Alex de Minaur Wins First Title of 2021 at Turkey’s Antalya Open

Alex de Minaur is celebrating his first title of 2021…

The 21-year-old Australian-born Spanish & Uruguayan tennis player was leading Alexander Bublik 2-0 at the Antalya Open in Turkey in Wednesday’s final when the Kazakh player retired injured just seven minutes into the match.

Alex de Minaur

It’s de Minaur’s fourth career ATP title.

The Australian No. 1, ranked No. 23 in the world, dropped only one set for the week in a promising build-up to next month’s rescheduled Australian Open in Melbourne.

“I mean, it’s massive. At the start of the year that’s what you need,” de Minaur said after following up his semifinal win over second-seeded world No. 16 David Goffin in a somewhat anticlimactic title decider.

“Look, you never know what was going to happen. I knew I had put in a great pre-season, I was ready to compete.

“I just think I gave myself the best possible chance to go deep into this tournament and I’m happy how it finished.

“I got four matches — and today — so very happy with my level and I had some quality wins.”

de Minaur missed his home grand slam last year in shattering fashion, an abdominal strain forcing him out of the Open following an heroic ATP Cup campaign for Australia.

“It was a bittersweet moment last year so hopefully a year later I can come back stronger and hopefully have a great Aussie summer.

“I’m really looking forward to going back home and playing in front of a home crowd, that’s for sure.”

His stomach injury aside, the COVID-19 pandemic further stalled his progression last year, following a breakout three-title season in 2019, placing the Davis Cup star in long-time lockdown at his base in Spain.

But the fleet-footed baseliner, now the youngest player in the world’s top 25, came back with a vengeance when the Tour resumed.

de Minaur made a career-best charge to the US Open quarterfinals, upstaging a succession of heavy hitters en route to the last eight, then reached the final in Antwerp to finish ahead of Nick Kyrgios as Australia’s season-ending No. 1 for the second straight year.

Rafael Nadal to Lead Spanish Team at Next Month’s ATP Cup

Rafael Nadal is headed back to the court next month…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star is set to return for the ATP Cup, the season-opening men’s team tennis event, starting February 1, but the United States will be missing because of a change in format that has halved the field.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, last year’s runner-up, will be joined in the tournament by last year’s ATP Cup champion Novak Djokovic. His Spanish team includes Roberto Bautista Agut, Marcel Granollers and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Horacio Zeballos and Maximo Gonzalez will represent Argentina in this year’s tournament, while Alex de Minaur will play for Australia and Steven Diez will represent Canada.

The inaugural event last year featured 24 teams and was played in three Australian cities, with Djokovic’s Serbia team beating Nadal and Spain in the final at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena.

The February 1-5 second edition will involve 12 teams and be played entirely at Melbourne Park amid COVID-19 restrictions, along with WTA and ATP tournaments, in the week leading into the Australian Open.

The draw will be held on January 20, with teams divided into four groups. The winner of each round-robin group will advance to the semifinals.

Qualification for the ATP Cup was based on the ranking of each country’s top player, with Australia included on a wild-card entry. Other competing countries include Austria, Russia, Greece, Germany, Argentina, Italy, Japan, France and Canada.

All players arriving in Melbourne for the Australian Open will be required to quarantine for 14 days before the delayed start of the season’s first major. The Australian Open is usually staged in the last two weeks of January, but it has been pushed back to February 8-21 because of travel and other restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying for the men’s singles draw will take place in Doha, Qatar, and for the women’s in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, both running January 10-13.

As with other sports, the international tennis calendar was disrupted in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, including the postponement of the French Open‘s start from May to September, and the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since World War II.

Cristian Garin Defeats Diego Schwartzman to Win Cordoba Open

Cristian Garinis celebrating his first title of the year…

The 23-year-old Chilean tennis player won the third ATP Tour title of his career on Sunday, coming back from a set down for the third consecutive match to beat top seed Diego Schwartzman 2-6, 6-4, 6-0 in central Argentina’s Cordoba Open.

Cristian Garin

After a slow start, Garin overpowered the home favorite, stepping into the court to put the Argentine on the defense and leave him gasping for air.

The home crowd tried to will their man to his first title on home soil, but Garin played fearlessly in the second and third sets, hitting lines and never backing down against the 27-year-old Buenos Aires native.

“Argentina is like my second home… I did not expect to win and I am very happy of course,” said Garin. “I’ve won three tournaments in 11 months, its quite a cool thing.”

Garin improved to 3-1 in ATP Tour finals, all of which have come in the past 12 months. The Chilean was off to a dismal start in 2020 before Cordoba, going 0-3 at the ATP Cupand falling in the second round of the Australian Open(l. to Raonic).

But Garin ended 2019 as one of the premier clay-court players on the ATP Tour and has started 2020 the exact same way.

“I always thought I could turn the match and win,” said Garin. “That’s how it has been all week for me and it’s what I value most. I think I’m having my best moment but I have a lot to improve.”

He will receive 250 ATP Rankings points and $91,625 in prize money. Schwartzman, who fell to 3-5 in ATP Tour finals, will take home $50,710 in prize money and 150 ATP Rankings points.

Roberto Bautista Agut Helps Lead Spain into ATP Cup Quarterfinals

Roberto Bautista Agut’s (ATP) cup runneth over…

The 31-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated Japan’s Go Soeda 6-2, 6-4 to help Spain advance to the quarterfinals of the ATP Cup on Wednesday at Perth Arena.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Spain, which won the Davis Cup in Madrid last year with a victory over Canada, is still in the hunt for its second international team victory in seven weeks.

Japan needed to beat Spain 3-0 in order for the Rafael Nadal-led team not to advance to the Final Eight, beginning Thursday in Sydney. Nadal later had a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over 72nd-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka.

“I always enjoy sharing important moments with friends, and we had a lot of success during our entire careers playing for our country in Davis Cup,” Nadal said. “So for us it’s a good start, to be able to be qualified for Sydney already. The conditions will be different, and a three-hour time [difference]. There’s a lot of things we need to adjust to, and the period of time to make it happen is very short.”

The quarterfinal lineup has Australia playing Britain and Argentina taking on Russia on Thursday. On Friday, Serbia plays Canada and Belgium takes on Spain, all at Ken Rosewall Arena at Sydney Olympic Park.

The semifinals are set for Saturday and the final on Sunday.

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.

Rafael Nadal to Compete at the ATP Cup in January

Rafael Nadalwill be spending the New Year Down Under

The ATP says all top 10 ranked players, including the 33-year-old Spanish tennis star and recent US Open championNovak Djokovic and Roger Federer, have committed to play in the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia in January.

Rafael Nadal

The organization said the top 18 ranked countries and Australia, as the host-country wild card, will be among the qualifiers for the tournament to be held in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from January 3-12. Serbia leads the current rankings, with Spain second, Switzerland third and Russia fourth.

The ATP said the top two players for each country have committed to play, subject to change based on the ATP Rankings at the second entry deadline on November 13, when remaining team members — up to an additional three players — will qualify.

Five additional countries also will qualify to compete at the 24-country tournament based on the ranking of their No. 1 singles player.

Countries will be drawn into one of six groups Monday when the official draw is held at the Sydney Opera House.

The group stages of the ATP Cup will be hosted in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney over six days. Eight countries will then play at the ATP Cup Final Eightin Sydney that will feature quarterfinals over two days, semifinals and a final. Each match will be two singles and one doubles.