top seed Rod Laver and second seed Ken Rosewall, who hadn’t competed in a Grand Slam since 1962 and 1956, respectively. Rosewall held off a mid-match comeback from Laver to prevail 6-3, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 and lift his second title in Paris after a 15-year wait.

    Laver would get revenge on his countryman the following year, scoring a convincing straight-sets win in the final en route to achieving the calendar-year Grand Slam.

    Ken Rosewall

    1974: Borg’s Breakthrough
    Bjorn Borg made his Grand Slam debut at 1973 Roland Garros and turned heads by reaching the fourth round. The mellow Swede returned the following year and captured his first Grand Slam title, showing off supreme fitness by winning a pair of five-set matches to reach the final and rallying from two sets down to outlast Manuel Orantes 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. At 18 years, three months, he became the youngest male champion in tournament history at that time.

    Borg would rack up five more Roland Garros titles (1975, 1978-81) and holds a 49-2 record at this event. He also achieved the legendary feat of winning three Roland Garros-Wimbledon title doubles (1978-1980) and remains one of only two male players in the Open Era (Rafael Nadal; 2008, 2010) to accomplish this more than once.

    Bjorn Borg

    1989: Chang’s Historic Run
    More than 30 years later, sports fans still talk about Michael Chang’s legendary match in Paris. Trailing by two sets and a break in his fourth-round clash against top seed Ivan Lendl, the 17-year-old American fought through intense cramps to level the match. Unable to use his legs while serving, he shocked the crowd and his opponent in the fifth set with a desperate underarm serve that proved successful. At match point, Chang moved up to within inches of the service line and rattled Lendl enough to produce a double fault.

    Seven days later, Chang beat Stefan Edberg in a five-set thriller to become the youngest-ever male Grand Slam champion. Although it would remain his only major trophy, he enjoyed a long and fruitful career that saw him earn 34 tour-level titles and peak at No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

    Michael Chang

    1997: Kuerten’s Fairyale
    Gustavo Kuerten arrived at Roland Garros having played an ATP Challenger Tour event the week before. The unknown 20-year-old Brazilian, then No. 67 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, completed an improbable run by earning his first tour-level title at a Grand Slam. Kuerten took out former champion Thomas Muster and defending champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov en route to the final, then cruised past two-time winner Sergi Bruguera in the championship match.

    It was the start of a love affair in Paris for the man affectionately known as “Guga”. Kuerten lifted the trophy twice more (2000-2001) and finished 2000 as year-end No. 1, cementing his status as one of the greatest South American players of all time.

    Gustavo Kuerten

    1999: Agassi Completes Career Grand Slam
    Although Andre Agassi was a two-time finalist at this event (1990-1991), he had endured several early exits in Paris since then. There was little indication that the World No. 12 was a title contender in 1999 based on his play in the early rounds, but he worked his way into form and defeated defending champion Carlos Moya in the fourth round on his way to the final.

    Agassi brought the crowd to their feet and himself to tears by rallying from two sets down to defeat Andrei Medvedev in the championship match. He became only the fifth male player at that time, and the second in the Open Era, to win all four Grand Slams. The American went on to win the US Open that year and finish the season as year-end No. 1 for the only time in his career.

    Andre Agassi

    2005: Nadal’s Maiden Slam Title
    A stress fracture in his left ankle prevented Rafael Nadal from making his Roland Garros debut the previous year, but he more than made up for it in 2005. The Spaniard arrived on a 17-match win streak, including Masters 1000 titles in Monte-Carlo and Rome, and celebrated his 19th birthday with a semi-final victory against top seed Roger Federer. Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta in the final, becoming the first teenager since Pete Sampras (1990 US Open) to win a major championship and joining Mats Wilander as the only male players to prevail In Paris on their first attempt.

    Nadal’s maiden triumph would only be the start of his staggering dominance at this event. He’s lifted the trophy in Court Philippe Chatrier on 12 occasions (2005-2008, 2010-2014, 2017-2019) and compiled a 93-2 record.

    Rafael Nadal

    2009: Federer Completes Career Grand Slam
    Like everyone else on Tour, Federer was unable to figure out how to master Nadal at Roland Garros. The Swiss lost to him four years in a row, including the 2006-2008 finals. But when Nadal suffered a shocking fourth-round defeat in 2009 to Robin Soderling, the Swiss seized his opportunity.

    Federer fought back from two sets down in his quarter-final victory over Tommy Haas and rallied from two-sets-to-one down in his semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro. He saved his best for last by convincingly beating Soderling and became the third man in the Open Era to earn a Career Grand Slam. The milestone moment also tied him with Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam singles titles (14) and he’d break the record one month later by triumphing at Wimbledon.

    Roger Federer

    2016: Djokovic Completes Slam Collection
    Novak Djokovic had eight clay-court Masters 1000 titles to his name and more success against Nadal on the surface than any player on Tour, but it hadn’t translated to a title in Paris. He finished runner-up three times (2012, 2014-2015), with 2015 being one of his most disappointing moments after stunning Nadal in the quarter-finals before losing to underdog Stan Wawrinka in the championship.

    When Nadal withdrew prior to his third-round match with a wrist injury, Djokovic shined in the role of tournament favourite. The Serbian cruised into the final and defeated Andy Murray in four sets to complete his Career Grand Slam. He also became the first man since Laver (1969) to hold all four majors at once and the only man in history to achieve the feat on three different surfaces.

    Novak Djokovic

    2017: Nadal’s 'La Decima'
    Having already established himself as the greatest clay-court player of all time, nine-time champion Nadal was playing for history. He looked to become the only player in the Open Era to win 10 titles at a Grand Slam, having already reached double digits that year in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona.

    Nadal produced his most dominant run at this event by dropping just 35 games across seven matches. He stormed past Wawrinka in the final to achieve the historic feat known as “La Decima”, earning his first major trophy in three years and jumping to second on the all-time list for most Grand Slam titles with 15.

    Rafael Nadal

    2019: Nadal Rewrites History Books Again
    Critics began to wonder if Nadal’s clay-court supremacy had finally ended after the Spaniard lost in his first three events on the dirt that year, but he silenced them once again. The top seed and two-time defending champion defeated Dominic Thiem in a rematch of the 2018 final for his 12th trophy in Paris. 

    By winning the title, Nadal became the only player in history to win 12 singles titles at an individual Grand Slam. He followed up with his fourth US Open crown and finished the season as year-end No. 1 for the fifth time.

    Rafael Nadal & Rod Laver



  • Fritz Mixes Business & Pleasure With Esports

    Most 22-year-olds haven’t even started thinking about investing, but Taylor Fritz made a groundbreaking move by becoming the first professional tennis player to invest in the rapidly growing esports industry.

    The American, an avid gamer himself, concluded his career-best 2019 season by partnering with ReTKGlobal. The company owns several professional Esports teams and Fritz has tested his skills against some of the world’s best.

    “I always thought that the esports market was going to be big. I thought that it was a good time [to invest] and an opportunity presented itself, so I went for it,” Fritz told ATPTour.com. "I’ve watched a lot of the London Royal Ravens in the Call of Duty League and seen some of their pro players play in other games. I’ve gotten to play with some of those guys in public matches, so that’s been a lot of fun.

    ”There are some similarities to being a professional gamer and a professional tennis player because if you want to be good at anything, it takes a lot of time and hard work.”

    Fritz has turned to gaming as a relaxing outlet when he’s on the road at ATP Tour events. Fortnite, Valeron, Call of Duty and FIFA are among his favourites to play. His controllers come along with his racquets for every flight and he’s found other players on Tour to battle against from the comfort of his hotel room.

    “I like anything where I can be competitive playing against somebody. I bring my gaming laptop and controllers when I’m on the road and then also put a screen in my suitcase,” Fritz said. “The computer runs everything but sometimes the hotel wi-fi isn’t good enough, so then I just can’t play that week.

    “Nick Kyrgios is probably one of the better gamers on Tour. He’s incredibly good at Call of Duty and FIFA. Jack Sock is really good at Fortnite as well.”

    Fritz has been putting his gaming skills to use during the current suspension of play on Tour by taking part in several celebrity charity tournaments. He won a pair State Farm Play Apart Together events that featured Valorant and FIFA, respectively, and teamed with Addison Rae to prevail in the Stay at Home Slam, a live virtual tennis tournament on Nintendo Switch’s Mario Tennis Aces. The pair defeated Kei Nishikori and Steve Aoki in the final.

    @whoisaddison and I really just won the Stay At Home Slam + 1 MILLION dollars for our charity of choice @nokidhungry !!!! u can tell I was a bit pumped πŸ˜… pic.twitter.com/XiXOioRCWS

    — Taylor Fritz (@Taylor_Fritz97) May 4, 2020

    Each State Farm event yielded $25,000 for his charity of choice and the Stay At Home Slam brought in $1 million since he and Rae competed for the same organisation. Fritz has been playing for No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit that works to end child hunger in America. It's a cause that's close to his heart as he remains at home in California with his wife and three-year-old son, Jordan.

    "I’m very empathetic towards kids since I have a child, so I can’t imagine my son being in a position where he doesn’t know if he can eat,” Fritz said. “That’s what No Kid Hungry is fighting to stop, so I’m making sure that I’m giving my time and donating to an organisation that’s doing everything they can to help kids. I’m all for it.”



  • Tsitsipas Pranks Osaka On Instagram Live: 'I'm So Good At Lying!'

    Is Naomi Osaka angling for a second career handling post-match interviews on the ATP Tour? After grilling Frances Tiafoe on Thursday and Gael Monfils on Friday, the WTA star returned on Saturday to Instagram Live and completed the hat trick in an entertaining conversation with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    It didn’t all go according to plan, though. The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion caught Osaka off guard with an unexpected prank when she asked him about his hair care routine.

    “I put Greek olive oil in my hair, then I add some wasabi in and some vinegar as well. It blends really well… Then I leave it in for about 25 or 30 minutes [and] go take a shower,” Tsitsipas explained. “I definitely put mayonnaise in, that’s for sure. It’s like a one time per week thing.”

    Osaka was initially skeptical of his explanation, but soon sat mesmerised as he revealed all of the details. But when she asked him whether or not the mixture smelled, the Greek broke out into a wide grin.

    “Did you actually believe me? I’m making things up,” Tsitsipas said, laughing. “I’m so good at lying! All my life I thought I was so bad at it, but now I suddenly got good at it.”

    🚨PRANK ALERT🚨@StefTsitsipas reveals his "hair care routine" πŸ˜‚

    πŸŽ₯: @naomiosaka (IG) pic.twitter.com/tWFwmziKXw

    — ATP Tour (@atptour) May 23, 2020

    The World No. 6 in the FedEx ATP Rankings gave straight answers to her other questions, though. Osaka had originally planned for the interview to consist of seven questions, but Tsitsipas happily obliged as more came to her throughout their discussion.

    Both players also took time to reflect on their lives in lockdown. Tsitsipas admitted that he found it difficult to not be able to work out regularly for several weeks while he remained at home.

    “I felt awful. I felt like I was getting fat and didn’t feel healthy, so I tried to get back to it as soon as possible,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s nice getting a good workout where you can sweat it out and be active. It just feels good. And then you can consume all of the calories after, all this ice cream that I like!”

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    Tsitsipas also discussed what drives him through the tough practice sessions he’s currently taking on in France. He said that “deliver a feeling” has become his mantra as he looks to create more memorable moments when play resumes on Tour.

    “What inspires me is to deliver a feeling to people who watch me, who get to see my artistry in any way. I want to show people a better side of life," Tsitsipas said. "I’m not sure if I’ve contributed much to that, but it’s something that I [aspire] to. I want to leave a legacy behind. I think everyone does.”



  • Five Things To Know About Jannik Sinner

    Jannik Sinner is the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion and the youngest Top 100 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

    ATPTour.com looks at five things you should know about the 18-year-old.

    1) He Stunned The Field At The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals
    Heading into the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, Italian players owned a 0-6 record at the innovative 21-and-under event. But Jannik Sinner, competing as the Italian wild card, stormed through the draw to take the trophy.

    Sinner topped Group B with a 2-1 record, beating Frances Tiafoe and Mikael Ymer to advance to the semi-finals. From there, the 6’2” right-hander powered past Miomir Kecmanovic in four sets and top seed Alex de Minaur in straight sets to take the title in front of a passionate home crowd at the Allianz Cloud.

    “I'm surprised because it's been an unbelievable week,” said Sinner in Milan. “All the players are unbelievable players. If not, they are not here. I was the [lowest-ranked] one. I was the [eighth] seed. So I tried to have my chances and, of course, today I'm very happy about my game.”

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    2) He Is A Former Junior Skiing Champion
    Five years ago, Sinner's focus was on skiing rather than tennis. The Italian, who did not touch a racquet for a year at the age of seven, was playing just two days per week before moving to Riccardo Piatti’s academy in Bordighera as a 13-year-old.

    “When I went on court just two times in a week, I really enjoyed it. I just tried to enjoy and it was fun. It was just fun,” said Sinner. “But now it’s a little bit more than fun. Now it’s fun, but you want to go a little bit further and I think that makes this very important.”

    Claudio Pistolesi, the 1985 junior World No. 1, recently shared his opinion with ATPTour.com on Sinner's unconventional route to the ATP Tour and the benefits his skiing background has on his game.

    “Like Lorenzo Sonego, who played football until the age of 14, he has broken all the rules that you follow from an academy perspective, having done another sport to a good level,” said Pistolesi. “He brings some lateral skills to tennis from skiing in his movement around the tennis court, and he steps into the ball automatically."

    3) He Owns The Heaviest Backhand On The ATP Tour
    In a recent Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of players who competed in a minimum of 10 ATP matches on Hawk-Eye courts from 2018-2020, Sinner’s backhand was identified as a peak performer in both categories measured.

    In terms of spin, no player on the ATP Tour hits their backhand with more spin than Sinner’s 1858 rpm. The 18-year-old also owns the fifth-fasted backhand, with an average speed of 69.1 mph.

    Sinner Next Gen ATP Finals 2019

    4) He’s Raising Funds For COVID-19 Relief
    During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sinner has found multiple ways to support Italian efforts in the fight against the virus.

    Alongside his management company, StarWing Sports, and Piatti, Sinner donated €12,500 to Cesvi, a humanitarian organisation. The donation will be used to help with medical emergencies in Bergamo.

    “The unity in Italy throughout this crisis has been incredible. Among many thousands of Italians that have helped through this crisis, I want to applaud the 250 volunteers who came together in Bergamo recently to build a Field Hospital in just eight days,” wrote Sinner on Twitter. “This unity is what will get us through this period. I want to do my part, as much as I can, to contribute in pulling us out of this."

    Sinner also created the #SinnerPizzaChallenge, where he will donate €10 alongside his management company for every photo he receives of a pizza that resembles himself or any past or present Italian figure. The money raised from the challenge will be used to fund vital medical supplies in Italy during the pandemic.

    5) He Supports AC Milan
    Sinner is a supporter of Italian football club, AC Milan. Ahead of his title run at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, the Italian was able to attend one of the club’s matches at their home ground: the San Siro stadium.

    “My best friend is a Milan fan, so we watched a little bit of football and now I am a Milan fan,” said Sinner.



  • Dimitrov's Celebration: Social Media Roundup

    Your favourite players have been finding plenty of ways to keep busy over the past week. From Grigor Dimitrov's custom birthday cake to Novak Djokovic's own birthday celebration as he turned 33, find out how the world's best players have been spending their days.

    Dimitrov showed off his Bulgarian pride with a lavish birthday cake to celebrate turning 29.

    Djokovic received socially distant congratulations to mark his birthday.

    Thank you all for my birthday wishes πŸ₯³ ¡Muchas gracias a todos! pic.twitter.com/uY0JbnvAOx

    — Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) May 22, 2020

    Karen Khachanov also joined the birthday train with a basketball cake as he turned 24.

    Gael Monfils held an Instagram Live session with Naomi Osaka.

    The best dancer on tour? πŸ•Ί

    (Besides @Gael_Monfils, of course) πŸ˜‰

    πŸŽ₯: @naomiosaka (IG) pic.twitter.com/6TSWhbY8u2

    — ATP Tour (@atptour) May 22, 2020

    Taylor Fritz owned up to the embarrassing prank that Frances Tiafoe once played on him in Rome.

    Can confirm this happened πŸ˜‚ had lunch tray in my hands.... wearing the shorts that have built in compression so was all out there for .5 seconds in Rome player dining https://t.co/wxHui0MzUG

    — Taylor Fritz (@Taylor_Fritz97) May 22, 2020

    Marin Cilic perfected his clay-court slide.

    Diego Schwartzman made time to work on his fitness at home.

    Corentin Moutet released a new original rap song.

    π‘€π‘’Μ‚π‘šπ‘’ 𝑠𝑖 𝑗’𝑠𝑒𝑖𝑠 π‘π‘Žπ‘  π‘™π‘ŽΜ€ π‘ π‘œπ‘’π‘£π‘’π‘›π‘‘ 𝐽’π‘’π‘ π‘π‘’Μ€π‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘žπ‘’π‘’ 𝑑𝑒 π‘š’π‘Žπ‘–π‘šπ‘’π‘  π‘žπ‘’π‘Žπ‘›π‘‘ π‘šπ‘’Μ‚π‘šπ‘’ π‘ˆπ‘› π‘“π‘Ÿπ‘’Μ€π‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘Μ§π‘Ž π‘‘π‘œπ‘–π‘‘ π‘’Μ‚π‘‘π‘Ÿπ‘’ π‘™π‘ŽΜ€ 𝐸𝑑 π‘šπ‘œπ‘– 𝑗’𝑠𝑒𝑖𝑠 π‘™π‘œπ‘–π‘› π‘Μ§π‘Ž π‘šπ‘’ π‘“π‘Žπ‘–π‘‘ 𝑑’π‘™π‘Ž 𝑝𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑒 PETIT FRERE 🎧 Lien dans la bio 🎢 πŸ“Έ : @cocodubreuilphoto

    A post shared by Corentin Moutet (@corentin.moutet) on

    Vasek Pospisil played his part in COVID-19 relief efforts by helping donate 10,000 masks in Vancouver.

    Thrilled & honored to partner w/ @Huawei_Canada and be able to donate 10,000 masks to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. Thank you @vanfoodbank for the tour and for being so vital to the community. Thank you to the frontline workers for all you continue to do during this pandemic. pic.twitter.com/JcmJzlqGzH

    — Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) May 22, 2020

    Andre Agassi proudly showed off the athletic prowess of his son, Jaden.

    He gets it from his mom #MarryUp pic.twitter.com/UvJCfR3xCx

    — Andre Agassi (@AndreAgassi) May 22, 2020


  • Canadian Legends Gretzky & Nash Dish On Federer, Nadal & Djokovic

    Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash are legends in the hockey and basketball worlds, respectively. Besides both of them being Canadian, they share something else in common: a love for tennis.

    Gretzky, 59, and Nash, 46, both followed the sport closely before this era, but both stars are in awe of the Big Three: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

    “If you could see a Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal final, and Djokovic is pretty good, but there’s something [special] about Nadal and Federer playing and competing for a championship,” Gretzky said on Tennis United. “For me, that gets my blood flowing and I can’t wait to watch it.”

    Gretzky’s favourite match of all-time is the 1981 Wimbledon final, when John McEnroe — who is now the hockey legend’s good friend — won The Championships for the first time by defeating Bjorn Borg.

    “McEnroe-Borg was a unique rivalry because it was more of my era, so I’m probably a little more comfortable with that,” Gretzky said. “As you know, the athletes of today are so much better and so much more conditioned… it’s a different sport now, and every sport is like that.”

    Watch This Week's Tennis United:

    Nash’s love of tennis began with McEnroe, too. The American intrigued the Canadian with his personality, and reeled him in with his talent.

    “You couldn’t take your eyes off him because you never knew what was going to happen. He wore his emotions on his sleeve,” Nash said. “But I just think the touch, the creativity, the feel at the net, those things were just so beautiful. He was an artist out there in many respects. It was this crazy mix of this big personality, you never knew where his emotions were going to go. At the same time, he’d hit a drop volley… he was mesmerising with his play, his competitive fire.”

    But like Gretzky, Nash is consistently in awe of the Big Three. The basketball star is perhaps most impressed that they all have different styles, yet each has enjoyed tremendous success.

    “I never really felt like I had to choose between Federer and Nadal. I felt like I could really appreciate both of them to reach their limit, their max, their potential, and may the best man win,” Nash said. “It’s just amazing to see the modern game with Djoker, Roger and Rafa, how they’re all so different. They all get it done in different ways. But if you individually looked at their resumés, you can make a case that each of them is the best player to ever play the game.

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    “Roger started out being so mesmerising. He was a great athlete, but he also has so much variety, beautiful strokes. He slices the backhand, he comes over the top of it hard, he finds angles. The forehand is obviously mastery, but then he has the serve, the volleys and all the variety in between.

    “Rafa, when he started playing you thought, ‘Wow, this guy’s just a beast of an athlete and he’s mentally as tough as anyone we’ve seen maybe in any sport.’ But as the years go by you realise, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Rafa miss a volley. He’s an artist, too.

    “Then you look at Djokovic, the way he moves, his flexibility, his consistency. If he’s playing at his best, to beat him is almost impossible. He makes you hit so many extra balls and then he puts so much pressure on you to hit the lines. He’s in his own right as good as anyone we’ve ever seen.”

    Gretzky and Nash are both proud of the recent success of Canadians. Gretzky was in attendance at a memorable match three years ago, when Canadian star Denis Shapovalov stunned Rafael Nadal in Montreal at the Coupe Rogers.

    “We were lucky enough to be at the [Coupe Rogers] when Denis had his run. We were at the Nadal match, which was so exciting,” Gretzky said. “My wife kept hitting me a little bit saying, ‘Every time you cheer for Denis, Nadal is watching you.’ So I had to back down a little bit out of respect for the opponent.”



  • Marcelo Melo: β€˜Doubles Is Like A Marriage’

    When it was announced that the BNP Paribas Open would not be held as scheduled due to COVID-19 concerns, Lukasz Kubot returned home to Poland fairly quickly. It is two and a half months later and Marcelo Melo, his doubles partner, still doesn't know when they'll see each other again.

    “Doubles of course is like a marriage, so sometimes it’s good to have a little break,” Melo told ATPTour.com. “Of course it’s not necessary, at least between me and Lukasz… I don’t know when we’re going to see each other again. Of course it depends on when tournaments will come back and where we can practise, but sometimes it’s good for the doubles [players].”

    Kubot and Melo have qualified for three consecutive Nitto ATP Finals together, and they have lifted 14 tour-level trophies as a team. Spending months apart is certainly not the norm, but they have maintained contact during the suspension of play.

    “We have a group chat with our team, so we keep in touch there. Of course we talk one, two times a week, because at this time there are not so many things to talk about,” Melo said. “Normally we always talk about the schedule, practice, this and that. Of course we ask each other how everyone is doing, et cetera, so we keep in touch that way.”

    Typically, doubles partners don’t go more than a few weeks without seeing each other, so it’s easier to appreciate one another during this time apart.

    “Kubi is a very nice guy. Kubi is always positive. He always wants to go practise. He brings such a good energy,” Melo said. “We can miss the good energy from such a good guy.”

    Melo stayed in Indian Wells at first, before going to Florida for almost two months to quarantine with close friend Alexander Zverev. About a week ago, he returned home to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he plans to train with fellow doubles star Bruno Soares when allowed to do so.

    “We were very lucky to be there,” Melo said. “Of course we need to see how we’re going to manage [in Brazil], but it’s always good to be back home.”

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    The 36-year-old Melo enjoyed spending an extended period of time with Zverev, who is 23. Despite the age gap, when they compete at the same event, they always are attached at the hip.

    “He’s a very nice guy to hang out with. His family is very nice, his team is very nice, so I get along with them,” Melo said.

    The friends only played doubles together once, at 2017 Shenzhen. Melo thinks it would be fun to compete together again when tournaments resume.

    Who would be the team leader?

    “This is not even a question. Of course, I would be the boss!” Melo said, cracking a laugh. “He’s not going to accept it, for sure. He’s going to say he wants to be the boss. In singles of course it’s going to be [him], but in doubles he needs to follow my rules.”



  • Here’s How Nadal Plays Tennis Like A Chess Grandmaster

    The perfect storm in a tennis match is Rafael Nadal hitting either three of four balls into the court.

    Not more. Not less.

    Just three or four moves is all it takes for the Spaniard to lure his opponents into checkmate.

    An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis shows that Nadal is in a class of his own in mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots. The data set is comprised of players who competed in a minimum of 20 matches at ATP events on Hawk Eye courts from the beginning of the 2018 season.

    The three rally lengths commonly measured in tennis are:

    •0-4 Shots (First Strike)
    •5-8 Shots (Patterns Of Play)
    •9+ Shots (Extended Rallies)

    It’s important to note that rally length in our sport is predicated by the ball landing in the court, not hitting the strings. So a “three-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and a winner, while a “two-shot” rally is a serve in, a return in, and an error. That explains a “zero-shot” rally, which is a double fault. The ball simply didn’t land in the court.

    The inner workings of Nadal’s formidable game can be best understood when it’s dissected by how many shots he ideally desires to win a point. It highlights efficiency and intent.

    Nadal won a head-turning 59.7 per cent (652/1092) of points in the 5-8 shot range from 33 matches. Next best is Diego Schwartzman at 55.9 per cent (547/978), putting the Spaniard almost four percentage points higher than his closest rival. Novak Djokovic sits in third place, having won 55.5 per cent (1043/1879) in 5-8 shot rallies.

    The leaders in the three rally lengths are:

    •0-4 Shots: Daniil Medvedev (55.0%)
    •5-8 Shots = Rafael Nadal (59.7%)
    •9+ Shots = Yoshihito Nishioka (56.6%)

    Mid-length rallies of 5-8 shots (3-4 shots for each player) are all about specific patterns of play, much like moves on a chess board. The first shot involves the serve or return, where Nadal is typically targeting his opponent’s backhand return, or moving way back in the court for his own return to enhance his chances of putting it successfully back in play. His second shot is all about taking a 50-50 battle and “arm-wrestling” it in his favor.

    There are eight ways to attack an opponent and gain control of the point.

    Eight Control Factors In A Rally

    #

    Control Factor

    Focus

    1

    Consistency

    Court

    2

    Direction

    Court

    3

    Depth

    Court

    4

    Height

    Court

    5

    Spin

    Ball

    6

    Power

    Ball

    7

    Court Position

    Where You Stand

    8

    Time

    Time To Prepare

    Nadal’s third shot of the rally typically involves a potent cocktail of two or more of the control factors, mentioned above, infused into the same shot. For example, he loves to hit a run-around forehand standing in the Deuce court directed cross court past his opponent’s outstretched forehand wing. That specific shot, which he has executed tens of thousands of times in his career, is a crushing mix of direction, spin, power and court position.

    If Nadal needs a fourth shot to reach “checkmate”, his court position is typically inside the baseline taking time away with wicked spin and direction back behind a running opponent. Nadal is much better off running these three- and four-shot combinations than trying to end the point quicker, or trying to outlast his opponent.

    Nadal Win Percentages By Rally Length

    •0-4 Shots = 52.9% (1126/2127)
    •5-8 Shots = 59.7% (652/1092)
    •9+ Shots = 55.3% (412/745)

    The Spaniard’s game is not built around massive power in the first two shots. It is also not best suited to grinding endlessly in long rallies, where win percentages naturally gravitate closer together than further apart.

    It’s all about patterns. It’s about a successful sequence of shots that out-smart and out-maneuver opponents to achieve his desired end-game with three or four moves.

    Nadal is our sport’s Grandmaster chess champion.