Rafael Nadal Slated to Compete at the Western & Southern Open

It looks like Rafael Nadal is returning to the court…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star and defending US Open champion appears on the acceptance list for the Western & Southern Open, which was released Wednesday, alongside world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal

While Nadal and Djokovic’s appearance on the list doesn’t guarantee that they’ll end up competing in the top-tier Masters 1000 event starting August 20, the list does suggest that 16 of the ATP‘s top 20 players are prepared to participate in the reboot of the tour.

The Western & Southern, moved from its longtime home in Cincinnati, and the US Open comprise a two-tournament event that the USTA is planning to stage in a “safety bubble” being created around the National Tennis Center.

Players who choose not to play after they’ve appeared on the acceptance list are subject to the penalty of having a “zero-pointer” added to their rankings record, meaning that they are treated as if they had taken a first-round loss. The sting of that punitive measure has been greatly decreased by the ATP’s pandemic-driven move to a ranking based on a 22-month cycle rather than 12 months.

The rankings, frozen since the tour was suspended in mid-March, will resume with the Western & Southern. Since two editions of the event will be played during the new rankings cycle, only a player’s best result will count toward his ranking. A player who pulls out of Cincinnati can wipe out the zero-pointer at the 2021 tournament. The same goes for the US Open.

Djokovic, who tested positive for the coronavirus following the collapse of his own Adria Tour exhibition series in June, raised a number of objections when the USTA announced plans to forge ahead with a US Open played under the strict health protocols demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak. His stance has softened considerably since, and he has been observed practicing on hard courts for more than a week now.

“We are very glad that [the US Open] is happening,” Djokovic recently told Eurosport‘s Tennis Legends podcast. “It is very important that we provide opportunities, we provide jobs, for players to compete.”

Nadal is a greater question mark. He has said he is “not OK” with the USTA’s insistence that the American Grand Slam take place without fans in attendance. 

The 12-time French Open champion has been practicing, but only on red clay. This year’s French Open will limit attendance when it starts Sept. 27.

Roberto Bautista Agut to Headline the Three-Event Series ‘UTR Pro Series-Spain’

Roberto Bautista Agut is heading back to the court…

The 32-year-old Spanish professional tennis player will headline the UTR Pro Series-Spain, a three-event series that’ll be played on successive weekends beginning July 10 in Barcelona.

Roberto Bautista Agut

Conspicuous in his absence: ATP No. 2 ranked Rafael Nadal, who hasn’t taken part in any of the growing number of “re-opening” events tennis entrepreneurs and officials have staged during the suspension of ATP and WTA tennis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Spanish events will feature Bautista Agut, ranked No. 12 in the world, No. 25 Pablo Carreno Busta, and Albert Ramos-Viñolas, who is No. 41. Two of the other committed players are well-known veterans Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez, both of whom are still ranked in the Top 100.

The UTR Pro Series tournament format is modeled on the wildly popular exhibition event created by Roger Federer, the Laver Cup (this year’s event, scheduled for Boston in late September, has been canceled due to a conflict with the postponed French Open). 

The eight participants in the UTR showdown will be divided into two teams. The matches will be best-three sets, but with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set.

UTR, or Universal Tennis Rating, is an organization built on the foundation of a rating system that differs substantially from the formal ATP ranking system. It rates all players, including top pros, solely on the basis of their results against each other in recent matches recognized by UTR. It’s already widely used in junior play and by college recruiters, and has sponsored a number of exhibitions in recent months.

Federer is out of action for the rest of the year due to an aggravated knee injury. Novak Djokovic made his first appearance as a player during the coronavirus pandemic in late June, but the four-tournament Adria Tour he conceived turned into a debacle due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Djokovic was among those who tested positive for Covid-19.

Nadal has kept his distance from the exhibition circuit, and has also expressed disappointment at the prospect of playing without fans in attendance at the upcoming US Open. He hasn’t yet decided if he’ll defend his title in New York.

Lionel Messi: The World’s Highest Paid Latino Celebrity

Lionel Messi isn’t just making goals… He’s makin’ some serious bank…

Forbes magazine has released its list of the world’s highest-paid celebrities, with the 32-year-old Argentine professional footballer coming in at No. 5 with $104 million, making his the highest-paid Latino celebrity in the world.

Lionel Messi

Messi has been awarded both FIFA‘s Player of the Year and the European Golden Shoe for top scorer on the continent a record six times. His 438 goals, including 36 hat tricks for Barcelona, is a club and La Liga record.

Neymarcomes in at No. 7…

The 28-year-old Brazilian professional footballer, who plays as a forward for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team, had reported earnings of $95.5 million.

Jennifer Lopez is the highest-paid Latina celebrity on Forbes’ list.

The 50-year-old Puerto Rican superstar,one of the more popular celebrities when it comes to endorsements, had earnings of $47.5 million. She has deals with VersaceDSWQuay sunglasses and her own fragrances.

The multi-hyphenate also produced and starred in the 2019 film Hustlers.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has made Forbes’ list for the first time…

The 40-year-old Puerto Rican Broadway star had reported earnings of $45.5 million.

The Hamilton creator and star added to his haul from the Broadway hit in February when Walt Disney paid $75 million for the rights to air the filmed version of his Founding Father musical. 

Other Latino/a celebrities making the list include Howie Dorough (along with his fellow Backstreet Boys), Sofia VergaraRobert Trujillo (along with his fellow Metallica band mates), Rafael Nadal and Canelo Alvarez.

Here’s a look at the Latino/as making this year’s list:

No. 5 Lionel Messi, $104 million
No. 7 Neymar, $95.5 million
No. 56 Jennifer Lopez, $47.5 million 
No. 62 Lin-Manuel Miranda, $45.5 million
No. 64 Backstreet Boys, $45 million
No. 71 Sofia Vergara, $43 million
No. 78 Metallica, $40.5 million
No. 80 Rafael Nadal, $40 million
No. 91 Canelo Alvarez, $37 million

Lionel Messi: The World’s Highest Paid Latino Athlete

Lionel Messi is breaking the bank…

The 32-year-old Argentine soccer star is the highest-paid Latino on Forbes’ list of this year’s The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes.

Lionel Messi

Messi comes in at No. 3 on the list, behind Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo, with earning reported at $104 million.

The Futbol Club Barcelona star’s earnings includes his $72 million salary with his team, as well as  $32 million in endorsements, including his lifelong deal with Adidas.

Nipping on Messi’s heels… Neymar.

The 28-year-old Brazilian footballer, on a five-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain through June 2022 worth $350 million, comes in at No. 4 with combined earnings of $95.5 million. 

Nike‘s Jordan Brand signed Neymar as its first soccer ambassador in 2016. In March 2020, its film unit released a movie about his life.

Messi and Ronaldo had previously held the No. 1 spot in three of the past four years.

Rafael Nadal comes in at No. 27 on the list.

The 33-year-old tennis star has combined earnings of $40 million. The greatest clay court player of his generation captured two of Grand Slam titles in 2019, his 12th French Open title and fourth U.S. Open.

Here’s a look at the Latino athletes making this year’s top earners list.

No. 3:  Lionel Messi, Soccer, Argentine, $104 million
No. 4:  Neymar, Soccer, Brazil, $95.5 million
No. 27:  Rafael Nadal, Tennis, Spain, $40 million
No. 30:  Canelo Alvarez, Boxing, Mexico, $37 million
No. 46:  Andres Iniesta, Soccer, Spain, $29.6 million
No. 56: Oscar, Soccer, Brazil, $27.5 million
No. 67: David de Gea, Soccer, Spain,  $25.7 million
No. 69: Alexis Sanchez, Soccer, Chile, $25.6 million
No. 79: Al Horford, Basketball, Dominican Republic, $24.4 million
No. 100: Sergio Ramos, Soccer, Spain, $21.8 million

Rafael Nadal Defeats Taylor Fritz to Win Mexican Open

Rafael Nadal has won his first title of the year…

The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star raced to victory in the Mexican Open on Saturday night, dispatching Taylor Fritz in straight sets in Acapulco.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal dropped his racquet, launched his arms in elation and looked up into the night after a 6-3, 6-2 triumph on a hard court against the overmatched 22-year-old American.

Nadal finished 63% in first serves and went 3-of-7 on break points. It was his third career title at the Mexican Open, having also won in 2005 and 2013. Overall, it was his 85th career championship, and the first of this season.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Nadal said. “I played a great event from the beginning to the end. Acapulco was the first big title that I won in my career, so to be able to stay here after 15 years is amazing. I can’t thank enough the people who make me feel at home every single time.”

Fritz managed 10 aces in the loss, and had no double faults, yet couldn’t keep up with Nadal’s combination of efficiency and power.

“He’s one of the best players to ever play the game, and he showed me why that is tonight,” Fritz said. “This is one of my favorite tournaments to come to every year. I’m just glad that I could have a good week at one of my favorite events. I felt a lot of love all week.”

Rafael Nadal Pledges AUD $250,000 for Australia Bushfire Relief Efforts During Rally for Relief

Rafael Nadal is swinging for a cause…

The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star was among some of tennis’ biggest names gathered in Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday to raise funds for Australia’s ongoing bushfire crisis.

Rafael Nadal Rally for Relief

Raising nearly 5 million Australian dollars ($3.5 million), Nadal, Serena WilliamsNovak DjokovicRoger FedererCaroline Wozniacki and a number of up-and-coming stars at the Rally for Relief gave the capacity crowd of more than 15,000 fans the opportunity to see the lighter side of the competitive sport.

Nadal and the gang volunteered their time for the cause. On several occasions, volunteer fire personnel took to the court to play against the tennis stars.

Australian’s Nick Kyrgiosplayed a role in kick-starting the wave of relief. His Twitterpledge of $200 per ace throughout the Australian summer inspired colleagues into action, prompting Tennis Australiato announce the Rally for Relief evening.

During the event, Federerand Nadal announced they’d contribute 250,000 Australian dollars to the cause.

Kyrgios said he “got goose bumps” when the figure was announced after his one-set match with Federer on the night.

“It’s been an emotional couple of weeks. I just wanted to send a message. … I was eating dinner and wrote a tweet … and it kind of exploded,” he said on court after the event. “When I was back home in Canberra, I couldn’t even go outside [due to the smoke].”

Federer said he and other players were only too happy to help out a nation in which he spends nearly one month of the year.

“It’s been hard to watch,” Federer said. “As you get it through the news, you don’t know how bad it is, but then you get here and speak to the people affected, it’s difficult. I’m always happy to help and lend my money and do my fair share.”

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 to Take Part in ‘Rally for Relief’ Charity Event to Raise Funds for Australian Bushfire Relief

Rafael Nadalis ready to swing his racquet for a good cause…

The 33-year-old Spanish professional tennis player, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, will take part in a charity event ahead of the Australian Open that will have a new air quality policy as organizers grapple with issues related to the bushfire crisis.

Rafael Nadal

Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley announced on Wednesday that the Rally for Relief will be held onRod Laver Arena on the evening of January 15 with proceeds going to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

Nadal will take part alongside Roger FedererSerena WilliamsNick KyrgiosNaomi OsakaCaroline Wozniaki and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“For a period of about two-and-a-half hours we’re going to be showcasing the game, but also coming together as a community to play our part in the relief effort,” Tiley said

“I’m really proud of the playing group because the number of calls and emails I’ve got with everyone stepping forward and either giving money or making themselves available.

“The format is going to be pretty cool … it’s going to be a combination of fun and seriousness.

“We’ll see some doubles, we’ll see some singles, some target hitting and opportunities to raise more money on the night.

“We’ll see the players having a lot of fun.”

Tickets are available from Ticketmaster with all proceeds going to bushfire disaster relief charities.

Tiley also confirmed the Open will go ahead as scheduled with an air quality policy in place after concerns had been raised about the potential for smoke from bushfires burning in Victoria’s east to affect the health of players and fans.

“This is a new experience for not only us but across the world in this sport,” Tiley said.

“But we lead the world with the extreme heat policy and we expect to do the same around air quality.

“We do have three stadiums with roofs so play will always continue.

“But what will be new is that we will have some real-time (air quality) monitoring on-site … and we’ll use that analysis to make some decisions around the safety and well-being of players and fans.

“… I think the players understand that this is not something that we can do anything about and they’ve been gracious and very cooperative.

“They want to play.”

Rafael Nadal Outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to Win Record Fifth Title at Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Rafael Nadal is ending the year with a bang…

The 33-year-Spanish tennis star and current World No. 1 capped off 2019 by defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in a marathon final at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

Rafael Nadal

In the process, Nadal became the first player to win the championship five times as he overcame Tsitsipas 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 7-6 (7-3) in a dramatic final.

Having beat Novak Djokovicon Friday, ATP Finalschampion Tsitsipas looked well on his way to capping off a brilliant 2019 with a maiden triumph in the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi when he came from a break down to win the first set.

But it was Nadal who rallied to claim the title on a tie-break at the culmination of a thrilling encounter which lasted over three hours.

Nadal saved two break points in each of his first two service games and another three to thwart the Greek and level at 3-3.

It was Nadal who claimed the elusive first break to go 5-4 up, but he failed to serve out the set, making a string of errors as Tsitsipas got back on serve.

The momentum was with the world number six, who charged into a 5-2 lead in the tie-break and took the set when Nadal netted a forehand, having been disgruntled when he was forced to replay a point he had on his racket when Tsitsipas challenged.

Nadal started the second set with a hold to love and the two served up high-quality rallies, but break-point opportunities were not forthcoming until Tsitsipas had two chances to go 5-4 up.

A battling Nadal stood firm with a defiant hold, before capitalising on his first break point to level proceedings.

Tsitsipas passed up another two chances to break at the start of the decider and Nadal made him pay, breaking to go 4-2 up, only for the youngster to immediately break back.

Yet Tsitsipas’ efforts ultimately proved fruitless, with Nadal, who took a 4-1 lead in the tie-break before losing successive points, holding his nerve to secure victory on his first match point.

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.