Rafael Nadal to Make Debut at Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Rafael Nadal is gearing up for hard-court season…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star will return to competition later this month by making his debut at the Citi Open in Washington.

Rafael Nadal

Organizers of the hard-court tournament have announced that the 20-time Grand Slam champion is in the field for the July 31 to August 8 event that serves as a US Open tuneup.

Nadal has not played since his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open last month.

He decided to sit out Wimbledon, which ends Sunday, and the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23, saying his body needed time to rest and recover after the clay-court season.

Other players entered in the Citi Open include Wimbledon semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz, who beat Roger Federer on Wednesday.

Wimbledon quarterfinalists Felix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov also are entered.

The tournament says Rock Creek Park Tennis Center will be allowed to have spectators at 50% of capacity. Last year’s Citi Open was canceled because of the pandemic.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Defeats Federico Delbonis at French Open to Reach First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinals

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal…

The 22-year-old Spanish tennis player battled past Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 56 minutes on Sunday at the French Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina, who overcame Casper Ruud in a mammoth five-set battle in the third round, hit 42 winners and broke Delbonis seven times on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to set up a clash with sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

Davidovich Fokina improved to 19-10 on the season with the victory over 30-year-old Delbonis.

He previously reached the fourth round at the US Open in September (l. Zverev) and advanced to the semifinals on clay at the Estoril Open (l. Ramos-Vinolas) in May to reach a career-high No. 45 in the ATP rankings.

In a lively start where both players broke serve, Davidovich Fokina moved ahead, reeling off four straight games to lead 5-3 as errors started to fly from the Argentine’s racquet.

The Spaniard, who had spent ten hours and 14 minutes on court ahead of this fourth round match, won 46 per cent of points on Delbonis’ first serve, dominating from the baseline as he showed no signs of fatigue to win the opener.

The Spaniard then raced into a 5-1 lead in the second as he won 93 per cent of points (14/15) on his first serve. Although the youngster displayed some nerves, with Delbonis closing back to 5-4, the Argentine could not convert two break opportunities to level at 5-5. Davidovich Fokina capitalized on his third set point with a forehand winner to move further clear.

Lefthander Delbonis hit his heavy forehand into the Spaniard’s backhand with more success throughout the third set though, and battled back from a break down to gain a foothold in the contest. However, Davidovich Fokina made 82 per cent of his first serves in the fourth and used the drop shot to great effect against his tiring opponent, making the crucial breakthrough at 3-3. He then fended off four break points to serve out the contest to extend his stay in France.

Delbonis lost just eight games in his third-round encounter with Fabio Fognini to move to 19 clay-court wins for the season. However, the 30-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as a qualifier (l. Opelka), struggled to deal with the Spaniard’s power on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal Ends Up on the Same Half of French Open Draw as Novak Djokovic & Roger Federer

It’s the (bad) luck of the draw for Rafael Nadal

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star, the reigning French Open champion, has ended up in the same half of the Roland Garros men’s field in the draw as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, meaning no more than one of them can reach the final.

Rafael Nadal

The Big Three top the leaderboard for Grand Slam men’s singles titles. Federer and Nadal head to Roland Garros, where play begins Sunday, tied with 20, while Djokovic has 18. No one else has more than 14.

Nadal, the King of Clay, beat Djokovic in straight sets in the 2020 final for his record-extending 13th championship on the red clay of Paris, but if they meet again this time, it would be in the semifinals.

Nadal is ranked and seeded No. 3 — the seedings adhere strictly to the ATP rankings, so the Spaniard’s unprecedented success in Paris is irrelevant — so he could have wound up on either side of the bracket but was placed in No. 1 Djokovic’s half.

So was Federer, whose record for most weeks atop the ATP rankings recently was broken by Djokovic. Federer is seeded eighth after playing only three matches over the past 15 months because of two operations on his right knee and could meet Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

The other possible men’s quarterfinal on their side is Nadal vs. No. 7 Andrey Rublev.

On the other side of the draw, the potential quarterfinals are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 6 Alexander Zverev.

Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist but is 0-4 for his French Open career. Thiem won last year’s US Open and twice has been the runner-up in Paris.

This is the first time that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have been in the same half of a Grand Slam main draw, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano Reaches First-Ever WTA Final

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano is thisclose to claiming her first WTA title.

The 19-year-old Colombian tennis player, the former junior World No.1, continues her Cinderella run on home soil in Bogota’s Copa Colsanitas.

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano

Osorio Serrano, a wildcard in this tournament has had a breakthrough run, which continued on Saturday with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 semifinal victory over French qualifier Harmony Tan, putting her through to her first WTA singles final in just her fourth career WTA main draw appearance.

Her effort this week has seen her earn her first win against a Top 100 player, beating No.7 seed Tereza Martincova in the second round, before following that up with a victory over former Top 50 player Stefanie Voegele in the last eight. She has not dropped a set in four victories this week.

“I feel super happy to be in the final,” Osorio Serrano said after the match. “I was really hoping to be here and to play in the final. I really don’t feel any pressure and I feel like it’s an opportunity for me to enjoy, to play my best and to do what I’ve been doing the whole week.

“It’s my chance to show my tennis, show my best and I hope that I can play well in this final.”

After winning a nearly 15-minute game to begin the match, Osorio Serrano overwhelmed the French qualifier in the first five games to build a 5-0 lead. Contesting her sixth match of the week, Tan received a medical timeout at the ensuing changeover and saved the bagel, but never found a foothold in the match over the course of 85 minutes.

Though each player landed less than half of her first serves in the match, it was Osorio Serrano who proved all the more effective on return: in all, the wildcard broke serve seven times.

Currently ranked World No.180, Osorio Serrano is the lowest-ranked singles finalist on the WTA this year, and is the third player from her country to play for the title in Bogota. Fabiola Zuluaga won the event four times, in 1999 and 2002-04, and Mariana Duque-Mariño won her crown in 2010.

The former US Open junior champion will play No.5 seed Tamara Zidansek for the title.

At the event’s last staging in 2019, Osorio Serrano reached the quarterfinals as a wildcard before bowing out to eventual Amanda Anisimova in three sets. She and Zidansek, the lone seeded player among those to reach the quarterfinals this week, have never played.

“It would mean a lot to win my first WTA title because that’s what we’re working for,” Zidansek said. “I’ve won two WTA 125Ks, but I remember that feeling, how it felt. Going for my first WTA 250 title, winning that would be amazing.”

Carlos Alcaraz Among ESPN’s ’21 Under 21′ Tennis Players to Watch in 2021

Carlos Alcaraz is among the phenoms to watch this year…

ESPN has announced tennis’ 21 under 21 for 2021, with the 17-year-old Spanish tennis player among the sport’s rising stars making the grade.

Carlos Alcaraz

Despite the circumstances of the 2020 season, Alcaraz managed to move up 350 spots the rankings by year’s end, moving from No. 491 to No. 141, even reaching a career-high of No. 136 in October.

He started the year with back-to-back titles on the ITF Futures tour and was granted a wild card into the Rio Open in February. And the then-16-year-old made the most of his ATP Tour level debut, upsetting former World No. 17 Albert Ramos-Viñolas in 3 hours, 36 minutes in the opening round to become the first player born in 2003 to win a match and the youngest match winner since 2013. Alcaraz called the victory the high point of his season.

Following the restart of the season in August, Alcaraz went 20-4 in ATP Challenger events and won three titles at Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante, as well as playing in the final at Cordenons. He was named the ATP‘s Newcomer of the Year and is the youngest player in the top 600.

But Alcaraz, who idolizes fellow countryman Rafael Nadal, has even bigger goals for 2021. He hopes to make his first main draw appearance at a major in Australia in February and then play in all of the Grand Slams. As for his ranking? He’s hoping to make another big push in the new year.

“I want to finish the year in the top 50,” he said.

But Alcaraz isn’t the only Latinx tennis player to make the list…

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez completed her high school studies in the spring during the tour stoppage.

The 18-year-old half-Ecuadorian tennis player made her major main draw debut at the Australian Open in January — just a year removed from winning the junior title — but it was what she did in the weeks following the event that raised tennis fans’ eyebrows.

After losing in the first round in Melbourne, Fernandez scored her first win over a top-10 player (Belinda Bencic) while representing Canada in the Fed Cup (now known as the Billie Jean King Cup) in Switzerland. Later that month, she won six matches in seven days as a wild card qualifier in the Mexican Open, rolling into the final, where she ultimately lost to Heather Watson. The following week, she advanced to the quarterfinals at the Monterrey Open, defeating 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the second round.

Fernandez made a second-round appearance at the US Open and advanced to the third round of the French Open, where she took a 5-1 first-set lead over Petra Kvitova before the two-time major champion came back to win.

Fernandez thinks her 2021 will be even more successful. Her plan is to reach the top 10 by the end of the year.

Thiago Seyboth Wild wasn’t exactly the favorite entering the Chile Open last February after cracking the top 200 for the first time. But having notched one of the biggest wins of his career the week prior at the Rio Open in 3 hours, 49 minutes — the longest match ever in tournament history — over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and taking World No. 32 Borna Ćorić to three sets the next round, the then-19-year old Brazilian tennis player was flying high entering the event.

What he did over the course of the week in Santiago was even more impressive.

Seyboth Wild knocked off three seeds en route to the title, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to win an ATP event and the youngest Brazilian champion in the Open era.

He found mixed results after the restart, losing in the first round of the US Open and not making it past qualifying at the French Open. But he made a finals appearance at a Challenger event in Aix-en-Provence, which lifted him to a career-high No. 106 in the rankings.

Seyboth Wild hopes to build off what he achieved in 2020 in the new year, although he says he focused more on some of the small things during the preseason.

Here’s the complete list in alphabetical order:

Carlos Alcaraz
Age: 17
Ranking: 141
Country: Spain
Career highlights: Winner of three ATP Challenger titles and three ITF Futures titles; Won his ATP main draw debut at the 2020 Rio Open

Bianca Andreescu
Age: 20
Ranking: 7
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Champion, 2019 US Open, 2019 Indian Wells and 2019 Canadian Open

Amanda Anisimova
Age: 19
Ranking: 30
Country: USA
Career highlights: Semifinals, 2019 French Open; Champion, 2019 Copa Colsanitas

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Age: 20
Ranking: 21 (77 in doubles)
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 US Open; Six-time ATP finalist; Doubles champion, 2020 Paris Masters 

Leylah Fernandez
Age: 18
Ranking: 88
Country: Canada
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 French Open; Finalist, 2020 Mexican Open

Hugo Gaston
Age: 20
Ranking: 162
Country: France
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 French Open

Coco Gauff
Age: 16
Ranking: 48 (45 in doubles)
Country: USA
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2019 Wimbledon and 2020 Australian Open; Doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Australian Open; Champion, 2019 Linz Open; Doubles champion, 2019 Washington Open and 2019 Luxembourg Open

Varvara Gracheva
Age: 20
Ranking: 94
Country: Russia
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Seven ITF titles 

Kaja Juvan
Age: 20
Ranking: 104
Country: Slovenia
Career highlights: Second round, 2019 Wimbledon, 2020 US Open, 2020 French Open; Seven ITF titles 

Sebastian Korda
Age: 20
Ranking: 118
Country: USA
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2020 French Open; One title on ATP Challenger Tour 

Marta Kostyuk
Age: 18
Ranking: 99 (112 in doubles)
Country: Ukraine
Career highlights: Third round, 2018 Australian Open, 2020 US Open; Three ITF singles titles, two ITF doubles titles 

Ann Li
Age: 20
Ranking: 98
Country: USA
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Three ITF titles 

Caty McNally
Age: 19
Ranking: 121 (42 in doubles)
Country: USA
Career highlights: Third round, 2020 US Open; Doubles quarterfinals, 2020 Australian Open; Doubles champion, 2019 Washington Open and 2019 Luxembourg Open 

Lorenzo Musetti
Age: 18
Ranking: 128
Country: Italy
Career highlights: Semifinals, 2020 Sardinia; Third round, 2020 Italian Open; One ATP Challenger title and two ITF Futures titles 

Brandon Nakashima
Age: 19
Ranking: 166
Country: USA
Career highlights: Second round, 2020 US Open; One ATP Challenger title and two ITF Futures titles 

Anastasia Potapova
Age: 19
Ranking: 101 (133 in doubles)
Country: Russia
Career highlights: Second round, 2019 Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon; Finalist, 2018 Moscow River Cup, 2018 Tashkent Open; Doubles champion, 2018 Moscow River Cup, 2019 Lausanne

Thiago Seyboth Wild
Age: 20
Ranking: 116
Country: Brazil
Career highlights: First round, 2020 US Open; Champion, 2020 Chile Open

Jannik Sinner
Age: 19
Ranking: 37
Country: Italy
Career highlights: Quarterfinals, 2020 French Open; Champion, 2020 Sofia Open, 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals 

Iga Swiatek
Age: 19
Ranking: 17 (75 in doubles)
Country: Poland
Career highlights: Champion, 2020 French Open 

Clara Tauson
Age: 18
Ranking: 152
Country: Denmark
Career highlights: Second round, 2020 French Open; Seven ITF titles 

Dayana Yastremska
Age: 20
Ranking: 29 (90 in doubles)
Country: Ukraine
Career highlights: Fourth round, 2019 Wimbledon; Champion, 2018 Hong Kong, 2019 Hua Hin, 2019 Strasbourg

Rafael Nadal Claims ATP’s Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for Third Straight Year

Rafael Nadal is true sportsman…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star has been named one of the winners of the ATP‘s top awards for 2020.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal received the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for the third year straight and fourth time overall after winning a 13th Roland Garros crown.

But he isn’t the only Latino to earn an award…

Bruno Soares and his partner Mate Pavic were named the No. 1 doubles team.

The 38-year-old Brazilian tennis player and Pavic were the champions at this year’s US Open.

Carlos Alcaraz was the Newcomer of the Year.

The 17-year-old Spanish tennis player won the award after claiming three Challengers titles.

Novak Djokovic was the year-end No. 1 for a record-equaling sixth time after winning four titles including a record eighth Australian Open.

Roger Federer, who played only six singles all year, was the singles fans’ favorite for a record-extending 18th straight year, and Andrey Rublev of Russia was the most improved in rising from No. 23 to a career-high 8 after winning five titles, more than anyone else on the tour.

Frances Tiafoe was given the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his social activism. The American auctioned signed memorabilia to Athletes for COVID-19 Relief and posted a video that united the Black tennis community in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing.

Vasek Pospisil is the Comeback Player of the Year after undergoing back surgery in 2019. The Canadian reached two finals and rose to No. 61 after dropping to No. 150 in 2019.

Rafael Nadal Routs Novak Djokovic to Win French Open for Record-Tying 20th Men’s Grand Slam Title

Rafael Nadal has lived to slay on clay another day…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star produced a nearly flawless performance against World. No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the French Open final on Sunday to tie Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles.

Rafael Nadal

 

Nadal equaled long-time rival Federer for the most major singles tennis championships won by a man and added to his own record at Roland Garros with No. 13 on the red clay, courtesy of a surprisingly dominant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Djokovic.

“What you are doing in this court is unbelievable. Not just this court — throughout your entire career, you’ve been a great champion,” Djokovic told Nadal during the trophy presentation. “Today you showed why you are King of the Clay.”

Rafael NadalWhen Nadal ended it with an ace, he dropped to his knees, smiled widely and pumped his arms. It’s the fourth time he has won his favorite tournament without ceding a set.

“The love story that I have with this city, and with this court, is unforgettable,” Nadal said.

He deflected a question during the on-court post-match interview about catching Federer, saying his focus remained squarely on the French Open.

“[To] win here means everything to me, no? It’s not the moment, honestly … [to] think today about the 20th,” Nadal said. “Roland Garros means everything to me. I spent, here, the most important moments — or most of the most important moments — in my tennis career, no doubt about that.”

Nadal, No. 2 in the rankings, improved to 100-2 at the French Open, including a combined 26-0 in semifinals and finals, and picked up his fourth consecutive title in Paris. He previously put together streaks of four French Open championships from 2005 to ’08, then five in a row from 2010 to ’14, to go alongside his four trophies at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.

Nadal is now even with Federer for the first time since each man had zero Slams to his name in 2003. Federer’s first arrived at Wimbledon that year; Nadal, naturally, earned his first in France in 2005, by which point he trailed 4-0.

Federer reacted to Nadal’s win on Twitter, congratulating his “greatest rival.”

“I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” Federer said in his post. “As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory.

“… I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”

Nadal is the oldest French Open champion since 1972, and the more than 15 years between his first and most recent Grand Slam titles is the longest such span for a man.

Diego Schwartzman Outlasts Dominic Thiem at the French Open to Advance to His First Grand Slam Semifinal

Diego Schwartzman is finally into a Grand Slam semifinal… And, he did it against a difficult opponent. 

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tenista played through the wind and rain, and into the dark of night, at the French Open, contesting a total of 376 points spread out across five sets and 5 hours, 8 minutes on Tuesday night, to outlast Dominic Thiem.

In the process, Schwartzman finally won a Grand Slam quarterfinal after failing in three previous tries.

Schwartzman, who at one point was two points from defeat against Thiem, the U.S. Open champion and two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, found his way and emerged with a 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory by taking the last four games.

“I was just so nervous, because I saw the chance today,” said the 12th-seeded Schwartzman.

He called his advancement into his first major semifinal “a big step.”

“At the end, this night, I deserved to win,” Schwartzman said with a chuckle.

Thiem said as much, too, about his friend after a grueling contest in which more than 100 of the points lasted at least nine strokes — frequently going past 20 or even 30 shots.

Schwartzman next will face 12-time champion Rafael Nadal. He beat the former World No. 1 at a clay-court tune-up event in Rome last month.

Diego Schwartzman Upsets ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open Quarterfinals

Diego Schwartzman has taken down the King of Clay in his ‘best match ever”…

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tennis player defeated former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open on Saturday.

Diego Schwartzman

Nadal, a nine-time champion in Rome, had never lost to the 15th-ranked Schwartzman in nine previous meetings. But Schwartzman dictated the baseline rallies and produced a series of drop-shot winners as Nadal uncharacteristically made unforced errors and struggled to get his first serve into play, as he played in his first tournament in seven months.

For two months during the lockdown, Nadal said, he didn’t touch a tennis racket.

“It’s a completely special year — an unpredictable year,” Nadal said. “At least I played three matches.’

While Nadal won his opening two matches this week in straight sets, his rustiness showed from the start against Schwartzman.

Nadal committed nearly twice as many unforced errors as Schwartzman, 30 to 17, and won only 29 of 63 points on his serve — resulting in five breaks.

“Losing that many serves, you can’t expect to win a match,” Nadal said. “So something that I have to fix. I know how to do it.”

Nadal, who chose not to play in the US Open because of travel concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, had not played a tournament since winning a title in Acapulco, Mexico, in February. He now has one week to regroup before he attempts to win a record-extending 13th French Open title. Roland Garros starts next weekend.

“I’m going to keep working and keep practicing with the right attitude and I’m going to try to give [myself] a chance to be ready,” Nadal said.

Schwartzman came up with a series of clutch shots, perhaps none better than during the second game of the second set when he won a 17-shot rally to save a break point by running down a drop shot and passing Nadal with a forehand that landed on the line.

“It was my best match ever,” Schwartzman said.

Rafael Nadal to Face Pablo Carreno Busta in His Return to ATP Tour at the Italian Open

Rafael Nadal is heading back to competitive tennis play…

The 34-year-old tennis star will make his return to the ATP Tour against US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta at the Italian Open in Rome.

Rafael Nadal

In his first appearance since the ATP Tour suspension in March, the nine-time titlist will need to be at the top of his game when he meets his countryman for the sixth time in their head-to-head series (Nadal leads 5-0).

Carreno Busta has made a strong return to the ATP Tour, reaching his second US Open semi-final earlier this week. The Spaniard also lifted his maiden doubles trophy at the Western & Southern Open last month.

Nadal and Carreno Busta most recently met in the third round of this year’s Australian Open, with Nadal winning in straight sets. If he gets past Carreno Busta, he could meet Western & Southern Open finalist Milos Raonic in the third round. Nadal shares the bottom quarter of the draw with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and US Open quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev.

The five-time year-end World No. 1 enters Rome with a 13-3 record this year. At his most recent event in February, Nadal did not drop a set en route to his 85th tour-level trophy at the Acapulco Open in Mexico.

Chasing his 10th title at the Foro Italico, the Spaniard will look to add to his 61-6 record at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Nadal is currently on a 10-match winning streak in Rome, having won the past two editions of the tournament. The 35-time ATP Masters 1000 winner won three-set battles against Alexander Zverev in the 2018 championship match and Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.

If Nadal triumphs for the third straight year in Rome, he will capture a 10th trophy at a single event for the fourth time in his career. He owns 12 French Open trophies and has won 11 crowns at both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona OpenRoger Federer is the only other player to have reached double digits at a single ATP Tour event in the Open Era. He owns 10 trophies at the Noventi Open in Halle and the Swiss Indoors Basel.