February 12, 2016

Rafael Nadal Reaches Argentina Open Final

Rafael Nadal

(February 28, 2015) Rafael Nadal defeated Carlos Berlocq on Saturday 7-6 (7), 6-2 to reach the final of Argentina Open, where he’ll face Juan Monaco. Should Nadal win the title, he will tie Guillermo Vilas for the most Open era clay court titles with 46. This will be Nadal’s first final of 2015.

World No. 4 Nadal came close to losing the first set against the Argentine Carlos Berlocq, when the Spaniard fell behind 1-6 in the first set tiebreak. The 14-time major champion won eight of the next nine points to shut down the set.

“Evidently, when you recover five points (in a row) as well as playing well you have to have some luck, you can’t do it without luck. Carlos was playing bravely and serving well,” Nadal said to media.

“In the end I managed to be more dynamic and aggressive and place my shots well.”

Earlier in the week, Monaco was Nadal’s doubles partner and close friend, but on Sunday he will be his opponent for the title. The Argentine will be looking for his second title at the Argentina Open, he knocked out Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4 in 2 hours and 28 minutes.

“I’m happy for Pico, who had long since reached a final,” said Nadal to media. “It’s a joy to play this decisive match against a friend and for me it is also very important to play my first final of the year here in Buenos Aires, a place where I feel the affection of the people.

RESULTS – SATURDAY, 28 FEBRUARY 2015

Singles – Semi-Finals
[1] R. Nadal (ESP) d C. Berlocq (ARG) 76(7) 62
J. Monaco (ARG) d N. Almagro (ESP) 63 67(6) 64

Doubles – Semi-Finals
J. Nieminen (FIN) / A. Sa (BRA) d [WC] F. Delbonis (ARG) / A. Molteni (ARG) 26 62 10-6
P. Andujar (ESP) / O. Marach (AUT) d C. Berlocq (ARG) / D. Schwartzman (ARG) 63 62

SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, MARCH 1 2015

ESTADIO BILLOCH CARIDE start 12:00 noon
DOUBLES FINAL – J. Nieminen (FIN) / A. Sa (BRA) vs P. Andujar (ESP) / O. Marach (AUT)
Not Before 2:00 pm
SINGLES FINAL – [1] R. Nadal (ESP) vs J. Monaco (ARG)

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ATP Announces Increase in Prize Money at Challengers

 

(January 8, 2015) The ATP has put out a news release announcing that ATP Challenger events will see an increase in prize money. Bellow is the official announcement:

 

News Release

www.ATPWorldTour.com

8 January 2015

PRIZE MONEY AT ATP CHALLENGERS SET TO INCREASE

LONDON — The ATP announced today significant efforts to enhance the ATP Challenger Tour, including further increases in prize money. The ATP Challenger Tour comprises approximately 150 tournaments each year and serves as a springboard for players to compete on the ATP World Tour.

The increases will take place at the lowest category of tournaments, with minimum prize money levels increasing from $40,000 + Hospitality (paid hotel accommodation for main draw players) to $50,000 + Hospitality by 2017. In addition, and with immediate effect, the ATP is offering all current minimum prize money tournaments a subsidy to move up to $50,000 + H from 2015.

The latest increases mean that prize money at the lowest ATP Challengers is set to increase by 100% inside 10 years. In 2007, minimum prize money levels on the Challenger Tour were $25,000 + H. Minimum levels were already increased from $35,000 + H to $40,000 + H in 2014.

“Men’s professional tennis is enjoying one of the most successful periods in its history, however it is essential that we see growth across all levels of the game,” said Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President. “Almost every player earns their stripes on the Challenger Tour before they make it on the ATP World Tour and every bit of extra prize money helps as they look to forge a career in men’s professional tennis. The ATP is committed to making that career path as viable as possible.”

The enhancements at Challenger level come following an extensive strategic review by the ATP’s internal Challenger Tour Management Committee, formed at the beginning of 2014 and led by Alison Lee, ATP Executive Vice President of the International Group region.

“The success and growth of the ATP Challenger Tour is critical to the overall health of our sport and we need to ensure that the lower levels of the professional game do not get left behind,” said Lee. “The enhancements announced today indicate the ATP’s commitment in reinvesting into the lower echelons of the game and supporting these events. It is a delicate step-by-step process, and our strategy is aimed at raising the lower levels of more than 50% of Challenger events, gradually and with assistance until 2017. Prize money is just one part of the equation. We are also pleased with a number of other enhancements set to take place this year, related to calendar flow, medical services, player development, officiating and marketing, all of which will improve the services we are able to provide players at this level.”

The ATP will also provide additional ATP umpires, ATP physiotherapists and Player Relations staff across a number of tournaments, as well as continuing its focus on ensuring that more tournaments are staged in regional swings which complement ATP World Tour tournaments, enabling players to reduce costs and travel time.

Among other enhancements, branded nets will also begin to be featured at ATP Challenger tournaments from 2015. With the majority of Challenger tournaments live streamed across the globe, the net branding will create a unified look for the circuit globally.

“We need to get the right Challenger events in the right weeks, reducing travel costs and improving the medical services, player education, officiating and marketing at these events,” added Kermode. “We are taking a holistic approach as we look to make the time players spend at the Challenger level more sustainable.”

The ATP is also working closely with the ITF relating to planned enhancements at Futures tournaments to ensure a seamless pathway for players from Futures to Challenger level.

ATP CHALLENGER TOUR FACTS:
•    2014 total prize money on the ATP Challenger Tour was $9.2 million.
•    Currently, the different levels of prize money for Challengers are $40,000 + H through to $125,000 + H.
•    Total on-site attendance across Challengers in 2014 was 682,980.
•    The lowest-level Challenger tournaments must provide player hotel accommodation.
•    2014 Challenger breakdown by region: Europe 47%; Asia 21%; South America 19%; North America 13%
•    The Association of Tennis Professionals (prior to the formation of the ATP Tour in 1990) began Challenger tournaments in 1985 with 41 tournaments. (32 events at $25,000, 4 events at $50,000 and 5 events at $75,000). Total prize money was $1.225 million.

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ATP Announces Prize Money Increases Topping $100 Million in 2015

ATP

(December 12, 2014) ATP tour prize money will top $100 million for the first time in 2015. The ATP prize money will increase over the next four years and reach $135 million by 2018.

The Masters 1000 tournaments will see the biggest increases with an overall 14-percent hike over the next four years, while the 250 events will go up by an average of 3.5 percent.

The official ATP news release on the increases:

 LONDON — The ATP has announced significant increases over the next four years that will see overall player compensation on the ATP World Tour reach US$135 million by 2018. Player compensation at ATP World Tour events in 2015 will exceed US$100 million for the first time.

The increases at ATP events are a testament to the sustained success of men’s professional tennis, as well as demonstrating the ATP’s confidence in the strength of its product and projected growth in future years.

The biggest increases in player compensation come at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 category, with tournaments providing annual increases of 11%, and with the ATP contributing a further 3% increase, resulting in a 14% annual increase in that category through to 2018. Player compensation at the ATP World Tour 250s is set to increase at an average of 3.5% per year during the same period.

The latest decisions at Masters 1000 and 250-level mean that player compensation is now confirmed across all three ATP World Tour tournament categories for a four-year period. Player compensation for a five-year period for the ATP World Tour 500 category was decided at the end of 2013.

In addition to establishing player compensation levels on the Tour, the ATP will soon be releasing its 2016-18 calendars, meaning both these key issues will be accounted for over the next four-year period.

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Federer and Nishikori reign supreme in Group B at ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Roger Federer photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Chalkdust Chronicles: Federer and Nishikori reign supreme in Group B at ATP World Tour Finals

(November 13, 2014) LONDON – Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori qualified from Group B to advance to the knockout stages of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

 

The Japanese player had to wait for his confirmation, but his win over alternate David Ferrer pushed Federer into the semi-finals. Nishikori was scheduled to face Milos Raonic, who was 0-2 already in the competition, but despite practicing earlier, he pulled out with a quad injury a couple of hours before the match was due to start.

The Canadian explained: “It was just something I sustained during my last match. Through extensive sort of research with the doctor’s team here, we found that I have a slight tear on the vastus medialis on my quad.”

 

On medical advice he was told that taking to the court could mean putting himself out of action for a considerable amount of time.

 

“Losing six to eight weeks of solely rehab sort of means you lose 12 weeks of getting back into shape and everything, those are definitely significant factors in my decision. At some points I didn’t want to accept it and listen to it. But it is what it is. I, alongside my team, all the staff with the ATP, made the best decision I believe.”

 

So it was left to David Ferrer to step in with the scenarios changing, and for the first time the crowd were treated to a three-set match as the Spaniard took advantage of a lapse in Nishikori’s level to edge the first set, but an early break at the start of the second sent the momentum back Nishikori’s way, as he ran away with it in the third set claiming th amtch 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

 

“It’s never easy playing against David because he’s very consistent from the baseline,” said Nishikori. “If I want to win, I have to do something to break his tennis. From the second set, I was more aggressive. The final set was almost perfect.”

The final match alas did not live up to its promise, as Roger Federer blasted Andy Murray off the court 6-0, 6-1. After holding his first game, Federer went on a tear to win 10 games in a row before the battered Brit finally got a game on the board, only for Federer to wrap up the set in less than an hour.

 

After the match Federer said: “I think if there’s a slight difference of the level from the baseline, hard to get out of it. We’ve seen it all week. The serve doesn’t have that much impact. I didn’t even necessarily serve so well. But you got to play the right way here, use the court to your advantage as much as you can.

 

He continued: “But I had the upper hand from the baseline, which hasn’t always happened against him. But I definitely was able to play on my terms. For me, things went very well. I was able to put Andy under pressure very often, and I think the match couldn’t have gone any better for me really.”

 

 

Coming straight into his post-match news conference Murray admitted: “He played exceptionally well. I can say I’m disappointed with my level tonight. But if I played well, he probably still would have won anyway. He was striking the ball very, very clean. Made very few mistakes. Was hitting the ball off the middle of the racquet on serve, returns.”

 

Murray is on best-man duty for best friend Ross Hutchins next week and has just 14 days before the start of the International Premier Tennis League, where he will be playing in a series of exhibition events, before playing in the Mubadala World Tennis Championships and the Hopman Cup ahead of the start of the season.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Bryans, Federer, Murray Honored In 2014 ATP World Tour Awards

From the ATP World Tour – (November 5, 2014) LONDON Bob and Mike Bryan, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have been honoured in the 2014 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon. While the ATP World Tour No. 1 Presented by Emirates Award is still to be decided between Federer and Novak Djokovic, all the other award winners have been announced today with ceremonies planned to take place during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals from 9 November.

Federer has been selected by his peers as winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for a 10th time and by fans as the ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon for a 12th straight year. Since 2003, Federer has won a record total of 29 ATP World Tour Awards.

Murray is the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award, having taken part in fundraising exhibitions and campaigns over the past two years, and also raised awareness for the work of Unicef, United for Wildlife and Malaria No More.

The Bryan twins sweep the doubles awards for a sixth straight year, taking home ATP World Tour No. 1 Doubles Team presented by Emirates and ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon for a record 10th time each.

The 17-year-old Borna Coric wins the ATP Star of Tomorrow Award presented by Emirates for being the youngest player ranked in the Top 100, while players have voted Roberto Bautista Agut as the Most Improved Player of the Year and recognised David Goffin as the Comeback Player of the Year.

Players will receive their awards, crafted by Lenox, in on-court ceremonies at The O2 throughout the tournament week.

USA Today’s Douglas Robson is the recipient of the Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award while the ATP Tournament of the Year awards will be announced in 2015.

Visit the ATP World Tour Awards section on ATPWorldTour.com

2014 ATP WORLD TOUR AWARDS presented by Moët & Chandon

ATP World Tour No. 1 presented by Emirates
(determined by Emirates ATP Rankings)
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will battle for the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Both players are previous winners of ATP World Tour No. 1 presented by Emirates (Federer five times and Djokovic twice).

ATP World Tour No. 1 Doubles Team presented by Emirates
(determined by Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings)
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan: The Americans will finish as the No. 1 duo in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings for a sixth successive year and record 10th time overall (2003, ‘05-07, ‘09-14). The 36-year-old twins won nine titles in 2014 including the US Open and six ATP World Tour Masters 1000.

ATP Star of Tomorrow Award presented by Emirates
(determined by Emirates ATP Rankings)
Borna Coric: This category in its second year, replacing the player-voted Newcomer of the Year, is awarded to the youngest player in the Top 100 of Emirates ATP Rankings as of 3 November. Coric, who began the season ranked outside the Top 300, broke into the Top 100 on 27 October and reached a career-high No. 92 this week. The 17-year-old Croatian reached the Vegeta Croatia Open Umag quarter-finals (l. to Fognini) in July and made his Grand Slam championship debut as a qualifier at the US Open (l. to Estrella Burgos in 2R), prior to beating World No. 3 Rafael Nadal en route to the Swiss Indoors Basel semi-finals in October. He also won one ATP Challenger Tour title.

Most Improved Player of the Year
(voted by ATP players)
Roberto Bautista Agut: The Spaniard climbed from a year-end No. 59 Emirates ATP Ranking last season to a career-high No. 14 in 2014. He claimed his first ATP World Tour title on the grass courts of the Topshelf Open (‘s-Hertogenbosch) in June, triumphed on his transition to clay a few weeks later at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart, and reached the indoor Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow hard-court final in Moscow in October. Bautista Agut also made a statement on some of the biggest stages: he reached the fourth round at the Australian Open after coming back to defeat World No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro in five sets in the second round, and advanced to the semi-finals at the Mutua Madrid Open, stopped only by Rafael Nadal. He finished the season with 45 match wins – 19 more than his previous career-high.

Comeback Player of the Year
(voted by ATP players)
David Goffin: After breaking his left wrist in September 2013, the Belgian returned to the courts at the beginning of the 2014 at No. 110 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. By the end of June, he had only recorded two main draw wins but after Wimbledon Goffin couldn’t stop winning. He compiled a 44-4 match record from July onwards (inclusive of matches on the ATP World Tour, ATP Challenger Tour and qualifying). His perfect month of July included three straight Challenger titles and his first ATP World Tour title at the Austrian Open (Kitzbühel), all in back-to-back weeks. He extended his unbeaten streak to 25 matches by qualifying and reaching the Winston-Salem Open quarter-finals. After a third-round run at the US Open (l. to Dimitrov), the 23 year old went on another winning streak of 16 matches – with titles at the Moselle Open and Mons Challenger – prior to a runner-up finish at the Swiss Indoors Basel (l. to Federer). He will finish the season at a career-high of No. 22 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship
(voted by ATP players)
Roger Federer: Fellow players voted the Swiss as the winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for the 10th time and fourth year in a row. He also won the award six straight years from 2004-09. Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori were also nominated in this category.

Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year
(awarded by ATP)
Andy Murray: One of Murray’s best friends, former player Ross Hutchins, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though thankfully his cancer went into remission. Another of Murray’s friends from British tennis, Elena Baltacha, was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and the sport was in mourning this year when she passed away at the age of 30. Wanting to help, Murray took part in fundraising exhibitions for Hutchins and Baltacha at Queen’s Club the past two summers, and this autumn he appeared with comedian Richard Ayoade in ‘Andy Murray: The Movie’, a sketch that was part of Channel 4’s ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ programming. Murray has also raised awareness for the work of Unicef, United for Wildlife and Malaria No More.

ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon (Singles)
(voted by fans)
Roger Federer: The Swiss has been voted ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon for a record 12th straight year, receiving 65 per cent of all votes cast. Rafael Nadal finished second, followed by Grigor Dimitrov, Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori.

ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon (Doubles)
(voted by fans)
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan: The Bryan twins received 45 per cent of votes to be named the ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon for a record 10th time. Wimbledon champions Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock came in as the second most popular duo, followed by Roland Garros champions Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Ron Bookman Media Excellence
(awarded by ATP)
Douglas Robson: San Francisco-based Robson has been the lead tennis writer since 2003 for USA Today, one of the largest American newspapers. He has been a journalist for two decades covering a variety of sports, business and general-interest topics.

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Murray Wins First Title Since 2013 Wimbledon

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

(September 28, 2014) Scot Andy Murray came back from a set down and saved five match points to beat Spain’s Tommy Robredo of Spain 5-7, 7-6 (9), 6-1 Sunday to win the Shenzhen Open.

For the Scotsman, who came into the tournament as a wildcard, he broke a tournament win drought dating back to 2013 Wimbledon, the tennis title he won.

“It’s been a long time since I won a tournament, Murray said. “The way that the match was won doesn’t happen very often. It’s rare to win a match like that. I was very close to losing. It was an emotional week for me. I managed to fight my way through it, win the title, and hopefully I can win another one before the end of the year.”

Murray was down 2-6 in the second set tiebreak before rallying.

“I got lucky, basically, at the end of the second set,” Murray said. “I fought hard, tried my best and thankfully managed to turn it round.”

The Scot is trying to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, and has moved up to 10th in the ATP Race To London with the addition of 250 points.

“When you finish second in a tournament it’s always great,” Robredo said. “In a match like today that was so close, it’s tough to accept it. But Andy did a great job. He was pushing right till the end and in the end, he deserved it. It was a good experience to learn from. I will keep working and hopefully next time I can win. It was a good week and hopefully next week I can be ready to play as well.”

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Kei Nishikori Wins Malaysian Open

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori

(September 28, 2014) Top seed Kei Nishikori earned his third title of the season, beating fourth-seeded Julien Benneteau 7-6 (4), 6-4 on Sunday to win the Malaysian Open.

The Japanese player was playing in his first tournament since losing in the final of the US Open.

“It was a really tough start, because he was playing so aggressive, “Nishokori said about trailing by a break in the first set. “I was waiting for my opportunity. I had so many break points and I couldn’t take them. In the last game, he got a little bit tight and I took my chance. After that I played much better and I think he was getting a little bit tired in the second set. I tried to raise my level. It wasn’t my best tennis, but it’s good to win like this.”
The Frenchman Benneteau is now 0-10 in finals. This was his third straight Malaysian Open final.

“Kei was simply too good in the key moments,” Benneteau said. “Especially at the end of the first set. I had some chances, but against these kinds of players they are small chances and you have to take them.”

“It was a very good week and today was my best match of the week. Kei was simply too good in the key moments, especially at the end of the first set. I had some chances, but against these kinds of players, they are small chances and you have to take them. I tried to play my best and I almost did it. I’m disappointed with the loss, but very happy with the level of my game.”

Nishikori is now 44-10 for the year.

Nishikori’s win extends his lead ATP Race To London over seventh-placed David Ferrer.

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Djokovic Returns to No. 1, Qualifies for ATP World Tour Finals

 

 

(July 7, 2014) ATP World Tour – LONDON – Novak Djokovic today returns to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since the week of 30 September 2013. And in a double reward for capturing his second Wimbledon title on Sunday, Djokovic has earned the right to play for a fourth Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown, at The O2 in London from 9-16 November.

In lifting his seventh Grand Slam championship trophy with victory over Roger Federer at the All England Club, Djokovic overtakes Rafael Nadal at No. 1 and begins his 102nd week at the top of men’s professional tennis – the eighth-longest overall reign.

On reclaiming the No. 1 spot and qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic said, “It feels great not only to win Wimbledon again but also to return to No. 1 in the [Emirates] ATP Rankings. I got to No. 1 for the first time in my career after winning Wimbledon in 2011 so it is nice to do it again here. I can’t wait to return to London to defend the [Barclays] ATP [World Tour] Finals title. I have had a good run there in the past two years. I really enjoy playing at The O2.”

Watch: Djokovic Reclaims No. 1 ; Djokovic Qualifies For London

The 27-year-old Djokovic, who will be making his eighth straight appearance at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, has become the first singles player to qualify for the prestigious season finale. He first won the title in 2008 (d. Davydenko), when the tournament was held in Shanghai, and claimed back-to-back crowns at The O2 in 2012 (d. Federer) and 2013 (d. Nadal).

ATP Executive Chairman and President, Chris Kermode, said, “We are delighted that Novak has become the first player to book his place at this year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London. He is having an outstanding season and is fully deserving of his place as current World No.1. Fans in the UK and around the world will already be looking forward to welcoming back this year’s Wimbledon champion to London in November, where he’ll be looking to win a third successive season-ending title.”

After finishing his 2013 ATP World Tour campaign with four straight titles, Djokovic extended his winning streak to 28 straight matches before a loss to Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open quarter-finals. He won three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles – at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the Sony Open Tennis in Miami and Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome – and came up just short in his bid for a career Grand Slam, when he finished runner-up to Nadal at Roland Garros in a match with the No. 1 mantle on the line.

Djokovic first ascended to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 4 July 2011, following his maiden Wimbledon triumph, and held the top spot for 53 weeks. He reclaimed the No. 1 ranking from Federer on 5 November 2012, before relinquishing it to Nadal on 7 October 2013. Djokovic was the year-end ATP World Tour No. 1 in 2011 and 2012.

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals has welcomed more than 1.25 million fans to The O2 arena over the past five years, establishing itself as the biggest indoor tennis tournament in the world since moving to London in 2009. Tickets can be purchased at: www.BarclaysATPWorldTourFinals.com.

Emirates ATP Race To London – Top 15 (as of Monday, 7 July, 2014)

 

Singles
Pos. Name YTD Points
1. N. Djokovic (SRB) 7,250
2. R. Nadal (ESP) 6,645
3. R. Federer (SUI) 4,560
4. S. Wawrinka (SUI) 4,095
5. T. Berdych (CZE) 3,050
6. G. Dimitrov (BUL) 2,785
7. A. Murray (GBR) 2,435
8. K. Nishikori (JPN) 2,405
9. D. Ferrer (ESP) 2,385
10. E. Gulbis (LAT) 2,265
11. M. Raonic (CAN) 2,205
12. M. Cilic (CRO) 1,710
13. F. Fognini (ITA) 1,500
14. A. Dolgopolov (UKR) 1,410
15. J. Tsonga (FRA) 1,365


Bold denotes qualification

 

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Approach Shots: Getting to Know Tennis Umpire Ali Nili

By Wendy M. Grossman

(June 14, 2014) LONDON – “To be close to professional tennis,” says Ali Nili, in explaining his motivation for working as a tennis umpire. Nili is an Iran-born US citizen and one of the ATP’s cadre of ten full-time umpires. This makes him as much of an elite member of his profession as the players whose matches he oversees: only 25 umpires in the world have, like him, earned the profession’s highest qualification, a gold badge. Ten of them work full-time for the ATP, traveling the tour alongside the players.

Umpiring wasn’t what he set out to do. “I wanted to play. I wasn’t good enough.” He sounds comfortable with that.

“It’s just a fun job in general, especially if you’re a tennis fan.” Nili is speaking shortly after umpiring the semifinal between Stanislas Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov. It was a match not without incident: down a set and 3-5, Wawrinka crashed his racquet repeatedly on the court and then, apparently dissatisfied with the demolition job, deliberately folded it in half. Nili seems unbothered by that or any suggestion that angry players might be at all scary. “Just because of the fact that I know them, I work with them every week.”

On the other hand… “I would rather deal with any professional player than any junior’s parents. They want their kid to win at any cost, and anybody in their way is an enemy. I realized that early in my career and tried to stay away from it.”

From the sounds of it, umpiring is a more social job than playing: umpires at the top level hardly ever work with anyone they don’t know, and accordingly they have each other as company.

But players do have one advantage. In a long match they can leave the court for bathroom breaks or request medical treatment. Umpires, on the other hand, stay in place throughout, climbing down only when the match ends or, on clay, if someone wants a mark inspected. It’s not surprising, therefore, when Nili says that ,”My only pre-match routine is go to the bathroom.” When he’s working at Wimbledon or one of the other Grand Slams, where the men play five-set matches, he doesn’t drink anything until the end of his last five-set match.

“It’s easier to stay sharp thirsty than when you have to go to the bathroom out there.”

Nili earned his first international certificate in 1998. Like players, umpires start out in the weeds of the game – small, local events or junior matches. As they learn, gain experience, and improve, they move up the ranks through a series of certificates: white, bronze, silver, and, finally, gold. A tournament like Queen’s, with a singles main draw of 56 and a doubles draw of 16, uses six umpires, four from the ATP’s group, the rest contractors.

Nili jokes about preferring women’s matches at the major because they’re only best-of-three sets, but you have to suspect that every umpire would have liked to have been in the chair for the historic 2010 Wimbledon first-round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which went to 70-68 in the fifth and took more than 11 hours over three days to complete.

“Even he” – meaning the umpire in that match, Mohamed Lahyani – “would tell you that it goes a lot faster than the action time.” In general, he says, “The better the match is, the easier it is to keep your level of concentration. You do a tough five-set match which lasts four hours and when you sit up there it feels like a half an hour.” By contrast, “The opposite is also possible. You might do a match, that might never really pick up, you know, and it’s not the most exciting match in the world and it’s one hour and it feels like three hours. The closer the match is, the tougher the match is, the better the tennis is, the easier it is to concentrate. You get into the flow and the match just drives you along.”

Mistakes still do happen, of course. Umpires are taught not to dwell on them. “We just really always think forward. We always just think about the next call. The more you think about what happened the more chance there is that you’ll miss something else because you’re losing concentration.”

Few mistakes have lasting effects like the one in Venus Williams’ second round match at Wimbledon 2004, when the umpire incorrectly awarded an extra point to her opponent, Karolina Sprem, in the second-set tiebreak. No one corrected the error, and Sprem went on to win the match, though Williams did earn – and lose – three set points along the way.

“Usually, at least in men’s tennis, if you call the score wrong for two points in succession one of the players is going to tell you.” Or, if not the players, a line judge. “It’s not something that happens really often.” Modern technology helps: umpires have tablets that connect directly to the scoreboard so when he punches in the score everyone sees it and it feeds through to TV. A wrong score popping up in those circumstances generally gets a reaction in the stadium.

The hardest thing to learn, Nili says, is “to see the ball well”. Most, though not all, of the top rank of umpires play tennis themselves. “And then communication and not taking things personally.”

One surprising thing to learn is that just as the players must change their games in shifting from clay to grass, so must umpires change their procedures.

“It’s kind of like an art to umpire on clay,” Nili says. “It’s very different. You have to have a better feeling for the match. You have to have done a lot of clay-court matches in order to be a good clay-court umpire.” Years of experience on other surfaces doesn’t automatically translate.

“It’s a lot different.” On other surfaces – hard, indoor, grass – whether or not Hawkeye is available, as soon as a point ends the umpire looks at the loser in case he has questions, comments, or breaks a racquet. “On clay you keep staring at the mark so you don’t lose it.” Obviously. Because: if there’s a disagreement you will have to get down and go check it.

Asked to name the stand-out matches he’s umpired, Nili picks first the 2008 match between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, which stretched to three tiebreaker sets and took two hours, 35 minutes to finish. “The longest three-set match ever played on hard court,” Nili says, and also, “Every point was really amazing. That’s probably the best tennis I would say, I’ve umpired.” Then he names a match from a few months ago: Federer versus Djokovic at this year’s Indian Wells final – “That was a good match.” He umpires comparatively few women’s matches, but obliges with Serena Williams versus Jelena Jankovic in Rome.

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Grigor Dimitrov Wins Bucharest Title

Dimitrov waves

(April 27, 2014) No. 1 seed Grigor Dimitrov knocked out defending champion Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic 7-6 (2), 6-1 on Sunday to win the Nastase Tiriac Trophy for his third career ATP World tour title.

The world No. 16 completed the tournament without losing a set.

Domitrov joined his girlfriend in the winner’s circle on the same day as Maria Sharapova won the Stuttgart title for the third time in a row.

“It feels good to have won. I lifted my game, not having been happy with my previous matches in the tournament,” Dimitrov said. “I knew I had to lift my level, especially after the first set. Lukas is a very good winner, who hit some outstanding winners. It was a pleasure to play in front of Ilie Nastase and other greats.

“I have worked really hard to start winning titles. I have put in enough effort, time and sacrifices to get here.”

“A run to a final was very good,” said last year’s winner Rosol. “It was a perfect week. If you had told me I would have reached the semi-finals at the start of the week, I would have taken it. Grigor was just amazing today. I played good tennis, but Grigor was better on the court and I had no answer. I am sure he will break into the Top 10 very soon.”

The 22-year-old Bulgarian will rise to a career high No. of 13 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday.

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