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 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 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.”

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.”

Alex de Minaur Reaches Semifinals at the Next Gen ATP Finals

Alex de Minaur is on to the next…

The 20-year-old Uruguayan and Spanish-Australian tennis phenom, the top seed at this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, has advanced to the semifinals at the tournament after producing his best performance of the week.

Alex de Minaur

de Minaur fired 23 winners to reach the semifinals with a 4-1, 4-0, 4-2 win over Norway’s Casper Ruud in just 61 minutes.

de Minaur clinched his spot in the last four after winning the opening set against Ruud. The Aussie finished 3-0 in Group A, marking the second straight year he’s gone undefeated in round-robin play at the event. 

His victory marked a record-breaking seventh win in Milan, breaking a tie with Andrey Rublev. Meanwhile, Ruud has been eliminated after dropping to 1-2.

“I knew from playing Casper before that he’d dictate any short ball without a purpose,” De Minaur said. “The game plan was to play on my own terms, play aggressively, play different styles of tennis. The goal I had was [to take] any half-chance, go up and back myself at the net. I’m glad it worked out today. I’m looking forward to the semi-finals.”

de Minaur arrived in Milan at a career-high No. 18 in the ATP world rankings. He used the momentum from his runner-up finish at last year’s event to spur a breakout season that includes his first three ATP Tour titles at the Sydney InternationalBB&T Atlanta Open and Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships. He further proved his mettle indoors by reaching the final two weeks ago at the Swiss Indoors Basel, losing to Roger Federer.

He’ll next face USA’s Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.

Rafael Nadal to Compete at the ATP Cup in January

Rafael Nadalwill be spending the New Year Down Under

The ATP says all top 10 ranked players, including the 33-year-old Spanish tennis star and recent US Open championNovak Djokovic and Roger Federer, have committed to play in the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia in January.

Rafael Nadal

The organization said the top 18 ranked countries and Australia, as the host-country wild card, will be among the qualifiers for the tournament to be held in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from January 3-12. Serbia leads the current rankings, with Spain second, Switzerland third and Russia fourth.

The ATP said the top two players for each country have committed to play, subject to change based on the ATP Rankings at the second entry deadline on November 13, when remaining team members — up to an additional three players — will qualify.

Five additional countries also will qualify to compete at the 24-country tournament based on the ranking of their No. 1 singles player.

Countries will be drawn into one of six groups Monday when the official draw is held at the Sydney Opera House.

The group stages of the ATP Cup will be hosted in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney over six days. Eight countries will then play at the ATP Cup Final Eightin Sydney that will feature quarterfinals over two days, semifinals and a final. Each match will be two singles and one doubles.

Rafael Nadal Outlasts Daniil Medvedev to Win U.S. Open & Claim 19th Grand Slam Title

Rafael Nadalis back in the winner’s circle at the US Open

The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star survived a late surge from Daniil Medvedev to win the men’s title at Flushing Meadows and earn his 19th Grand Slam trophy.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal’s latest Grand Slam went from inevitable to suddenly in doubt in a thrill-a-minute final.

What had all the makings of a crowning morphed into a real contest Sunday thanks to Medvedev, a man a decade younger and appearing in his first major title match. Down by two sets and a break, Medvedev shifted styles, upped his level against a rattled Nadal — and even received an unexpected boost from Arthur Ashe Stadium spectators.

Truly tested for the only time in the tournament, the No. 2-seeded Nadal managed to stop Medvedev’s surge and hold off his historic comeback bid, pulling out a 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory in 4 hours, 50 minutes of highlight-worthy action and Broadway-worthy drama to collect his fourth championship at Flushing Meadows.

“An amazing final. Seems that I had, more or less, the match under control,” said Nadal, who covered his face with his hands while crying when arena video boards showed clips from each of his Slam triumphs. “One of the most emotional nights of my tennis career.”

Now at 19 majors — a total Medvedev called “outrageous” — Nadal is merely one away from rival Roger Federer‘s record for a man.

Add the Spaniard’s haul in New York to his 12 titles at the French Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open, and the 20-19 gap between Federer and Nadal is the closest it’s been in 15 years. Federer led 1-0 after his breakthrough triumph at the All England Clubin 2004, and he had four by the time Nadal got his first, at Roland Garrosin 2005.

Federer, who lost in the quarterfinals at the US Open, is 38, while Nadal is 33 — making him the oldest male champion at Flushing Meadows since 1970. He’s also the first man to win five majors after turning 30.

Nadal says he wants to finish his career at No. 1 in the Grand Slam standings — ahead of Federer and Novak Djokovic, in third place currently with 16 — but also insists he won’t base his happiness on how it all shakes out in the end.

This particular match ended the way he wanted it to. The journey just took more detours 

Rafael Nadal Joins the ATP Player Council

Rafael Nadal is heading to the board room…

The 33-year-old Spanish tennis star is joining Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the ATP Player Council, bringing the Big Three together to reshape a board that has been roiled by conflict.

Rafael Nadal

The governing body of men’s tennis announced Thursday that Federer and Nadal were elected along with doubles specialist Jurgen Melzer. They will fill spots vacated after Robin HaaseJamie Murray and Sergiy Stakhovsky resigned from the board before Wimbledon.

Djokovic addressed his frustration with the player council in pre-tournament comments at Wimbledon. He said the ATP‘s governance structure prevented players from making “significant changes.” Stan Wawrinka has also criticized the ATP’s leadership, saying in a published letter that it was plagued by “political chaos” and “numerous conflicts of interest.”

The power struggle on the council included its decision in March not to renew the contract of ATP CEO Chris Kermode, who has clashed with Djokovic. Board member Justin Gimelstob resigned after he was sentenced to probation in April for attacking a former friend in Los Angeles.

Former ATP executive Weller Evansfilled Gimelstob’s seat. The position of coaches’ representative on the council remains open.

Lionel Messi: The World’s Most Famous Latino Athlete

Lionel Messiis kickin’ it to the top of the popularity charts…

The 31-year-old Argentine soccer star is the top-ranking Latino on ESPN’s World Fame 100 list, which identifies the most famous athletes in the world.

Lionel Messi

Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner who plays for the Spanish club BarcelonaFC and the Argentina national team, comes in at No. 3 on this year’s list, behind soccer rival Cristiano Ronaldo and NBAsuperstar LeBron James. It’s the same position Messi held last year.

The World Fame 100 ranks athletes based on their Google search score, their endorsement dollars and social media followers.

Nipping at Messi’s heels… Neymar.

The 27-year-old Brazilian soccer star, who plays for the Brazil national team and French club Paris Saint-Germain, comes in at No. 4, the same position he held in 2018.

Also earning a spot in the Top 10… Rafael Nadal.

The 32-year-old Spanish tennis star comes in at No. 8, two spots behind his rival Roger Federer. Nadal held the same ranking last year.

In all, Latino athletes took up 23 spots on the list, the majority of them international soccer players like Andres Iniesta (Spain), James Rodriguez (Colombia), Alexis Sanchez (Chile) and Javier Hernandez (Mexico).

Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarezis the sole Latino boxer on the list, at No. 68, while Puerto Rican basketball player Carmelo Anthony, at No. 65, is the only Latino basketball player to make the grade.

There are no Latina athletes on this year’s list, which features tennis sensation Serena Williams as the top female athlete at No. 17.

Here’s a look at the Latinos who made the World Fame 100:

Rank, Name, Sport, Country, Search Score, Endorsements, Social Stats
No. 3, Lionel Messi, Soccer, Argentina, 54, $28m, 103.1 million
No. 4, Neymar, Soccer, Brazil, 55, $19m, 107.2 million
No. 8, Rafael Nadal, Tennis, Spain, 40, $29.3m, 15.6 million
No. 27, Andres Iniesta, Soccer, Spain, 8, $2.2m, 26.7 million
No. 29, James Rodriguez, Soccer, Colombia, 11, $4.8m, 40.5 million
No. 36, Luis Suarez, Soccer, Uruguay, 6, $7.4m, 31.2 million
No. 38, Sergio Ramos, Soccer, Spain, 13, $4m, 28.7 million
No. 44, Marcelo Vieira, Soccer, Brazil, 4, $3.2m, 33.8 million
No. 48, Radamel Falcao, Soccer, Brazil, 4, $4m, 16.9 million
No. 52, Sergio Aguero, Soccer, Argentina, 1, $6m, 28.7 million
No. 53, David De Gea, Soccer, Spain, 3, $7m, 11.8 million
No. 55, Paulo Dybala, Soccer, Argentina, 4, $4.03m, 24.7 million
No. 56, Dani Alves, Soccer, Brazil, 2, $8.75m, 21.5 million
No. 61, Philippe Coutinho, Soccer, Brazil, 15, $3.1m, 19.3 million
No. 62, David Luiz, Soccer, Brazil, 1, $1.3m, 24.9 million
No. 65, Carmelo Anthony, Basketball, USA, 6, $7m, 9.1 million
No. 66, Gerard Pique, Soccer, Spain, 5, $3.8m, 18.6 million
No. 68, Canelo Alvarez, Boxing, Mexico, 44, $2.5m, 4 million
No. 72, Alexis Sanchez, Soccer, Chile, 24, $3.8m, 9.6 million
No. 79, Cesc Fabregas, Soccer, Spain, 1, $5m, 10.3 million
No. 80, Gonzalo Higuain, Soccer, Argentina, 7, $6m, 6.8 million
No. 81, Isco, Soccer, Spain, 2, $5m, 16.4 million
No. 88, Javier Hernandez, Soccer, Mexico, 6, $9.9m, 5.1 million

Rafael Nadal Dispatches Stefanos Tsitsipas to Reach Australian Open Final

Rafael Nadal has punched his ticket to the finals at the Australian Open.

The 32-year-old Spanish tennis star made quick work of 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas in Thursday’s semifinal, cruising to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 to earn his fifth trip to the finals in Melbourne.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal hit 28 winners and never faced a break point until the final game in dispatching the Greek phenom in one hour, 46 minutes on a sweltering night.

“It was a great match, and it’s been a great tournament,” said Nadal, who won the Australian Open in 2009. 

“I’ve played well every day. After a lot of months without playing, it’s probably this court, this crowd, that is giving me that unbelievable energy.”

Nadal pounced on Tsitipas from the jump, breaking him twice in the opener. The Spaniard served notice early that Tsitsipas, who ousted Roger Federerfrom the tournament, wasn’t going to repeat that feat.

“It felt like a different dimension of tennis completely,” Tsitsipas said. “He gives you no rhythm. He plays just a different game style than the rest of the players. He has this, I don’t know, talent that no other player has. I’ve never seen a player have this. He makes you play bad.”

Nadal awaits Friday’s other semifinal between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Lucas Pouilleto find out who his opponent will be on Sunday.