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.

Garbine Muguruza Defeats Simona Halep to Reach First Australian Open Final

Garbine Muguruzais one win away from her third Grand Slamtitle…

In a battle of former World No. 1 players, the 26-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis playerbeat No. 4 seed Simona Halepin straight sets on Thursday to reach the Australian Openfinal for the first time.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza’s 7-6 (8), 7-5 victory sends her to the title match against 14th-seeded Sofia Keninof the United States. Kenin beat No. 1 Ash Barty7-6 (6), 7-5.

Muguruza, unseeded at Melbourne Park, fended off four set points in the opener of her semifinal and wound up defeating Halep in a matchup of players who’ve won Wimbledonand the French Openbut not the Australian Open.

It was a streaky contest: Muguruza led 5-3 in the first set before Halep took 15 of 17 points to earn a pair of set points. Muguruza then took seven consecutive points. And so on, until Halep put a shot in the net to relinquish that set, then smashed her racket and sat on the sideline, shaking her head.

“I wasn’t thinking I was down,” Muguruza said. “You keep going.”Muguruza may have won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017, but she came to Melbourne Park as an unseeded player at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in six years.

Garbine Muguruza Reaches First-Ever Australian Open Semifinals

Garbine Muguruzais back in a Grand Slamsemifinal…

The 26-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player and former world No. 1 defeated No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open for the first time in her career.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, took a little more than 1 1/2 hours to eliminate Pavlyuchenkova, with both players struggling with their serves with the sun shining brightly at one end. 

It’s Muruguza’s first spot in a Grand Slamsemifinal since Roland Garrosin ’18.

After struggling for form following her 2017 Wimbledontriumph, Muguruza has looked like a player reborn at Melbourne Parksince reuniting with former coach Conchita Martinez.

Last November, Muguruza climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and got away from it all. She didn’t want to dwell on two relatively barren seasons since her Wimbledon win in 2017.

Her time on the mountain was “definitely was a life-changing experience,” Murgurza said, although she couldn’t explain how because it’s too complicated in a tournament environment.

“But it definitely had an impact on me, not as a tennis player, but just in general,” she said. “Being through such a tough challenge, I think, yeah, did many things inside of me.”

She’ll next face Simona Halep, both have already won at Wimbledon and the French Openand have been ranked No. 1, and are bidding for their first Grand Slam title on a hard court.

Pablo Carreño Busta Claims Kooyong Classic Trophy

Pablo Carreño Busta is starting the year with a bang…

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis player, currently the World No.10, claimed the Kooyong Classic trophy after outlasting Australian Matt Ebden in a tight championship match.

Pablo Carreño Busta

Carreño Busta lost Friday’s first set and was down a break in the second but fought back to take the match 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-2 against the Australian No.2.

Ebden, who beat world No.6 Marin Cilic earlier in the week, was delighted with his form heading into next week’s Australian Open.

“The first day I won and, yesterday, I had chances to win and again, today, I was right there to win that one as well,” Ebden said.

“I probably should have won that in straight sets but I started rushing a little bit and he played some good shots.

“Obviously, I’m playing at a pretty good level, but it would be nice to maintain that for just a little bit more but, hopefully, that will come in the coming weeks.”

Carreño Busta felt the solid workout was perfect preparation for Melbourne Park, where he would meet another Aussie in wildcard Jason Kubler in round one.

“It was very good. I think it’s the best preparation for the Australian Open,” Carreño Busta said.

“It was a very competitive match and I think that’s the most important thing.”

World No.76 Ebden, winner of the Australian Open mixed doubles in 2013, faces 16th seed American John Isner.

Ebden has played against the tall Isner twice in recent times in two close encounters.

“He won a close one in the final against me at Newport and a close one against me at Wimbledon once as well, so I probably owe him one by now,” Ebden said.

Cabal Claims First Grand Slam Title for Colombia in More Than 40 Years

Life’s a grand slam for Juan Sebastian Cabal

The 30-year-old Colombian tennis player and his partner Abigail Spears defeated second-seeded Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig 6-2, 6-4, in the final on Sunday to take home the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open.

Juan Sebastian Cabal & Abigail Spears

This was only the second Grand Slam event as a team for Spears and Cabal, who lost in the first-round at the French Open last year.

With the victory, Cabal is celebrating his Grand Slam breakthrough, having been runner-up with Argentine Eduardo Schwank in the 2011 French Open men’s doubles. He had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals in previous mixed doubles at Melbourne Park.

Spears and Cabal built on a brilliant 4-0 start to grab the opening set and continued to apply pressure with their consistency through the second. At 4-4, Dodig double-faulted to lose his serve and Cabal stepped up to close out the victory.

Cabal is the first Colombian in more than 40 years to win a Grand Slam.

Previously, Ivan Molina and Martina Navratilova teamed up to win the 1974 French Open mixed doubles title, beating Rosie Reyes Darmon and Marcello Lara 6–3, 6–3 in the final.

Soares Makes History After Winning Two Australian Open Doubles Titles

Bruno Soares is seeing double

The 33-year-old Brazilian tennis player made history at this year’s Australian Open by winning two doubles championship matches.

Bruno Soares & Elena Vesnina

On Sunday afternoon, Soares added the mixed doubles title with Elena Vesnina to the men’s doubles championship he won with Jamie Murray.

Vesnina and Soares won the final four points of the match tiebreaker to take the mixed doubles title with a 6-4, 4-6, 10-5 win over American Coco Vandeweghe and Horia Tecau of Romania.

A little more than 16 hours earlier — after 1 a.m. Sunday — Soares and Murray defeated Daniel Nestor and Radek Stepanek 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, also at Rod Laver Arena.

Bruno Soares & Jamie Murray

A Brazilian player had never won any title at the Australian Open. Now the country has two.

Soares said he didn’t finish media commitments at Melbourne Park until 2 a.m. Sunday then had to do some Brazilian press requests from his hotel room.

“I went to bed at 5, set my alarm for 11, woke up at 8:30 … been living on coffee ever since,” Soares said. “So I had 22 coffees already.”

Vesnina interjected, laughing: “I got a [text] message from him at 4:30 [a.m.], ‘I’m ready, partner.'”

It was all worth it, Soares said.

“I knew I had another important day today. You don’t get a chance to play many Grand Slam finals,” he said. “I mean, I got two in the same day.”

Soares said the level of excitement in Brazil over his achievements was high.

“It’s the first time a Brazilian guy competes in two Grand Slam finals in the same event,” he said. “They were talking a lot about that. And winning both makes it even more special.

“It’s tough to compare or relate anything to Guga [the nickname for Gustavo Kuerten, who won three French Open singles titles]. He’s such a hero for us. He’s so above the sport and everything else. But for me it’s a massive achievement. It doesn’t get much better than that. I came here to play two events, and I won both.”

Soares said he hopes his win will give tennis a boost in his home country ahead of the Olympics in August. He visited the tennis complex in Rio in December and gave it the thumbs-up.

“You guys hear a lot of things about Brazil … not all the time that good,” he said. “We’re famous for hosting well, for welcoming. We’re a very warm country. I hope it’s going to be an amazing Games.”

Bautista Agut Advances to His First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinals

No let down (under) for Roberto Bautista Agut

The 25-year-old Spanish tenista followed up his upset win over No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro at the Australian Open with a victory over another seeded player.

Roberto Bautista Agut

In his third round match Saturday, Bautista Agut, ranked No. 62 in the world, defeated No. 27 seed Benoit Paire of France in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, to reach the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.

It’s the fifth victory over Paire for Bautista Agut. He most recently defeated the French player in straight sets at the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand earlier this month.

Bautista Agut has now reached the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam event for the first time in his career.

The plucky underdog’s next opponent will be No. 22 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who defeated No. 11 seed Milos Raonic of Canada in four sets.

Muguruza Beats Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open to Reach Her First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinals

Garbiñe Muguruza has taken down a former world No. 1 player at the Australian Open to earn a spot in a Grand Slam quarterfinals for the first time in her career…

The 20-year-old Spanish/Venezuelan professional tennis player defeated No. 10 seed Caroline Wozniacki 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in a third round match at Melbourne Park on Saturday.

Garbiñe Muguruza

The little-known Muguruza, who moved up to a career best No. 38 in the world rankings after winning her first career WTA singles title at the Moorilla Hobart International earlier this month, stormed back after losing a close first set with some serious sharp-shooting and aggressive play on the court. In the end, Muguruza ended up hitting twice as many winners as Wozniacki.

At one point, Muguruza was up 5-1 in the decider. Her nerves kicked in, allowing Wozniacki to win two straight games. But Muguruza composed herself to serve out the game, set and match.

“I was really nervous (because) it’s the third round and it was a great player (I was playing), but I was only thinking to be aggressive,” said the Spaniard in her post-match on-court interview. “I worked really hard this pre-season, so I think this is the reward for working so hard.”

Muguruza is now 2-0 against Wozniacki. She defeated her 6-2 6-4 on the hardcourts in Miami early last year at their only previous meeting.

Muguruza, who beat No. 24 seed Kaia Kanepi in the opening round in what’s only her fourth grand slam appearance, next faces Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.

The feisty Latina is considered one of the rising stars in women’s tennis, fit and sharp after rehab and recovery from right ankle surgery after Wimbledon that sidelined her for the rest of 2013.

Ferrer Advances to Australian Open Semis After Miracle Comeback

David Ferrer is the last Latino standing at the Australian Open

The 30-year-old Spanish tennis star, who will take his injured compatriot Rafael Nadal‘s place at World No. 4 in the rankings next week, pulled off a remarkable comeback to beat Nicolas Almagro 4-6, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.

David Ferrer

Three times in the first four sets, Ferrer faced the prospect of being ousted by a fellow Spaniard who’d never beaten him in a dozen competitive matches.

The No. 4-seeded Ferrer survived once in the third set and twice in the fourth when No. 10 Almagro was serving for the match, but held firm and finally advanced to his fourth semifinal in six Grand Slam events.

“It was a miracle I won this match,” said Ferrer afterwards. “I tried to fight and do my best, but I need to play better than today in the next round.”

Ferrer, an indefatigable workhorse, played two tournaments in the build-up to the year’s opening Grand Slam event.

“Of course I am tired,” he said. “I ran a lot against Nico. Now I will need to rest, but I have a day and a half.”

Ferrer’s victory sets up a semifinal meeting with Novak Djokovic. He’s played in four semifinals in Grand Slams and lost them all.

“In the important moments, I played more consistent in my game,” Ferrer said. “Of course, in the next round, the semifinals, I need to play my best tennis, better than today.”