Carlos Alcaraz Among ESPN’s ’21 Under 21′ Tennis Players to Watch in 2021

Carlos Alcaraz is among the phenoms to watch this year…

ESPN has announced tennis’ 21 under 21 for 2021, with the 17-year-old Spanish tennis player among the sport’s rising stars making the grade.

Carlos Alcaraz

Despite the circumstances of the 2020 season, Alcaraz managed to move up 350 spots the rankings by year’s end, moving from No. 491 to No. 141, even reaching a career-high of No. 136 in October.

He started the year with back-to-back titles on the ITF Futures tour and was granted a wild card into the Rio Open in February. And the then-16-year-old made the most of his ATP Tour level debut, upsetting former World No. 17 Albert Ramos-Viñolas in 3 hours, 36 minutes in the opening round to become the first player born in 2003 to win a match and the youngest match winner since 2013. Alcaraz called the victory the high point of his season.

Following the restart of the season in August, Alcaraz went 20-4 in ATP Challenger events and won three titles at Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante, as well as playing in the final at Cordenons. He was named the ATP‘s Newcomer of the Year and is the youngest player in the top 600.

But Alcaraz, who idolizes fellow countryman Rafael Nadal, has even bigger goals for 2021. He hopes to make his first main draw appearance at a major in Australia in February and then play in all of the Grand Slams. As for his ranking? He’s hoping to make another big push in the new year.

“I want to finish the year in the top 50,” he said.

But Alcaraz isn’t the only Latinx tennis player to make the list…

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez completed her high school studies in the spring during the tour stoppage.

The 18-year-old half-Ecuadorian tennis player made her major main draw debut at the Australian Open in January — just a year removed from winning the junior title — but it was what she did in the weeks following the event that raised tennis fans’ eyebrows.

After losing in the first round in Melbourne, Fernandez scored her first win over a top-10 player (Belinda Bencic) while representing Canada in the Fed Cup (now known as the Billie Jean King Cup) in Switzerland. Later that month, she won six matches in seven days as a wild card qualifier in the Mexican Open, rolling into the final, where she ultimately lost to Heather Watson. The following week, she advanced to the quarterfinals at the Monterrey Open, defeating 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the second round.

Fernandez made a second-round appearance at the US Open and advanced to the third round of the French Open, where she took a 5-1 first-set lead over Petra Kvitova before the two-time major champion came back to win.

Fernandez thinks her 2021 will be even more successful. Her plan is to reach the top 10 by the end of the year.

Thiago Seyboth Wild wasn’t exactly the favorite entering the Chile Open last February after cracking the top 200 for the first time. But having notched one of the biggest wins of his career the week prior at the Rio Open in 3 hours, 49 minutes — the longest match ever in tournament history — over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and taking World No. 32 Borna Ćorić to three sets the next round, the then-19-year old Brazilian tennis player was flying high entering the event.

What he did over the course of the week in Santiago was even more impressive.

Seyboth Wild knocked off three seeds en route to the title, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to win an ATP event and the youngest Brazilian champion in the Open era.

He found mixed results after the restart, losing in the first round of the US Open and not making it past qualifying at the French Open. But he made a finals appearance at a Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence, which lifted him to a career-high No. 106 in the rankings.

Seyboth Wild hopes to build off what he achieved in 2020 in the new year, although he says he focused more on some of the small things during the preseason.

Here’s the complete list in alphabetical order:

Carlos Alcaraz
Age: 17
Ranking: 141
Country: Spain
Career highlights: Winner of three ATP Challenger titles and three ITF Futures titles; Won his ATP main draw debut at the 2020 Rio Open

Bianca Andreescu
Age: 20
Ranking: 7
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Champion, 2019 US Open, 2019 Indian Wells and 2019 Canadian Open

Amanda Anisimova
Age: 19
Ranking: 30
Country: USA
Career highlights: Semifinals, 2019 French Open; Champion, 2019 Copa Colsanitas

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Age: 20
Ranking: 21 (77 in doubles)
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 US Open; Six-time ATP finalist; Doubles champion, 2020 Paris Masters 

Leylah Fernandez
Age: 18
Ranking: 88
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 French Open; Finalist, 2020 Mexican Open

Hugo Gaston
Age: 20
Ranking: 162
Country: France
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 French Open

Coco Gauff
Age: 16
Ranking: 48 (45 in doubles)
Country: USA
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2019 Wimbledon and 2020 Australian Open; Doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Australian Open; Champion, 2019 Linz Open; Doubles champion, 2019 Washington Open and 2019 Luxembourg Open

Varvara Gracheva
Age: 20
Ranking: 94
Country: Russia
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Seven ITF titles 

Kaja Juvan
Age: 20
Ranking: 104
Country: Slovenia
Career highlights: Second round, 2019 Wimbledon, 2020 US Open, 2020 French Open; Seven ITF titles 

Sebastian Korda
Age: 20
Ranking: 118
Country: USA
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 French Open; One title on ATP Challenger Tour 

Marta Kostyuk
Age: 18
Ranking: 99 (112 in doubles)
Country: Ukraine
Career highlights: Third round, 2018 Australian Open, 2020 US Open; Three ITF singles titles, two ITF doubles titles 

Ann Li
Age: 20
Ranking: 98
Country: USA
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Three ITF titles 

Caty McNally
Age: 19
Ranking: 121 (42 in doubles)
Country: USA
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Australian Open; Doubles champion, 2019 Washington Open and 2019 Luxembourg Open 

Lorenzo Musetti
Age: 18
Ranking: 128
Country: Italy
Career highlights: Semifinals, 2020 Sardinia; Third round, 2020 Italian Open; One ATP Challenger title and two ITF Futures titles 

Brandon Nakashima
Age: 19
Ranking: 166
Country: USA
Career highlights: Second round, 2020 US Open; One ATP Challenger title and two ITF Futures titles 

Anastasia Potapova
Age: 19
Ranking: 101 (133 in doubles)
Country: Russia
Career highlights: Second round, 2019 Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon; Finalist, 2018 Moscow River Cup, 2018 Tashkent Open; Doubles champion, 2018 Moscow River Cup, 2019 Lausanne

Thiago Seyboth Wild
Age: 20
Ranking: 116
Country: Brazil
Career highlights: First round, 2020 US Open; Champion, 2020 Chile Open

Jannik Sinner
Age: 19
Ranking: 37
Country: Italy
Career highlights: Quarterfinals, 2020 French Open; Champion, 2020 Sofia Open, 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals 

Iga Swiatek
Age: 19
Ranking: 17 (75 in doubles)
Country: Poland
Career highlights: Champion, 2020 French Open 

Clara Tauson
Age: 18
Ranking: 152
Country: Denmark
Career highlights: Second round, 2020 French Open; Seven ITF titles 

Dayana Yastremska
Age: 20
Ranking: 29 (90 in doubles)
Country: Ukraine
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2019 Wimbledon; Champion, 2018 Hong Kong, 2019 Hua Hin, 2019 Strasbourg

Rafael Nadal’s ATP Cup Mural Unveiled in Perth

Rafael Nadal’s face has found a special home Down Under

The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, is one of the players being honored with a special mural in Perth, Australia.

Rafael Nadal Mural

The inaugural ATP Cupis set to take place between January 3-12 in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, bringing together some of the world’s leading players in both singles and doubles from 24 countries. 

Weeks before the start of the action, Nodal got his mural in Perth together with Kei Nishikori and other stars, with the organizers welcoming the 19-time Grand Slam champion.

Nadal is among those who’ll fight for the crown together with his teammates, fresh after conquering the first edition of the Davis Cup Finalsin Madrid.

Spain is the favorite to reach the quarters from Group B, battling against Japan, Uruguay and Georgia at RAC Arena in Perth and hoping to continue the competition in Sydney where eight strongest teams continue the quest for the title in the second stage of the event.

Backed by Roberto Bautista AugtPablo Carreno BustaAlbert Ramos-Vinolas and Feliciano Lopez, Nadal is eager to lead Spain towards another team competition crown, shining in front of the home fans in Madrid with eight victories from as many rubbers and delivering the sixth Davis Cup title for Spain.

In what was a wild race towards the finish line, Nadal and Djokovic fought for the year-end no. 1 spot for almost the entire season, with the Spaniard making the deciding move in Montreal and the US Open and keeping the lead in the ATP Raceuntil the ATP Finalswhere they both lost in the round-robin stage.

Rafa and Novak will continue their rivalry at the ATP Cup, joined by Gael MonfilsKei NishikoriDavid GoffinAndy Murray, Grigor DimitrovAlexander ZverevDenis ShapovalovFelix Auger-AliassimeNick KyrgiosAlex de MinaurDaniil MedvedevKaren KhachanovJohn IsnerMatteo BerrettiniFabio FogniniDominic Thiem, Diego Schwartzmanand others.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas Defeats Cedrik-Marcel Stebe to Win His Second Career ATP Title at the Swiss Open

It’s title No. 2 for Albert Ramos-Vinolas

The 31-year-old Spanish tennis professional handily defeated Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday to win his second career ATP Tour title 6-3, 6-2 at the Swiss Open Gstaad.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Ramos-Vinolastracked down everything and was more than happy to stay in rallies with Stebe, who was playing in his first ATP Tour final after winning two matches on Saturday because of earlier rain delay.

“I feel great. After a long time waiting for this moment again, I’m really happy. I think I did a great match today, also a great tournament. So I think my game was perfect… and I will never forget Gstaad,” said Ramos-Vinolas, who won his first ATP Tour title at Bastadin 2016.

The two had to wait about four and a half hours to take the court for the final because of rain, and Stebe broke to start. The German, No. 455 in the ATP rankings, was looking to become the second lowest-ranked tour-level titlist.

But Ramos-Vinolas quickly settled down, breaking twice in the opener, including for 4-2 when Stebe sailed a forehand wide to finish an 11-point game.

The Spaniard broke twice more in the second set, including in the opening game when he tracked down a drop shot and delivered a backhand winner on the slide. 

Ramos-Vinolas didn’t drop a set all tournament.

“The conditions were tough today. Albert was rock solid as he was all week. He deserves to win,” Stebe said. “It was an amazing week for me here in Gstaad, I played very good tennis. Of course, it wasn’t easy to play two matches yesterday. I gave everything today, but it wasn’t enough. That’s tennis.”

Ramos-Vinolas, who reached a career-high ATP ranking of No. 17 in May 2017, improved to 2-6 in ATP Tour finals and will receive 250 ATP rankings points and €90,390 in prize money.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas Reaches Swiss Open Final

Albert Ramos-Vinolasis one win away from his first title of the season…

The 31-year-old Spanish tennis player has reached his first ATP Tour final of the season at the Swiss Open Gstaad on Saturday with a 7-6(3), 6-4 victory against 2014 champion Pablo Andujar.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas

“I’m really happy,” Ramos-Vinolas said. “I have a chance to play another final tomorrow here in Gstaad. I love this tournament, I feel great. I’m really happy and I’m ready to give my 200 percent.”

Ramos-Vinolas has won all eight of his sets this week, defeating three of the ATP 250tournament’s seeds. 

Entering the semifinals, Ramos-Vinolas had only emerged victorious in one of seven previous head to head meetings against Andujar, but Ramos-Vinolas claimed 43 percent of his first-serve return points en route to victory in one hour and 54 minutes.

Ramos-Vinolasis into his first tour-level final since Quito last year. Ramos-Vinolas has made six championship matches, with his lone ATP Tourtitle coming at Båstad in 2016.

The former World No. 17 was broken first in the match, giving Andujar a 5-3 lead after Ramos-Vinolas couldn’t stave off a sixth break point of the game. But he broke back immediately, and stormed to a 4/0 lead in the first-set tie-break, never looking back from there. 

There was a rain delay with two points remaining in the match, but Ramos-Vinolas won two points upon the resumption to go through.

“It’s never easy, but I felt good,” Ramos-Vinolas said. “I won a little bit of a lucky point the last point before we stopped… it was difficult for me, but I thought it was more difficult for him.”

Nadal Makes History with 10th Title at the Monte Carlo Masters

It’s a perfect and historic 10 for Rafael Nadal

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star easily defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 in an all-Spanish final at the Monte Carlo Masters to become the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, who showed Sunday he’s likely the best ever on clay, won his 50th career title on his favored surface, moving him one clear of Argentine Guillermo Vilas.

The next big challenge for Nadal will be winning a 10th French Open title. The last of his 14 Grand Slams was three years ago in Roland Garros.

“I want,” Nadal said after Sunday’s game, a smile breaking across his face. “I really want it, too.”

It was Nadal’s 70th career title but his first of the season, having lost his previous three finals — two of those to Roger Federer.

The only final Nadal has lost at Monte Carlo was to Novak Djokovic in 2013.

“Winning 10 times in such an important event like Monte Carlo is something difficult to describe,” Nadal said. “My serve worked great. I have been hitting very well on backhand during the whole week. The forehand is better and better every day.”

Ramos-Vinolas wasn’t a threat to the defending champion.

Appearing in his first Masters final, the 15th-seeded Ramos-Vinolas saved three break points in his first service game and was 0-40 down in his next. Nadal served out the set in 30 minutes with an ace.

“He was a little bit better in everything. When he’s a little bit better in everything, the difference is what we saw,” Ramos-Vinolas said. “Last time I played against him, I felt that on [his serve] it was my chance to put some pressure. But today I felt that he was serving so good.”

Nadal’s 29th Masters title moves him one behind Djokovic’s record. He will also have his sights set on a 10th title in Barcelona next week — Nadal’s previous career title was there, almost one year ago.

Since then, Federer has beaten him in finals at the Australian Open and the Miami Masters, on either side of Nadal’s loss to big-serving American Sam Querrey in the final at Acapulco, Mexico. Federer also beat Nadal in the fourth round at Indian Wells.

“[This title] arrives in just the right moment, I believe,” Nadal said. “Winning here is an important step forward for me.”

Nadal’s 70 titles are three better than Djokovic, who is a year younger. Nadal is fifth on the all-time list, but seven behind John McEnroe. Further ahead, the 35-year-old Federer has 91; Ivan Lendl 94 and Jimmy Connors is a long way away with 109.

Nadal Beats David Goffin to Reach Monte Carlo Masters Final

Rafael Nadal is one step closer to a perfect 10…

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star and defending champion beat David Goffin 6-3, 6-1 to move within one more win of a 10th Monte Carlo Masters title on Saturday.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal will play 15th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas in an all-Spanish final after the latter beat Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

The 10th-seeded Goffin had early momentum, but it was halted by a controversial decision by chair umpire Cedric Mourier in the sixth game. Goffin was asked to replay a point after holding his serve for what would have been a 4-2 lead.

After being taken to deuce three times, Goffin finally held — or so he thought — when Nadal hit a return long. However, Mourier overruled the line judge and called it in, meaning the point had to be replayed.

Goffin could not believe it, nor could the crowd, who jeered loudly. Video replays showed it was out, but with no Hawkeye technology used on clay, the Belgian player could not challenge the call.

“All of a sudden you have a mistake like the chair umpire did, it’s really tough,” Goffin said. “When you have a mistake like this, you have to give more energy again to come back into the game. It was maybe too much.”

Goffin was incensed at what he basically called an improvised decision by Mourier to point at a mark that didn’t correspond.

“He just showed me something, I don’t know what,” Goffin said. “I saw on his face that he was nervous, he wasn’t sure.”

Goffin continued to complain to Mourier after the set. Nadal went off court for a break, and jeers filled the air when he came back on — a rarity considering he is a crowd favorite here.

After winning the second set, Nadal’s celebration was muted, and he sympathetically hugged Goffin at the net. Nadal shook Mourier’s hand, but Goffin did not and walked straight past him to pick up his bags.

“I have nothing against Cedric, he’s a very nice guy,” Goffin said. “But he makes mistakes.”

Nadal is through to his fourth final of the season. He lost the other three, two of them to Roger Federer.

The other finalist, Ramos-Vinolas, has lost his two previous matches against Nadal, has reached his first Masters final, and won only one title. Nadal is bidding for his 70th.

Ramos-Vinolas took the first set from Pouille when he broke the 11th-seeded Frenchman to love, concluding with a smash at the net.

Pouille played his best tennis in the second set, but he seemed to struggle physically in the deciding set as, trailing 3-0, he needed treatment to his lower back and hip during a changeover.

Ramos-Viñolas Defeats Lucas Pouille to Reach Monte Carlo Masters Final

Albert Ramos-Viñolas continues his Cinderella run in Monte Carlo…

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis player beat Lucas Pouille 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 on Saturday to reach the clay-court Monte Carlo Masters final.

Albert Ramos-Viñolas

With the sun shining and warm temperatures, the conditions were perfect for clay-court tennis on the idyllic center court perched above the glittering Mediterranean Sea.

Ramos- Viñolas took the first set when he broke the 11th-seeded Frenchman to love, concluding with a smash at the net.

Pouille missed a chance to break in the ninth game of the second set, meaning he was serving to stay in the match. After holding easily with a neat volley at the net, Pouille got the crowd going and then played his best tennis of the match.

He broke Ramos- Viñolas in the next game when the Spaniard hit a forehand long, and Pouille leveled the match on his own serve.

But he seemed to be struggling physically in the deciding set.

At 3-0 down, Pouille needed treatment to his lower back and hips for about four minutes during the changeover.

His power went after that and the inevitable conclusion happened when Pouille dropped his serve again in the seventh game.

It’s Ramos- Viñolas’ first time reaching a Masters 1000 final and has only one career title to his name.

Ramos- Viñolas, the 15th-seed, will play either defending champion Rafael Nadal or 10th-seeded David Goffin of Belgium in the final.

Cuevas Makes History by Claiming Third Straight Brasil Open Title

It’s a three-peat for Pablo Cuevas.

The 31-year-old Argentine-born Uruguayan tennis player beat Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-7 (7-3), 6-4, 6-4, in a rain-affected final to make history by claiming his third straight Brasil Open title.

Pablo Cuevas

The match was postponed on Sunday night when heavy rain forced players off the court with Ramos-Vinolas leading Cuevas 7-6 (3), 3-3.

Play finally resumed on Monday night after almost 24 hours of constant rain at the outdoor clay court venue here.

Cuevas took control immediately after the restart before wrapping up the match.

It was Cuevas’ sixth ATP singles title, all of which have been on clay.

Cuevas Gunning for Record Third Consecutive Brasil Open Title

Pablo Cuevas is gunning for a three-peat

The 31-year-old Argentine-born Uruguayan tennis player will go for a record third consecutive Brasil Open title on Sunday.

Pablo Cuevas

Cuevas dismissed top seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 7-6(2) on Saturday in Sao Paulo to give himself a chance for the three-peat.

The third-seed won 82 percent of his first-serve points and feasted on Carreno Busta’s second serves, taking 70 percent of those points.

Since the first edition of the Brasil Open, in 2001, no player has won back-to-back-to-back titles at the ATP World Tour 250 tournament.

Spaniard Nicolas Almagro won back-to-back crowns in 2011-2012 but fell in the quarter-finals to David Nalbandian in 2013.

Cuevas has avoided such slip-ups this week.

He’ll try to win his sixth career ATP World Tour title – all on clay – against second seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Cuevas leads their head-to-head series 3-1. The Spaniard erased a match point on Saturday against Portuguese Joao Sousa to win his semifinal 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-2 on the red clay.

Sousa had the match on his racquet, serving at 5-4 in the second set. The fourth seed fell behind 0/40 but crawled back into the game and led at ad-in. But Ramos-Vinolas erased the match point with a sharp forehand up the line that Sousa netted.

The Spaniard would earn the break and take the final nine of 11 games to claim the three-hour and three-minute semi-final.

Ramos-Vinolas last played in an ATP World Tour title match in October at the Chengdu Open in China (l. to Khachanov). He’ll be going for his second ATP World Tour crown after taking his maiden title last July on clay at the Swedish Open in Bastad (d. Fernando Verdasco).

Ramos-Vinolas Claims First-Ever ATP Title at the Swedish Open

Albert Ramos-Vinolas will always remember Sweden…

The 28-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated countryman Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-4 in the Swedish Open final to win his first ATP World Tour singles title.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Ramos-Vinolas, seeded No. 3 in the tournament, triumphed in 86 minutes to end a three-match losing streak against fifth-seed Verdasco and lift the winners’ trophy, which was presented to him by former world No 1 Bjorn Borg.

Ramos-Vinolas, ranked No. 35 in the world, never looked back after racing to a 4-1 lead in the opening set courtesy of breaks in the third and fifth games. Despite dropping serve in the sixth, he broke Verdasco again to take it 6-3.

Verdasco squandered three break points in the second set before being broken for a fourth time to trail 5-3 and although Ramos-Vinolas dropped his serve in the next game, he broke again to seal the set 6-4 and take the title.

Ramos-Vinolas is expected to compete in singles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.