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.

Juan Martin del Potro Defeats Robin Haase at Paris Masters in Quest to Earns Spot at the ATP Finals

Juan Martin del Potro is one step closer to earning a spot in the big show…

The 29-year-old Argentinean tennis star  moved closer to securing the last spot for the season-ending ATP Finals by beating Robin Haase 7-5, 6-4 in the third round at the Paris Masters.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer on Sunday in the Swiss Indoors final, is in 10th place in the race to qualify for the tournament.

Only the top eight players will compete in London and there is one place left, to be taken in Paris.

“I would love to reach London once again. It could be a fantastic moment for me,” said del Potro, who was way back in 47th place in the race before the U.S. Open.

“I’m excited to keep improving for this kind of surprise. I love to surprise myself and that’s what I’m doing now.”

del Potro has a tough challenge next, against big-serving John Isner.

The ninth-seeded Isner, last year’s runner-up to Andy Murray, hit 25 aces as he beat sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-6 (10), 5-7, 7-6 (3).

Juan Martin del Potro Wins Stockholm Open for Second Straight Year

The drought has ended for Juan Martin del Potro

The 29-year-old Argentinean tennis star has won the Stockholm Open for the second consecutive year — his first ATP title since his success at the Swedish tournament last year.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro produced a ruthless performance to beat top seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-2 at The Royal Tennis Hall and help his case in making the ATP Finals in London.

del Potro broke Dimitrov three times over the course of an impressive display — saving all four of the break points Dimitrov created to keep his own serve unbroken throughout.

In the wake of clinching his 20th career ATP title, fourth seed del Potro said: “I played the best match of the week against Grigor today. Unlucky for that, sorry Grigor.

“It’s amazing to come back and hold this big trophy and hopefully I can come next year as well.

“I love to be in Stockholm. I like the city a lot. I like the Swedish people and you treated me very, very good this week and I would like to thank everyone.”

Juan Martin del Potro Defeats Fernando Verdasco to Reach Stockholm Open Final

Juan Martin del Potro is one win away from a repeat…

The 29-year-old Argentinian tennis player outlasted Fernando Verdasco at the Stockholm Open on Saturday in a tussle between two of the biggest forehands in tennis, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(1).

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro, the reigning champion, will now face top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the finals.

“It was a great match. We both played great tennis and I think the crowd enjoyed our game,” del Potro said. “I’m glad to be in the final once again.”

del Potro is into his first final of the season, and his first overall since lifting the trophy in Sweden last year. The right-hander will attempt to win his 20th title on Sunday.

The match will be of the utmost importance for del Potro in the ATP Race To London, as he has made a late-season charge to put himself within striking distance of qualifying for the ATP Finals.

del Potro is now into 15th in the Race with 2,035 points, and can ascend to 14th with a victory. If he beats the 2013 champion, del Potro will be within 480 points of No. 9 Pablo Carreno Busta, who has 2,605 points and currently holds the final qualifying spot with No. 7 Stan Wawrinka out for the season due to injury.

It was not easy for del Potro to give himself that opportunity to make a move in the Race, as the veteran left-hander Verdasco pushed the Argentine the distance.

Verdasco earned an immediate break of serve in the third set to gain a 2-0 advantage with his forehand keeping his opponent on the back foot, but del Potro roared right back with a break of his own, using his own timely forehands. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ then saved a break point at 3-4, which would have allowed Verdasco to serve for the match. Once the pair got to the tie-break, it was all del Potro.

“I was focused during the third set and in the tie-break I broke a few times at the beginning and that allowed me to play with more confidence in my game on my serve,” del Potro said. “I played a good match today.”

del Potro will not have it easy on Sunday as he attempts to defend his title against an in-form Dimitrov. With his 6-3, 7-6(2) semi-final victory over sixth seed Fabio Fognini, the Bulgarian moved up to No. 5 in the Race, and put himself in position to win a career-best fourth title of the season (Brisbane, Sofia, Cincinnati).

del Potro leads in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 5-2, but Dimitrov has won the past two matches, both straight-set victories this year in Beijing and Cincinnati.

“I would love to defend my title but Grigor is playing so good. He already beat me in Beijing and Cincinnati as well and he’s playing such good tennis on this surface,” del Potro said. “Hopefully I can be ready to put up a good fight.”

Nadal Defeats Grigor Dimitrov to Reach Australian Open Final

Rafael Nadal is one win away from cementing his ultimate comeback

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated Grigor Dimitrov in a thrilling five-set semifinal at the Australian Open, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4, to reach his first Grand Slam final in nearly three years.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal had to draw on all his experience in countless big moments to prevail in his match against Dimitrov.

Nadal firstly held serve with some clutch play, broke Dimitrov with more of the same, then still needed three match points to put away his inspired rival.

Nadal dropped to the court — in equal parts elation and exhaustion — before embracing his beaten foe in one of the great moments of an already memorable event.

“(It is) difficult to describe emotions now. First of all I was tired and Grigor was playing unbelievable. It was a great match. I feel very happy now to be part of it. I enjoy it a lot,” Nadal said.

“The crowd was just amazing … just unforgettable weeks for me and just, you know, to qualify for the final in a match like this means a lot to me.

“I never dreamed to be back in a final of the Australian Open in the second tournament of the year after a lot of months without competing. But here I am now. I feel lucky. I feel very happy.”

Rafael Nadal next faces his longtime nemesis Roger Federer in the final.

Federer and Nadal, the two titans of a magnificent era, will lock racquets in Sunday night’s Australian Open decider — their 35th clash overall, 12th in a grand slam and ninth in a grand slam final. Nadal has won six of the previous eight finals meetings. They have not met for a major championship since the 2011 French Open, when Nadal won his sixth of nine titles at Roland Garros.

“It’s a privilege and very special thing, I think, for both of us to be in the final again and have another chance to compete against each other after a couple of years having some problems,” Nadal said.

“It (is) a moment that I think both of us never thought we would be here again in the final of Australia. We feel, I think, very happy and I hope you feel happy too.”

del Potro Defeats Jack Sock at the Stockholm Open to End Long ATP Title Drought

It’s the end of a long drought for Juan Martin del Potro

The 28-year-old Argentine tennis player won the Stockholm Open on Sunday to end a 33-month title drought, beating sixth-seeded Jack Sock 7-5, 6-1.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro, who has struggled with wrist problems in recent years, won his 19th ATP tour title — and his first since winning in Sydney in 2014.

The Argentine, who did not drop a set during the tournament, broke his American opponent’s serve four times in the final and never faced a break point.

“I’ve been trying to fix my problems for the past two years and I didn’t expect to win a title at this moment in my career,” the 28-year-old del Potro said. “I am so happy to get the trophy here. It’s motivation for looking forward to the future.”

Both players held serve until 5-5 of the opening set, when del Potro raised his game to emerge with a one-set lead.

Sock seemed tired in the second set, holding serve only once and winning just two points when returning serve.

“His serve is massive and very tough to read, which put more pressure on my serve,” Sock said. “I’ve had a long week here and it might have caught up with me a bit.”

Midway through the match Sock requested medical treatement for pain in his arm.

del Potro, beaten by Andy Murray for the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, reached his second final of the year after beating 2013 champion Grigor Dimitrov in the semifinals.

del Potro Defeats Grigor Dimitrov to Reach Stockholm Open Final

Juan Martin del Potro is ready to claim his first title of the year…

The 28-year-old Argentine tennis player, who won the men’s singles silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games, has reached his second final of the year by defeating Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 7-5 at the Stockholm Open on Saturday.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro, a wild card entry at the tournament, lost his serve for the first time all week, but compensated with four breaks against second-seeded Dimitrov on the center court in the Swedish capital.

In the other semifinal, sixth-seeded Jack Sock of the United States beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in 2 hours, 49 minutes.

Sock, after his first meeting with Zverev, was back in the final for a second straight year.

Sock will go after his second career ATP title, and del Potro his 19th.

Schwartzman Upsets Grigor Dimitrov to Win Istanbul Open

Diego Schwartzman is officially an ATP titleholder…

The 23-year-old Argentine tennis player cane back from the brink of elimination to upset second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-0 and claim his first-ever ATP Tour title at the Istanbul Open.

Diego Schwartzman

Playing his first final, Schwartzman was trailing 5-2 in the second set before he won four straight games. Schwartzman failed to serve the set out but prevailed in the tiebreaker before dominating the third set with three breaks.

He completed the victory in 2 hours, 47 minutes.

Schwartzman’s third-set romp was aided by Dimitrov, who lost his composure and smashed his racket three times, which ultimately led to a warning, a point penalty and then another point penalty. The second and final point penalty came with Dimitrov down 5-0 and gave the game, set and match to Schwartzman.

“I let my family down, I let my team down, I let my fans down with that kind of behavior, which I definitely apologize for,” Dimitrov said.

In his best week on the tour, Schwartzman knocked out top-seeded Bernard Tomic in the second round before saving a match point in the quarterfinals against Damir Dzumhur. In the semifinals, he upset fourth-seeded Federico Delbonis.

It was the eighth final for Dimitrov, who won four titles, the most recent in Queen’s Club in London in 2014.

Dimitrov said he had a cramp when he was close to taking the second set.

“It was very unfortunate that I couldn’t close out the match,” Dimitrov said. “I have to give credit to Diego.”

Dimitrov broke Schwartzman four times in the first set, but the Argentine always fought back with a re-break to force a tiebreaker. Dimitrov finally won the set by converting his second set point.

Nadal to Compete at Queen’s Club for First Time in Three Years

Rafael Nadal is making a comeback fit for a queen

The 28-year-old Spanish tennis star says he’ll play at this year’s Queen’s Club, ending his three-year absence at the grass-court tournament.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, who lifted the trophy in 2008, has gone on to reach the Wimbledon final following every appearance at the event that’s traditionally seen as a warm-up to the SW19 championships.

“I always loved playing at The Queen’s Club and I am very happy that I will be back this year,” Nadal said.

“It was a great experience for me to lift the trophy in 2008 because it is such an important and traditional tournament. To win Wimbledon a few weeks later was like a dream.”

Nadal will be joined by the defending champion Grigor Dimitrov, US Open winner Marin Cilic, 2014 Australian Open victor Stan Wawrinka and ATP World No.4 Andy Murray in this year’s draw.

“Coming helps with the adjustment from clay to grass because the grass courts at Queen’s are so good,” Nadal added.

Lopez Defeats Richard Gasquet to Successfully Defend His Aegon International Title

Feliciano Lopez is a back-to-back champion…

The 32-year-old Spanish tennis player beat top seed Richard Gasquet of France 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5 on Saturday to complete a successful title defense in the Aegon International final.

Feliciano Lopez

It’s the first time the third-seeded Lopez has retained an ATP title, and the first time he has beaten Gasquet in their six career meetings.

Lopez, who held championship point against Grigor Dimitrov last week at Queen’s Club but couldn’t seal the deal,  is the first player to reach back-to-back grass-court finals before Wimbledon since 2001, when Lleyton Hewitt won at Queen’s and s-Hertogenbosch, and Thomas Johansson won Halle and Nottingham.

There was little to separate him and Gasquet, with two breaks giving the Spanish left-hander the opening set, and Gasquet, the 2005 and 2006 champion, winning the tiebreaker in the second.

In the third set, games went with serve until Lopez broke to lead 6-5 and then served out the match for the fourth title of his career.