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.

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.”

Carreno Busta Reaches First Masters 1000 Semifinal at Indian Wells Masters

Pablo Carreno Busta is celebrating a big win…

In a match involving the two lowest remaining men’s seeds, the 25-year-old Spanish tennis player, seeded at No. 21, edged 27th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-1, 3-6 7-6 (4) at the Indian Wells Masters.

Pablo Carreno Busta

Cuevas tied it 3-all in the tiebreak before Carreno Busta won the final five points to close out the two-hour match.

It was the biggest singles quarterfinal of their respective careers. Carreno Busta had not reached that stage of a Masters 1000 event in 17 previous tries; Cuevas hadn’t been there in 29 tries.

Carreno Busta avenged his loss to Cuevas in the Sao Paulo semifinals on March 6 and in the process snapped Cuevas’ seven-match winning streak.

Carreno Busta will play No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals.

del Potro Upsets No. 4 Seed Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon

Juan Martin del Potro is back and feeling alive…

The 27-year-old Argentine tennis player registered a shock second-round win to knock fourth seed Stan Wawrinka out of the men’s singles at Wimbledon.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro, a former US Open champion, secured a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 win over Wawrinka.

He’s currently ranked No. 165 in the world after missing more than two years because of injury problems.

del Potro, who is in the same half of the draw as Britain’s Andy Murray, will next play France’s 32nd seed Lucas Pouille.

del Potro reached the semifinals at the All-England Club in 2013 but the former world number four is playing in his first Grand Slam since the Australian Open in 2014 after having three wrist operations.

He struggled early on as Wawrinka claimed an early break before comfortably taking the opening set, but del Potro fought back well to take the second.

Both players broke serve twice in the opening four games of a thrilling third set, which del Potro won in a tie-break, before taking the fourth set to wrap up victory.

“It feels amazing,” del Potro told BBC Sport. “I beat one of the guys who is playing great tennis this season and I couldn’t have expected this before today.

“I enjoyed the crowd, they were incredible and I’m very happy.

“It is my second or third career now after all the injuries. I was sad for the last two years and now I am enjoying playing tennis again. I feel alive.”

Ramos-Vinolas Defeats Milos Raonic to Reach His First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinal

Albert Ramos-Vinolas continues his upsetting ways…

The 28-year-old Spanish tennis player, who ousted No. 23 seed Jack Sock in the third round, emphatically defeated No. 8 seed Milos Raonic in the fourth round at the French Open.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Ramos-Vinolas, who advances to his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal, beat the Canadian in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

The 55th-ranked player had never made it past the second round in his 18 previous Grand Slam tournament appearances. It’s only the second time he has beaten a top 10 player.

Cool and very cloudy weather appeared to take some bite out of Raonic’s serve. The quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in 2014 and semifinalist at this year’s Australian Open also complained of an aching left hip in his previous match.

Ramos-Vinolas earned the victory with aggressive shot-making and some terrific defensive play. He broke Raonic five times and only lost serve once himself, saving 6 of 7 break points.

“I have no words to explain how I feel,” he said. “It was four years in a row losing in the first round.”

Raonic beckoned over the chair umpire in the last game to inspect a shot that gave Ramos-Vinolas two match points. She ruled it in, pointing out that the ball had nicked the line.

The Spaniard couldn’t capitalize on either of those match points. But he made no mistake with his third match point, earned with an ace served out wide, sealing the win in 2 hours, 20 minutes with a smash.

Ramos-Vinolas, who celebrated his win by firing a spare ball into the air in delight, will next face No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka.

del Potro to Compete on Clay for First Time Since 2013

Juan Martin del Potro is ready for some clay action…

Following his return to the ATP Tour after 11 months of inactivity, and having taken part in only six tournaments since January 2014, the 27-year-old Argentine tennis player will return to competitive play on clay for the first time since 2013.

Juan Martin del Potro

del Potro has been working on his clay game for the past few weeks. He started his training in his hometown of Tandil, Argentina, and then continued in Buenos Aires. His first tournament action will begin this week in Munich with Madrid and Roland Garros to follow.

del Potro will have a small entourage assisting him, as has been the case since his return. Without a coach since he parted ways with Franco Davin, del Potro traveled to Europe accompanied only by Diego Rodriguez, his physiotherapist.

Rodriguez, who has previously worked with David Nalbandian, will be key to del Potro’s recovery during the tour. Clay is a physically demanding surface, with longer points, greater physical impact and more body wear. For that reason, del Potro has been avoiding the slow surface at times when he didn’t feel strong enough or when he was recovering from his long stretches of inactivity because of wrist injuries. So the mere fact that del Potro is appearing on clay is a positive sign.

“The rehab is going as expected,” del Potro explained a few weeks ago, when he announced his entry in Munich and Madrid. While we must be patient, I’m very happy to confirm two tournaments in consecutive weeks, which is something I’ve been unable to do since my return.”

del Potro’s last appearance on clay came at the Rome Masters in 2013, where he lost his second match. A few weeks before, he had done the same in Monte Carlo. That was it on clay for the year — four matches and a 2-2 record.

This came a year after one of his best campaigns on clay, on which he won a title in Estoril (defeated Stan Wawrinka and Richard Gasquet along the way) and reached the semifinals at the Madrid Masters and the quarterfinals at the French Open.

It should be noted that del Potro has four titles on clay (18 in total). And interestingly, the first two of his career (in Stuttgart and Kitzbuhel in 2008) were both on clay. His other two were both in Estoril (2011 and 2012). del Potro’s career clay-court record: 62-24.

Currently No. 340 in the world, del Potro has played three tournaments this year. He reached the semifinals in Delray Beach, with solid wins against Denis Kudla, John-Patrick Smith and Jeremy Chardy, and made the second round at Indian Wells and Miami.

Now he’ll take on the challenge on clay.

Nadal Advances to ATP World Tour Finals Semifinals

Rafael Nadal stays perfect at this year’s ATP World Tour Finals.

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis star remains unbeaten in his round robin campaign, after extending his perfect mark to 3-0 on Friday.

Rafael Nadal

David Ferrer turned in a valiant effort after rallying from two breaks down in the first set, but Nadal responded in kind, wrapping up the thrilling victory 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4.

Following a rocky start to 2015, Nadale, the world No. 5, is gaining great momentum at the season finale in London.

A 17-4 post-US Open mark has included five Top 10 wins and now three straight this week at The O2.

He enters an Open Era record 46th clash against Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s semifinals after surviving a gritty two-hour and 37-minute battle against Ferrer.

Tested often, he refused to back down, even with a semifinal berth already assured.

Nadal, who notched his 60th win of the season on Wednesday, secured the immediate advantage, breaking Ferrer to 15 in the first game of the match.

Stepping inside the baseline, a rifled backhand winner down-the-line and Ferrer forehand error put him ahead 1-0. Nadal claimed 10 of the first 11 points as he raced to a 3-0 lead behind a second break. But Ferrer would go on a run of his own, taking 12 of 14 points to snatch both breaks back and draw level at 3-3. They would again exchange breaks in the 11th and 12th games, as Ferrer broke Nadal serving for the set at 6-5 – saving a set point – following a seven-minute game. In the tie-break, a wayward lob and double fault from Nadal would give Ferrer a pair of early mini-breaks and he would emerge with the opener after exactly one hour.

Nadal had confirmed his place opposite Djokovic – runner-up in the second group – in Saturday’s semi-finals after defeating Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka earlier in the week.

He qualified for the last four at the season finale for a fifth time in seven appearances.

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.

Nadal Advances to the Australian Open Quarterfinals

Rafael Nadal is still in contention for his second Australian Open title six years after his first…

The 28-year-old tennis star defeated Kevin Anderson on Sunday in straight sets on Sunday, 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 in the fourth-round, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, the 2009 Australian Open winner, turned around the first set — and ultimately the match — in the 11th and 12th games. Nadal fended off five break points to hold, and then broke the 6-foot-8 South African’s serve in the next game to go on a roll in his fourth-round encounter.

“Today was the best match so far this tournament, no doubt about that,” Nadal said. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable with my movements, with my forehand, so that’s the only way that I have any chance to have success on the tough matches ”

Nadal, who lost in the Australian Open finals in 2012 and last year, is coming off an extended injury layoff and says he’s building momentum as he goes — thankful he got through a tough five-setter in the second round against U.S. qualifier Tim Smyczek.

“The chance to be in the quarterfinals after a tough period of time for me is a fantastic result,” said Nadal. “I was playing better than the days before. I felt myself with better rhythm in the legs, better rhythm with my forehand. The way that I improved my level is not the most important thing; obviously the victory is.”

Nadal had to laugh in his last game as he tried to ignore a distraction when his water bottles — famously always precisely placed near the side of the court either for routine or superstition — tumbled over and a ball boy repositioned them.

“Seriously it’s not bothering me,” he said.

The third-seeded Nadal, who lost last year’s final to Stan Wawrinka, will play No. 7 Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.

Nadal has an 18-3 record over Berdych and hasn’t lost to the Czech player since 2006.

Soares Elected to the ATP Player Council

Bruno Soares has soared into a leadership position with the Association of Tennis Professionals.

The 32-year-old Brazilian tennis player, primarily a doubles specialist, has been elected to the ATP Player Council.

Bruno Soares

The 12-member council delivers advisory decisions to the ATP Board of Directors, which has the power to accept or reject the Council’s suggestions.

Soares won the mixed doubles title at the 2012 U.S. Open with Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova. In all, he has 17 career men’s doubles titles.

But Soares isn’t the only Latino to join the group…

André Sá will also serve on the ATP Players Council.

Sá, a Wimbledon men’s singles quarterfinalist in 2012, turned pro in 1996. He has seven career titles in doubles; his most recent coming in September 2011 at the Open de Moselle.

Along with Soares and Sa, other players elected to the council include Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, American John Isner, Kevin Anderson, Gilles Simon, Jurgen Melzer, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Raven Klaasen and Eric Butorac. They will serve two-year terms.

Roger Federer is stepping down after serving as council president since 2008.

“Clearly we made big strides in prize money. … I think we were able to calm things down a little bit, because things were quite hectic when I came onto the council,” said Federer of his involvement on the council.

The new council’s first meeting will be in New York before the U.S. Open in August, when it will elect a president and vice president.