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.

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 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 Routs Novak Djokovic to Win French Open for Record-Tying 20th Men’s Grand Slam Title

Rafael Nadal has lived to slay on clay another day…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star produced a nearly flawless performance against World. No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the French Open final on Sunday to tie Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles.

Rafael Nadal

 

Nadal equaled long-time rival Federer for the most major singles tennis championships won by a man and added to his own record at Roland Garros with No. 13 on the red clay, courtesy of a surprisingly dominant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Djokovic.

“What you are doing in this court is unbelievable. Not just this court — throughout your entire career, you’ve been a great champion,” Djokovic told Nadal during the trophy presentation. “Today you showed why you are King of the Clay.”

Rafael NadalWhen Nadal ended it with an ace, he dropped to his knees, smiled widely and pumped his arms. It’s the fourth time he has won his favorite tournament without ceding a set.

“The love story that I have with this city, and with this court, is unforgettable,” Nadal said.

He deflected a question during the on-court post-match interview about catching Federer, saying his focus remained squarely on the French Open.

“[To] win here means everything to me, no? It’s not the moment, honestly … [to] think today about the 20th,” Nadal said. “Roland Garros means everything to me. I spent, here, the most important moments — or most of the most important moments — in my tennis career, no doubt about that.”

Nadal, No. 2 in the rankings, improved to 100-2 at the French Open, including a combined 26-0 in semifinals and finals, and picked up his fourth consecutive title in Paris. He previously put together streaks of four French Open championships from 2005 to ’08, then five in a row from 2010 to ’14, to go alongside his four trophies at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.

Nadal is now even with Federer for the first time since each man had zero Slams to his name in 2003. Federer’s first arrived at Wimbledon that year; Nadal, naturally, earned his first in France in 2005, by which point he trailed 4-0.

Federer reacted to Nadal’s win on Twitter, congratulating his “greatest rival.”

“I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” Federer said in his post. “As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory.

“… I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”

Nadal is the oldest French Open champion since 1972, and the more than 15 years between his first and most recent Grand Slam titles is the longest such span for a man.

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.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Notches Best Ever Grand Slam Performance with Third Round Win at US Open

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina is boldly going where he hasn’t gone before…

The 21-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated Cameron Norrie 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in two hours and 43 minutes on Friday in the third round at the US Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina showed little sign of nerves during the match as he booked a place in the fourth round in his US Open debut, as he registered his best ever performance at a Grand Slam championship. His previously best was a Second Round appearance at this year’s Australian Open.

Davidovich Fokina, who has admitted that he learned a lot from hitting with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Marbella during the five-month ATP Tour suspension, won eight straight games against Norrie from 1-2 in the third set to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set.

The World No. 99 beat Dennis Novak in the first round and No. 24 seed Hubert Hurkacz in the second round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, having lost in the first round of qualifying at the Western & Southern Open.

He’ll next play Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals.

Garbine Muguruza Defeats Simona Halep to Reach First Australian Open Final

Garbine Muguruzais one win away from her third Grand Slamtitle…

In a battle of former World No. 1 players, the 26-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis playerbeat No. 4 seed Simona Halepin straight sets on Thursday to reach the Australian Openfinal for the first time.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza’s 7-6 (8), 7-5 victory sends her to the title match against 14th-seeded Sofia Keninof the United States. Kenin beat No. 1 Ash Barty7-6 (6), 7-5.

Muguruza, unseeded at Melbourne Park, fended off four set points in the opener of her semifinal and wound up defeating Halep in a matchup of players who’ve won Wimbledonand the French Openbut not the Australian Open.

It was a streaky contest: Muguruza led 5-3 in the first set before Halep took 15 of 17 points to earn a pair of set points. Muguruza then took seven consecutive points. And so on, until Halep put a shot in the net to relinquish that set, then smashed her racket and sat on the sideline, shaking her head.

“I wasn’t thinking I was down,” Muguruza said. “You keep going.”Muguruza may have won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017, but she came to Melbourne Park as an unseeded player at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in six years.

Garbine Muguruza Reaches First-Ever Australian Open Semifinals

Garbine Muguruzais back in a Grand Slamsemifinal…

The 26-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player and former world No. 1 defeated No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open for the first time in her career.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, took a little more than 1 1/2 hours to eliminate Pavlyuchenkova, with both players struggling with their serves with the sun shining brightly at one end. 

It’s Muruguza’s first spot in a Grand Slamsemifinal since Roland Garrosin ’18.

After struggling for form following her 2017 Wimbledontriumph, Muguruza has looked like a player reborn at Melbourne Parksince reuniting with former coach Conchita Martinez.

Last November, Muguruza climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and got away from it all. She didn’t want to dwell on two relatively barren seasons since her Wimbledon win in 2017.

Her time on the mountain was “definitely was a life-changing experience,” Murgurza said, although she couldn’t explain how because it’s too complicated in a tournament environment.

“But it definitely had an impact on me, not as a tennis player, but just in general,” she said. “Being through such a tough challenge, I think, yeah, did many things inside of me.”

She’ll next face Simona Halep, both have already won at Wimbledon and the French Openand have been ranked No. 1, and are bidding for their first Grand Slam title on a hard court.