Category Archives: Tennis

Hubert Hurkacz beats Sebastian Korda in Delray Beach Open final for second career ATP Tour title

Hubert Hurkacz was too good for Sebastian Korda in the final at the Delray Beach Open and, on the last point, a little lucky.

Hurkacz hit a cross-court lob winner corner to corner to close out a 6-3, 6-3 triumph Wednesday for his second career ATP Tour title. With a laugh, he acknowledged he hit the last shot with more of his racket than intended.

“Most of the frame. A little bit of string,” he said. “I thought after I hit it, ‘Wow, it might be good.'”

It was, as were many of Hurkacz’s more orthodox shots. Seeded fourth, the 6-foot-5 Hurkacz displayed rangy defense and a wide variety of strokes when on the attack, even winning one point with a serve and volley on a second serve.

Hurkacz’s only other title was in 2019 at Winston-Salem, where he became the second Polish tour-level champion in the Open era.

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Korda was slowed by an upper leg injury that required treatment in the second set. He broke at love in the opening game but didn’t have a break-point opportunity the rest of the way versus Hurkacz’s strong serve.

Hurkacz said he was buoyed by the fans, even though there were less than 2,000 because of limits imposed due to COVID-19.

“It feels really amazing to win the title here,” he said. “It was really nice to play with a crowd. That was helpful. I enjoyed a lot playing here.”

Hurkacz didn’t drop a set in the tournament and benefited from the draw, becoming the first player since Steve Johnson at Newport in 2018 to win a title without facing a top-100 player. He’ll climb to 29th in the next rankings.

Korda, who had never previously reached even a quarterfinal, stamped himself as a young player to watch in 2021. He beat four players ranked in the top 100 and will climb to a career-best 103rd.

“It hasn’t fully sunk it how well I played this week,” Korda said. “Only good things are going to come from this for sure.” Korda, 20, is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, and the brother of LPGA Tour winners Jessica and Nelly Korda.

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Sam Querrey defends decision to breach COVID-19 protocols in Russia to protect family

American Sam Querrey, who was sanctioned by the ATP for breaching COVID-19 protocols at the St Petersburg Open in October, has defended his actions and said he did what he felt was right as a father and a husband.

Querrey left Russia in a private jet with his wife and baby son after all three tested positive for the virus before the beginning of the tournament, sneaking out of their hotel early in the morning without informing reception.

The ATP, the men’s governing body, handed the 33-year-old a suspended $20,000 fine which will be lifted if Querrey does not commit further breaches of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19 within a probationary six-month period.

“Again, we were very happy at the hotel,” Querrey told Sports Illustrated in an interview. “We were distancing ourselves. We weren’t around anyone, we were staying in the room, and never had a complaint, or a problem.

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“So I said, ‘Please try to have the doctors come the next morning at 10 a.m., not Sunday night at 10 p.m.’ The tour finally agreed to that, and because we were still going to get help from the tour, the embassy.

“But I kinda had to make a decision between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m. the next day. I had my wife there, and I had my baby there, and as a human decision, I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t feel comfortable with this.’ So we made the decision to charter a plane and leave.”

Querrey said he was ready to quarantine in the tournament hotel for two weeks after testing positive but after two days he was told he was no longer welcome at the hotel and doctors would determine if they had to quarantine in a hospital instead.

The American said lack of clarity made it necessary for him, his wife, and their seven-month-old son to fly to London and quarantine at an Airbnb.

“I felt as a father and a husband there’s a human element to this, and I had to do what I feel like is right,” he said, adding that the flight cost him about $40,000 plus and he had to also pay for the stay in London for two weeks.

“I wasn’t willing to let our family go to a hospital for a minimum of two weeks where we were at.” Querrey stated he was “frustrated” with the media coverage of the incident and added: “It made it seem like I just got COVID and bounced. I didn’t feel how it was portrayed after that was fair.”

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Kyrgios out of Australian ATP Cup team after falling in world ranking

Nick Kyrgios has paid the price for a year of inaction over COVID-19 concerns after he was ruled out of Australia’s team for next month’s ATP Cup after his world ranking slipped to No. 46 following an 11-month absence from the ATP Tour.

The 25-year-old last played a competitive match at Acapulco in February after deciding to stay at home in Australia when the circuit resumed in Europe and North America after a hiatus.

Each nation have two singles slots that will be taken by their top-ranked players and Australia’s challenge at the ATP Cup will be led by Alex de Minaur and John Millman who are ranked 23 and 38, respectively.

The duo will be joined by doubles players John Peers and Luke Saville as Australia look to improve on their semifinal finish at last year’s inaugural tournament.

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The ATP Cup will be held from Feb. 1-5 in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open, the year’s first Grand Slam, and the event will feature world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal.

“The players are looking forward to stepping up and representing their countries again, and the field, including defending champions Serbia and finalists Spain, is strong,” tournament director Tom Larner said.

“This is a format that shows off the passion of the players, and we’re expecting some spectacular tennis action.”

The draw for the ATP Cup will take place on Jan. 20.

Kyrgios, often branded “polarising” for his long rap sheet of indiscretions, had been a galvanising force in raising funds and awareness for Australian bushfire relief efforts during the ATP Cup last year.

He will now play in Melbourne 2, one of two ATP 250 events being held alongside the ATP Cup. Melbourne Park is also hosting two WTA 500 tournaments alongside the event.

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Roger Federer to miss 2021 Australian Open; planning 2021 return

Roger Federer is withdrawing from the Australian Open while he keeps preparing to return to action after two operations on his right knee, the tournament confirmed on Sunday.

Tony Godsick — Federer’s longtime representative and CEO of their management company, TEAM8 — stated he is working on putting together a 2021 tennis calendar for the 20-time Grand Slam champion, who plans to get back on tour soon after the year’s first major tennis tournament.

“Roger has decided not to play the 2021 Australian Open. He has made strong progress in the last couple of months with his knee and his fitness. However, after consultation with his team, he decided that the best decision for him in the long run is to return to competitive tennis after the Australian Open,” Godsick said in a statement released to the AP.

“I will start discussions this coming week for tournaments that begin in late February and then start to build a schedule for the rest of the year,” Godsick said.

The start of the Australian Open’s main draw was delayed by three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic and is now programmed to begin on Feb. 8 at Melbourne Park.

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Federer, 39, has spent more weeks atop the ATP rankings than anyone else but is No. 5 after his hiatus. He is training in his usual offseason home of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The choice to delay his comeback came with input from coaches Severin Luthi and Ivan Ljubicic and fitness coach Pierre Paganini.

“We wish him all the best as he prepares for his comeback later in the year,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement confirming that Federer pulled out of the field, “and look forward to seeing him in Melbourne in 2022.”

Federer hasn’t played a tournament match since late January at the 2020 Australian Open, where he was clearly injured while losing in straight sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Soon after, Federer played in an exhibition charity event with Rafael Nadal in front of a record tennis crowd of more than 50,000 people at a soccer stadium in Cape Town, South Africa.

Just weeks later, Federer announced he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and would be sidelined for at least four months. He later had a second procedure on that knee and wound up missing the rest of the pandemic-altered season.

One measure of Federer’s popularity: Despite appearing in only six matches in 2020, he recently was voted the winner of the ATP Tour fans’ favorite award for the 18th consecutive time.

Until this knee issue, Federer had his career interrupted only once by an operation — on his left knee in 2016. He sat out the second half of that season, including the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the US Open, but was back at his best when he resumed playing, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017.

He won the Australian Open again the following year for his sixth trophy there, to go along with eight from Wimbledon, five from the US Open and one from the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

While Federer was sidelined this year, Nadal equaled his men’s record for most major championships by collecting his 20th at Roland Garros in October. Federer posted a congratulatory message on social media to Nadal that day, saying he hopes “20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us.” Djokovic’s title in Australia this year moved him closer to Federer and Nadal with a total of 17.

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Daniil Medvedev defeats top 3 to win first ATP finals

Nearing defeat, Daniil Medvedev suddenly switched tactics at the ATP Finals and collected the biggest title of his career by defeating US Open champion Dominic Thiem 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Sunday.

The fourth-ranked Medvedev became the first player to beat each of the men who were Nos. 1-3 in the season-ending championship — and only the fourth to do it at any tour event in the past 30 years.

The comeback versus No. 3 Thiem, which lasted more than 2½ hours, added to victories Medvedev produced against No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the round-robin portion of the tournament and No. 2 Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semifinals on an indoor hard court. Spectators were barred because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Medvedev, 24, went 5-0 in all, quite a turnaround from a year ago, when he went 0-3 at the ATP Finals. The tournament now ends its 12-year run in London, moving to Turin, Italy, next year. Medvedev, of Russia, closed 2020 by going 10-0 in November, including seven wins against members of the Top 10. He had zero victories over Top 10 opponents over the preceding 12 months.

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Thiem’s defense and power from the baseline put him on top early, and strong serving at key moments allowed him to save the first eight break points he faced. But Medvedev, the runner-up to Nadal at the 2019 US Open, finally converted on his sixth break chance of the third set — and ninth of the match — by sneaking forward behind a return, making a forehand volley winner and going up 3-2.

That was enough, because Medvedev never faced a break point the rest of the way; he concluded with 12 aces.

A key shift came in the second-set tiebreaker, thanks to a change in style from Medvedev.

Thiem had grabbed a 2-0 lead before Medvedev stormed back, using an element of surprise by rushing to the net more often than usual — both behind serves and returns — and reeling off the next seven points.

Medvedev continued with that strategy to great effect in the final set, too. It seemed to throw off Thiem, who had won three of the pair’s previous four matches, including in consecutive sets in the semifinals in New York in September en route to his first Grand Slam trophy.

In the second set Sunday, Thiem had break opportunities to take a 4-3 edge, but he badly missed a short shot on one, reacting by putting his hands on his hips, and Medvedev produced an ace on the other.

Thiem stumbled and tumbled to the court in the next game, but appeared to be OK.

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Rafael Nadal outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to make ATP Finals semifinals

Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals at the ATP Finals for the first time in five years and knocked out the defending champion in the process, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 Thursday at the O2 Arena.

It is the sixth time in 10 appearances that Nadal has reached the semifinals of the season-ending tournament, which is the biggest title he has yet to win in his illustrious career.

Tsitsipas won it on his first try last year but exited after a second loss of the group stage, done in by a shaky serve in the third set, during which he was broken three times.

Earlier, the already eliminated Andrey Rublev beat US Open champion Dominic Thiem 6-2, 7-5 in a contest that had little real consequence for either player. Thiem was assured of winning the group after defeating Tsitsipas and Nadal in the first two rounds.

Nadal never looked threatened on his serve versus Tsitsipas until the final game of the second set, when he double-faulted to hand the Greek player a way back into the match. “I think I was winning my serves quite comfortably until that moment,” Nadal said. “After that, everything changed.”

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Suddenly, neither player could hold serve as the third set started with three consecutive breaks, with Nadal taking a 2-1 lead. The Spaniard finally held and broke again for a 5-2 lead before clinching the victory on his second match point.

Nadal, who improved to 6-1 versus Tsitsipas, will play Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday. Thiem will face the winner between Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev on Friday.

The early match between Thiem and Rublev was delayed after the lights went out unexpectedly at the O2 Arena.

Thiem was short of energy, too, when play eventually began.

“It was difficult to keep that amazing intensity like I had in the first two matches,” Thiem said. “I wanted to win the match, 100 percent, but the first two matches were pretty tough, pretty long.

“So with the fact I was already qualified, in the back on my mind it was difficult to keep the intensity alive.”

Rublev played like someone with nothing to lose, overwhelming Thiem with his serve and fierce groundstrokes to take the Austrian’s first two service games and clinch the first set in less than 26 minutes. He dropped only three points on serve and had no unforced errors in that set.

The second set was much closer, though Rublev was on top and serving at 4-3 when he lost eight consecutive points to get back on serve.

Rublev regrouped, broke Thiem after a long next game featuring some intense rallies, then served out the match for his first victory in his debut at the season-ending tournament.

“It was not easy for Dommy,” said Rublev, who has won five events on the tour this year in a breakthrough season. “I think he [was] focused on the semis. I wish him good luck — he deserves to be where he is and he deserves to win the title.”

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Alexander Zverev defeats Diego Schwartzman in straight sets for back-to-back Cologne titles

COLOGNE, GERMANY – OCTOBER 25: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Alexander Zverev of Germany celebrates during day seven of the Bett1Hulks Championship tennis tournament at Lanxess Arena on October 25, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Alexander Zverev’s nickname is ’Sascha’, but for now you can call him ‘The King Of Cologne’.

The World No. 7 acquired his second title in as many weeks in the German city on Sunday, defeating second seed Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 for the bett1HULKS Championship crown.

“I know in finals you have to play your best tennis to have a chance, so obviously [I am] extremely happy with my performance. Probably the best match of the past two weeks here. Diego is someone that you can really struggle with. He is somebody who doesn’t miss from the baseline,” Zverev said. “You really have to win the match against him and I felt like that’s what I did.” 

When Zverev arrived at the bett1HULKS Indoors last week, he was fresh off a disappointing fourth-round loss at Roland Garros versus Jannik Sinner. But the German made himself at home in more ways than one in Cologne, winning all eight of his matches to double his ATP Tour title count in Germany to four.

The 23-year-old is now a 13-time tour-level champion. “Being back in Germany is obviously amazing,” Zverev said. “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

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In both Cologne ATP 250s, Zverev saved his best tennis for the championship match.

Last Sunday, he cruised by Felix Auger-Aliassime. But his best performance from his two tournament victories came versus the red-hot Schwartzman.

Zverev played scintillating tennis, aggressively going after the ball to hit through the speedy Argentine. The German sometimes relies on his defensive skills to win matches, but he took it to the World No. 9 without hesitation, winning all seven of his service games en route to an impressive one-hour, 11-minute triumph.

“Today was a day when I felt like I could try things out on the court and a lot of things were working,” Zverev said. “I’m obviously very happy with how I played.”

Zverev fittingly ended the match with a forehand winner, earning 250 FedEx ATP Ranking points and €13,320 in prize money.

“It’s getting better,” Zverev said of his form during the trophy ceremony. “I think we’re going to be on top of the game very soon.” This is the third time Zverev has captured an ATP Tour title in back-to-back weeks. He also did so in August 2017 (Washington, Montreal) and May 2016 (Munich, Madrid).

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Nadal into semis, will face Diego Schwartzman in French Open

The 12-time champion at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal withstood an early challenge from 19-year-old Jannik Sinner and pulled away to gain their quarterfinal 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-1 in a match that ended at nearly 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in Paris on a windy night with the temperature in the low 50s.

Competition can continue that deep into the night this year because it’s the first time artificial lights are being used for play at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

“Of course, it’s not ideal [to] finish a match at 1:30 in the morning,” said Nadal, 34. “But the problem is the weather. It’s too cold to play. Honestly, it’s very, very cold to play tennis, no?”

He added that it was a “little bit dangerous for the body play with these very heavy conditions.”

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Their quarterfinal initiated after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. It was the last match of the day’s packed schedule at Court Philippe Chatrier, which went longer than anticipated thanks to No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman’s five-hour, five-set triumph over No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

“I really don’t know why they put five matches on Chatrier today,” Nadal said. “That was a risk.”

No. 2 Nadal will take a 9-1 head-to-head edge against Schwartzman into their match in Friday’s semifinals.

“Two days to practice, to rest a little bit and to recover, and just try to be ready,” Nadal said.

Schwartzman has this going for him: He won their most recent matchup, beating Nadal last month on clay at a tuneup in Rome.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to have a lot of confidence,” Schwartzman stated, “but, yeah, I know … that I can beat him. That’s important.”

Nadal is trying to win a 13th French Open title and 20th Grand Slam trophy overall, which would equal Roger Federer’s mark for men. Among the many statistics that stand out about Nadal’s track record in Paris: He is 98-2, which includes 24-0 in semifinals and finals.

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Murray out of US Open in straight sets defeat

The Canadian, 20, destroyed the double Olympic champion in ruthless style to win 6-2 6-3 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes.  

The No.15 seed hit 52 winners – versus only nine by Murray – and did not face a break point.  

It was a chastening loss for Murray, 33, in his first Grand Slam back with a metal hip. 

But the three-time Major winner, who was playing only his second event of the year, stated: “I would say even after tonight I’m more positive about what I could do in Grand Slams than I was before I came over here.  

“You guys obviously don’t know how I was feeling even just a couple of months ago.  “So to come over here and play, you know, I played a couple of tough matches in Cincinnati and I played certainly one very tough match here, and my right hip felt good. That’s really, really positive. 

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“There are other things that need to get better, but I would say that I’m more positive now than what I was a couple of months ago, that’s for sure. 

“In terms of winning Grand Slams again, that’s going to be extremely difficult to do.  

“It was hard enough when I had two normal hips. So it will be difficult, but I’ll keep trying, like, why not? Why shouldn’t I try my hardest to do that? And if I don’t, that’s all right. But I might as well shoot for the stars. And if I don’t get there, then that’s all right. But I’m trying my best to get the most out of what my body gives me now. 

“I’m ranked 115, 120 in the world and my game reflects that just now. So I’ll need to get better if I want to move up the rankings and be more competitive.” 

Murray defeated world No.7 Alex Zverev at the Western & Southern Open last week and came through an epic five-set victory over Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round. 

And he now plans to fly home before playing the French Open which begins on September 27.

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Serena wins, Venus falls in 1st round at US Open

Making quick work of an opponent for a change, Serena Williams wrapped up her 102nd career US Open match victory to break a tie with Chris Evert for the most in the professional era. Then Williams headed back out to the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands Tuesday night, her dog in tow.

Williams had a match to watch – her older sister’s, which did not work out as well. Serena Williams, who turns 39 this month, overpowered Kristie Ahn 7-5, 6-3. But Venus Williams, who is 40, lost in the US Open’s first round for the first time in 22 appearances, beaten 6-3, 7-5 by No. 20 Karolina Muchova.

It is the fourth time in the past five Grand Slam tournaments that Venus exited in her opening match.

“I just ran out of time today,” Venus stated. Venus, who won two of her seven major singles championships in New York, was trying to become only the third woman in her 40s to win a US Open singles match.

“We would have never thought we would still be out here, to be honest. I love my job. At the end of the day, I love what I do. I’ve always said, ‘You can’t do it forever’. One of these days, it’s going to end,” Serena said after delivering 13 aces and dropping only six points on her serve.

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She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in the professional era, which started in 1968; only Margaret Court collected more, with 24. Six of Serena’s trophies came at the US Open, and she also was the runner-up four times, including each of the past two years.

Entering Tuesday, Serena had been 3-2 since tennis matches resumed after a hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic – and all five went three sets. So Tuesday’s match was a welcome change. “It’s been years – since the ’90s – since I won a match in straight sets,” Serena joked.

“I’ve been playing a ton of tight matches. I felt like, all right, I just wanted to be ‘Serena-focused’ from the first point to the last point, no matter what happens,” she said.

Her career mark at the hard-court event is 102-13, a winning percentage of .887. “In a weird way, I feel like every time I come here, I’m being told I broke another record. It’s cool. I don’t think I appreciate it enough, which is unfortunate. But I’m in the middle of a Grand Slam, so it’s not the time to be focused for me on records when I’m thinking about winning a tournament,” Serena stated.

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