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.

Alex de Minaur Outlasts David Goffin to Reach Antalya Open Final

Alex de Minaur is hoping to start the year with a bang…

The 21-year-old Spanish & Uruguayan tennis player, who was born in Australia, will face No. 8 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan for the first time in Wednesday’s final at the Antalya Open in Turkey.

Alex de Minaur

It’s the Australian No.1’s chance to make it a perfect start to 2021, who is currently 4-0 this year.

It’s the eighth ATP Tour final for de Minaur, who outlasted No. 2 seed David Goffin of Belgium 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in one hour and 52 minutes on Tuesday. de Minaur won three singles titles, all in 2019.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I’d be under pressure when serving,” the tournament’s fourth seed de Minaur told the ATP’s official website.

“I had to reset and go back to my game plan and my strengths after I lost the second set. I won some tough rallies in the third set and that helped me out for sure.”

Bublik also went the distance, defeating France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in two hours and five minutes in the other semifinal. It’s the 23-year-old’s third ATP final and he’s seeking his first title.

It will be the first head-to-head meeting between Bublik and de Minaur.

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

Joan Nadal Vives, Rafael Nadal’s Teen Cousin, Makes Professional Tennis Debut

There’s a new Nadal taking the court… And his name is Joan Nadal Vives.

The 16-year-old tennis player, the son of Toni and cousin of Rafael Nadal, has made his debut as a professional player.

Joan Nadal Vives

Joan, a left-handed player like his cousin Rafa, is one of Rafa’s uncle Toni’s two sons.

In his first professional tennis match, Joan lost 6-1, 6-3 to Turkey’s Kuzey Cekirge, who is ranked no. 1312, in the first round of a tournament ITF held in Manacor.

Joan’s registration into the Manacor event happened thanks to a wildcard. In his career as a junior, Joan had good results, but it must be remembered that Rafa, at 16, was very close to the top-200 in the ATP rankings, while 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, his countryman, is currently very close to entering the Top-100.

Joan has an older brother who is 17 years old, named Toni, like his father, who also plays tennis. Twenty years after his cousin Rafa did it in an F10 held in Madrid, Joan surely will never forget the day of his debut as a professional tennis player.

Curiously, Rafael Nadal started his professional career with a defeat against Spanish player Guillermo Platel in straight sets.

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.

Rafael Nadal Claims ATP’s Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for Third Straight Year

Rafael Nadal is true sportsman…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star has been named one of the winners of the ATP‘s top awards for 2020.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal received the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for the third year straight and fourth time overall after winning a 13th Roland Garros crown.

But he isn’t the only Latino to earn an award…

Bruno Soares and his partner Mate Pavic were named the No. 1 doubles team.

The 38-year-old Brazilian tennis player and Pavic were the champions at this year’s US Open.

Carlos Alcaraz was the Newcomer of the Year.

The 17-year-old Spanish tennis player won the award after claiming three Challengers titles.

Novak Djokovic was the year-end No. 1 for a record-equaling sixth time after winning four titles including a record eighth Australian Open.

Roger Federer, who played only six singles all year, was the singles fans’ favorite for a record-extending 18th straight year, and Andrey Rublev of Russia was the most improved in rising from No. 23 to a career-high 8 after winning five titles, more than anyone else on the tour.

Frances Tiafoe was given the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his social activism. The American auctioned signed memorabilia to Athletes for COVID-19 Relief and posted a video that united the Black tennis community in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing.

Vasek Pospisil is the Comeback Player of the Year after undergoing back surgery in 2019. The Canadian reached two finals and rose to No. 61 after dropping to No. 150 in 2019.

Rafael Nadal Wins Opening Group Match at ATP Finals

Rafael Nadal has started his ATP Finals experience on a winning note…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star made easy work of Andrey Rublev in Sunday’s late match, beating the Russian 6-3, 6-4 in just 1 hour, 17 minutes inside a largely empty O2 Arena.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal is hoping to cap off a season in which he earned his record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title and 1,000th match win on tour by capturing his first-ever trophy at the ATP Finals. He has qualified for the season-ending event for a record 16 straight years, but has lost in the final twice and missed six editions because of injuries.

Nadal steered the evening match in his direction from the start, losing just five points on his serve in the first set. He broke for a 4-2 lead when Rublev sent a shot long, and the Russian then slammed his racket into the ground in frustration.

Rublev entered the tournament as one of the hottest players on tour, having won five titles this season, but looked unsettled against Nadal and continuously gesticulated and shouted to himself between points.

Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set as well and never faced a break point of his own. He served out the win on his second match point when Rublev’s return sailed long.

This is the 12th and last year that the ATP Finals is played at the 02 Arena before moving to Turin, Italy, next year. Because of the coronavirus pandemic there are no fans inside the 20,000-capacity venue this time — meaning the normally raucous atmosphere has been replaced by an eerie silence interrupted only by muted applause from the players’ boxes between points.

There are also no line judges, as the tournament is using electronic line calling for the first time. The system means players can no longer challenge whether a ball was in or out as those calls get made automatically. However, they can request a video review for other disputed situations, such as double bounces.

Diego Schwartzman to Face Novak Djokovic in First Group Stage Match at Maiden ATP Finals

Diego Schwartzman is preparing for the big dance…

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tennis player, who clinched the final spot at the prestigious season-ending ATP Finals, will play ATP Tour World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in his first group stage match.

Diego Schwartzman

Schwartzman, competing in his first-ever ATP Finals, will be the first Argentine player to compete at the tournament since Juan Martin del Potro in 2013.

Schwartzman is the eighth singles player from Argentina to feature in the 50-year history of the tournament, following in the footsteps of 1974 titlist Guillermo Vilas (1974-77, ’79-82), Jose-Luis Clerc (1980-83), Guillermo Coria (2003-05), 2005 champion David Nalbandian (2003, ’05-06), Gaston Gaudio (2004-05), Mariano Puerta (2005) and 2009 runner-up del Potro (2008-09, ’12-13).

Schwartzman joins fellow debutant Andrey Rublev of Russia, alongside former qualifiers  Djokovic of Serbia, Spain’s Rafael NadalDominic Thiem of Austria, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the 2020 singles field.

There will be four players aged 24 and under at the ATP Finals for the second straight year. The last time this happened in back-to-back years was in 2008-09.

Schwartzman broke into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time at No. 8 on 12 October after a run to his first Grand Slam championship semi-final at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). A few weeks earlier, the Buenos Aires resident beat  Nadal en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (l. to Djokovic).

As the first Argentine in the Top 10 since del Potro in May 2019, Schwartzman also finished runner-up at two ATP 250 events in a reduced 2020 season — at the Cordoba Open (l. to Garin) in February and at the bett1HULKS Championship runner-up in Cologne (l. to Zverev) in October.

At 5’7”, Schwartzman is the shortest player in the Top 10 since 5’6″ Harold Solomon, whose last week in the Top 10 began on 27 July 1981.

Rafael Nadal to Face Pablo Carreno Busta in His Return to ATP Tour at the Italian Open

Rafael Nadal is heading back to competitive tennis play…

The 34-year-old tennis star will make his return to the ATP Tour against US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta at the Italian Open in Rome.

Rafael Nadal

In his first appearance since the ATP Tour suspension in March, the nine-time titlist will need to be at the top of his game when he meets his countryman for the sixth time in their head-to-head series (Nadal leads 5-0).

Carreno Busta has made a strong return to the ATP Tour, reaching his second US Open semi-final earlier this week. The Spaniard also lifted his maiden doubles trophy at the Western & Southern Open last month.

Nadal and Carreno Busta most recently met in the third round of this year’s Australian Open, with Nadal winning in straight sets. If he gets past Carreno Busta, he could meet Western & Southern Open finalist Milos Raonic in the third round. Nadal shares the bottom quarter of the draw with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and US Open quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev.

The five-time year-end World No. 1 enters Rome with a 13-3 record this year. At his most recent event in February, Nadal did not drop a set en route to his 85th tour-level trophy at the Acapulco Open in Mexico.

Chasing his 10th title at the Foro Italico, the Spaniard will look to add to his 61-6 record at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Nadal is currently on a 10-match winning streak in Rome, having won the past two editions of the tournament. The 35-time ATP Masters 1000 winner won three-set battles against Alexander Zverev in the 2018 championship match and Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.

If Nadal triumphs for the third straight year in Rome, he will capture a 10th trophy at a single event for the fourth time in his career. He owns 12 French Open trophies and has won 11 crowns at both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona OpenRoger Federer is the only other player to have reached double digits at a single ATP Tour event in the Open Era. He owns 10 trophies at the Noventi Open in Halle and the Swiss Indoors Basel.

Bruno Soares Wins Men’s Doubles Title at US Open with New Partner Mate Pavic

Bruno Soares is back in the winner’s circle at Flushing Meadows.

The 38-year-old Brazilian tennis player and Mate Pavic won their first Grand Slam championship as a team on Thursday, beating Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic 7-5, 6-3 to take home the US Open trophy.

Bruno Soares & Mate Pavic

“It means a lot. That’s what we practice for. That’s what we were trying to do in these five months off, working for this moment,” Soares said on court after the match. “Extremely happy. Tough year for everyone. Really glad the work that everyone put into this event to give us the opportunity to get back on the court. To start with a Grand Slam title, I think it’s a very positive way to come back for us.”

Pavic and Soares lost in the first round of the Western & Southern Open, the first tournament since the ATP Tour resumed. But they battled past four former US Open champions en route to earning the title at the same venue, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Both men had previously captured Grand Slam glory, with Soares winning the 2016 Australian Open and US Open with Jamie Murray, while Pavic triumphed at the 2018 Australian Open with Oliver Marach.

This is their second tour-level victory together after winning last year’s Shanghai Masters.

Pavic and Soares were both the more dynamic and solid team inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Pavic wreaked havoc with his big serve and flashy shotmaking, while Soares made few mistakes and forced their opponents to hit difficult shots.