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.

Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah Make History After Winning US Open Men’s Doubles Title

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah are making it a habit…

The 33-year-old Colombian professional tennis player and his 32-year-old compatriotdefeated Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 7-5 in the final on Friday to become the first Colombian men’s team to win the doubles title at the US Open.

Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah

Cabal and Farah were already the first men’s doubles pairing from Colombia to win a Grand Slam trophy and to be ranked No. 1 after they won Wimbledonthis year

They followed their Wimbledon championship with another strong run through the US Open and won their fifth doubles title of the season.

They became the sixth team to win Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year in the Open era.

Cabal and Farah celebrated Friday a year after they were knocked out in the semifinals by eventual champs Mike Bryan and Jack Sock.

Zeballos Defeats Karen Khachanov to Reach Barcelona Open Semifinals

Horacio Zeballos is one win away from a long-awaited return to a tournament final… But, he’ll have to take down the defending champion to get there.

The 32-year-old Argentine tennis player didn’t drop a serve in beating Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-1 at the Barcelona Open to reach the semifinals.

Horacio Zeballos

Zeballos, currently ranked No. 84 in the world, will play defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Zeballos is trying to reach his first ATP final since a memorable title run at the Chile Open four years ago.

Zeballos won his first pro title in February 2013 at that same Viña del Mar tournament. In the final, he beat Nadal, becoming one of the only four players (with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray) to beat the former world no. 1 in a clay-court final.

Zeballos Loses to Novak Djokovic, But Ends Up A Winner on Twitter

He may have lost his match, but Horacio Zeballos ended up a winner on Twitter.

Following the 31-year-old Argentine tennis player’s loss in the second-round at the Qatar Open to former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Zeballos asks his opponent to pose for a selfie.

Horacio Zeballos & Novak Djokovic Selfie

The 12-time Grand Slam champion cheerfully obliged.

“I just have to mention that making a selfie after the match was over, that was the first time that I ever had this kind of experience in my career,” Djokovic said on court after beating Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 Wednesday. “So, Horacio, well done. Very original.”

“Eehhh sorryy. Creo que tengo la mejor selfie del dia jejeje. Que groso Nole.un genio!! Y yo figuretiiii.. Me encanto!!,” posted Zeballos on Twitter, along with the selfie.

Djokovic managed to break the Argentine once in each set while never facing a break point on the other side.

“Credit to Zeballos for playing some fearless tennis,” said Djokovic, the defending champion. “He was stepping in and trying to go for his shots. He wasn’t backing up to the baseline.”

Zeballos Defeats Fernando Verdasco to Reach the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Horacio Zeballos continues his winning ways…

The 30-year-old Argentine tennis player continued his remarkable run at the Miami Open by defeating Fernando Verdasco 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the third round.

Horacio Zeballos

It was his first victory over Verdasco in three matches.

Zeballos entered the tournament only after Roger Ferderer withdrew on Friday because of a stomach virus. After losing in the qualifying final round to Yoshihito Nishioka, Zeballos was then chosen as the last of three lucky losers.

“I’m so happy,” Zeballos said. “I’m excited to be here playing with such great players. Two days ago, I was out. Now, I’m in the [fourth] round. Of course, I’m really happy and enjoying this moment like it is my first time.”

So far, he’s made the most of the second chance. He defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the second round before stunning Verdasco.

Zeballos is just the fourth lucky loser to advance to the fourth round. If he wins again, he will become the second to reach the quarterfinals. Ivan Ljubicic did it in 2001.

“These wins are very significant because they will help my ranking, and that will help me get into bigger tournaments,” Zeballos said. “The stands were full, it was my first time beating Verdasco, so it was huge for me.”

It appeared the run was over when Zeballos started slow against Verdasco. After rallying to tie the score in the second set, he faced match point while serving at 5-6 in the third. Zeballos won the set to force a tiebreaker.

“Winning that match today was the equivalent of playing seven Challengers in terms of points and winnings,” Zeballos said. “So I’m very happy, a little tired, but very excited to be for the first time in the fourth round of a Masters 1000 tournament, having won two matches against opponents who are more accomplished than me and that gives me confidence that I can play at this level and I can keep improving my game.”

Zeballos Defeats Juan Martin del Potro at the Miami Masters

Horacio Zeballos has dashed one tennis champion’s comeback dreams…

The 30-year-old Argentine tennis player defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the second round of the Miami Masters.

Horacio Zeballos

Zeballos did not originally have a spot in the main draw. But when Roger Federer withdrew from the event with a stomach virus, Zeballos was given a chance to play Del Potro on the show court in Florida.

Del Potro, a former US Open champion, started as favorite but he failed to create a single break point as Zeballos ran out a 6-4 6-4 winner.

Zeballos, looking for his first tour-level win of the year, made good on his opportunity by serving smartly and avoiding del Potro’s fearsome forehand. The left-handed Zeballos fired six aces and made 77 per cent of first serves, most of which were directed to del Potro’s backhand. He only dropped nine points on serve and did not face a break point in the 81-minute encounter.

“He played well,” said del Potro of his opponent. “He’s a lefty, he can play to my backhand easier than anyone else. He played very smart.”

Zeballos’ opponent in the third round will be Fernando Verdasco, who scored his first win in three ATP Head2Head meetings with Jeremy Chardy, 6-4, 6-4.

Delbonis Defeats Albert Montanes to Reach the Brazil Open Semifinals

There’s no crying for Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, only cheering…

The 23-year-old professional tennis player soundly defeated Spain’s Albert Montanes in just over an hour to advance to the Brazil Open semifinals.

Federico Delbonis

Delbonis, currently ranked No. 61 in the world, beat Montanes in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.

He’s now one win away from reaching the second ATP tournament final of his career as he continues his quest to win his first career title.

Delbonis will next face either home-crowd favorite Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil or Martin Klizan of Slovakia.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t such a positive experience for his fellow countrymen…

Top-seeded Tommy Haas came back to defeat Horacio Zeballos of Argentina 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 to advance to the semifinals.

Haas broke Zeballos’ serve twice in a row in the decisive set to close the match and take a step closer to his second final of the year.

Haas will next play Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, who reached his first ATP semifinal with an upset 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 6-4 win over fourth-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina.

“Lorenzi has been around for a long time so this is a goal I’m sure he has been waiting to achieve for a lifetime,” Haas said. “He has nothing to lose and is going to try to go one more and get to his first ATP tour final. He is a dangerous player. I’m going to have to try to play some of my best tennis.”

The 114th-ranked Lorenzi broke Monaco’s serve to go up 4-3 in the final set and held on to close the match in 2 hours, 34 minutes at the Ibirapuera Arena.

The 32-year-old Italian squandered a match point before losing the second set, but was in control in the third to pick up the win in the ATP 250 tournament in South America’s biggest city.

Lorenzi served 12 aces en route to his first pro semifinal after five career quarterfinal losses.

“I’m very happy to finally break through to the semifinals,” Lorenzi said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities before but was never able to come up with the victory at this stage. For sure this is one of my greatest weeks on the tour.”

The 43rd-ranked Monaco was trying to win his 200th clay-court match. He is the fifth-highest winner on the surface, behind Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo and Nicolas Almagro.

Monaco had a set point in the first set but couldn’t capitalize on it.

“It was a very close match, he had his chances in the first set and I had mine in the second, it was very difficult,” Lorenzi said.

Nadal, the defending champion, is not playing at the clay-court tournament this year. He chose to play at the first edition of the Rio Open, which he won last week.

Bellucci Reaches Quarterfinals at the Brazil Open

Thomaz Bellucci is making a statement at his home tournament…

The 26-year-old Brazilian tennis player continued to feed off his home crowd Thursday, defeating Austria’s Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Brazil Open.

Thomaz Bellucci

Bellucci, a wild card in the tournament, broke Haider-Maurer’s serve early in the third set and held on to close the match in 2 hours, 36 minutes at the Ibirapuera arena.

Bellucci, currently ranked 108th, will now play Martin Klizan of Slovakia, who upset third-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain 6-4, 6-3.

Meanwhile, fourth-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina reached the quarterfinals with a marathon 7-6 (2), 2-6, 7-5 victory over Albert Ramos of Spain in nearly three hours. He will face Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, who cruised past win Brazilian qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-4, 6-3.

Top-seeded Tommy Haas will play his quarterfinal match against 116th-ranked Horacio Zeballos of Argentina on Friday.

Nadal Defeats Federer in First Real Comeback Test

In a battle of two injured titans, Rafael Nadal has come away with a big win…

The 26-year-old Spanish tenista downed rival Roger Federer 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells to record the biggest win so far in his comeback to the ATP Tour.

Rafael Nadal

The 29th meeting in one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history didn’t live up to the hype, as Federer struggled throughout Thursday night’s contest with a back injury that limited his normally fluid movement.

Nadal, the world No. 5, played aggressively from the get-go and earned his first break point with Federer serving at 2-2 in the first set. Although he missed out on that opportunity, Nadal converted another chance two games later and never looked back.

“I played a fantastic first set, in my opinion. The second set was strange,” Nadal said in the post-match press conference. “The second set, I think Roger didn’t fight as usual. He probably had some problems and he didn’t feel enough comfortable to keep fighting.”

“Both of us tried to play our best. I played much better than yesterday (a three-set victory Wednesday night over Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis). My movements today were much, much better than yesterday, so I’m very happy for that, especially after a long match yesterday, to be able to compete well the next day,” said  Nadal.

Federer, meanwhile, said the injury was no worse than in his round-of-16 match Wednesday against countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, which he pulled out 7-5 in the third set.

“(It was the) same as against Stan. I mean, I could play,” Federer said. “I’m happy to be out there and able to compete. But it’s obviously a small issue.”

Nadal, who was forced to pull out of last year’s 2012 London Games and U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, started his comeback early last month at a small clay-court event in Viña de Mar, Chile, losing in the final there to Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos.

But he hasn’t lost a match since, winning two other Latin American clay-court events in Sao Paulo and Acapulco, Mexico, and making a smooth transition to hard courts with three match victories so far in Indian Wells.

Nadal Earns Second Comeback Title at the Mexican Open

And just like that Rafael Nadal has earned his second title of the year…

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis star routed his fellow countryman David Ferrer 6-0, 6-2 in Saturday’s final of the Mexican Open in what proved to be a powerful performance that indicated he has quickly returned to form after a seven-month absence from the game due to knee injury.

Rafael Nadal

Ferrer, the Acapulco tournament’s top seed this year, was a three-time defending champion and had won 19 straight matches at this event. But the world’s No. 4 player could find no answer to Nadal, losing to his Spanish compatriot in only an hour and 5 minutes.

It’s Nadal’s second title in 2013, following his win at the Brazil Open. In his first tournament back was upset by Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos at the Chilean Open.