Andy Murray, the former World No. 1 and 2012 US Open champion, headlines the wild cards for the US Open, the USTA announced Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who is No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings as he continues his recovery from hip surgery, will compete in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2018. The three-time Grand Slam champion owns a 45-12 record at the US Open, where he also reached the final in 2008.

The USTA also announced that Americans Ulises Blanch, Maxime Cressy, Sebastian Korda, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Michael Mmoh, Brandon Nakashima and J.J. Wolf will also receive singles main draw wild card entries to the tournament, which begins on 31 August.

A #NextGenATP player, World No. 220 Nakashima has risen more than 500 spots in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the past eight months. He reached the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com in February.

World No. 242 Blanch won his second ATP Challenger Tour title in Ann Arbor this January and defeated then-World No. 54 Pablo Andujar in Monterrey. Another player who enjoyed ATP Challenger Tour success at the start of the season is 23-year-old Cressy, who made two finals in February, winning the title in Drummondville.

Former junior World No. 1 Korda won the 2018 Australian Open boys’ singles title. His father, Petr Korda, won the 1998 Australian Open men’s singles title. Kwiatkowski, 25, lifted his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy in February at Newport Beach.

A former Top 100 player who received a wild card is Mmoh. The American beat then-World No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets to reach the third round of the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau. Wolf, 21, has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year.

Posted: August 6, 2020, 4:04 pm

Juan Martin del Potro always brings his best tennis to the North American hard-court swing and the Citi Open has become the most successful hunting ground of his career.

The Argentine prevailed in three of his five appearances in Washington, D.C., (2008-2009, 2013) enabling him to rack up a 15-match run at this event before Kei Nishikori snapped his winning streak in 2017. It remains the only tournament in which Del Potro has stood in the winner’s circle on three occasions.

ATPTour.com looks back at Del Potro’s trio of thrilling runs.

2008
Del Potro was on a confidence high as he rode a three-tournament, 14-match winning streak. The 19-year-old Argentine prevailed at clay-court events in Stuttgart and Kitzbühel before completing a hat trick in Los Angeles by defeating Andy Roddick in the final.

Playing with the confidence of a man who hadn't lost in several weeks, he charged through the draw and overpowered Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-3 in the final. After falling behind 1-3 in the opening set, Del Potro quickly recovered and wrapped up his perfect week with an ace on championship point. The victory made Del Potro the first man in ATP Tour history to win his first four singles finals.

“Today I was very, very nervous because I was the favourite to win the tournament,” Del Potro said. “In a final, if you play your best you can win, for sure, but I think today I played more with my mind than my body.”

2009
Despite being the defending champion, Del Potro arrived in a different mood having not won a title in seven months. After struggling to victory in his first two rounds, he benefitted from receiving a walkover in his quarter-final against Robin Soderling and soon found himself facing Roddick on championship Sunday.

The sweltering conditions wore both men down as they battled from the baseline for more than two hours. With almost nothing left to give physically, the Argentine turned to his serve and cracked five aces in the third-set tie-break to prevail 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(6). Del Potro squandered his first three championship points, but made good on his fourth chance and became the first man to successfully defend his title at this event since Andre Agassi (1998-1999).

"I did my best serves ever in my life,” Del Potro said. “After the first set, I couldn't move any more. It was impossible. It was serve and one more ball. If you run, you die.”

Buoyed by his second title of the year, the Argentine went on to capture his maiden Grand Slam crown one month later at the US Open (d. Federer).

2013
Del Potro delighted local fans by returning to this event after a four-year absence and quickly made up for lost time. After marching to the final without dropping a set, he shook off a slow start in the final to defeat John Isner 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

The Argentine became energised early in the second set after returning a timid overhead from Isner with a clean forehand winner. Del Potro repeated that effort later in the set and stole the momentum from his opponent to sprint through the remainder of the match.

"It’s amazing. I’m so happy to win here once again," Del Potro said. "Always when you win a tournament, it’s special [and] it’s big. In the third set, I played my best tennis of the tournament.”

Posted: August 6, 2020, 3:01 pm

In the latest profile on the 26 players to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, ATPTour.com looks back on the career of Yevgeny Kafelnikov. View Full List

First week at No. 1: 3 May 1999
Total weeks at No. 1: 6

At World No. 1
Yevgeny Kafelnikov overtook Pete Sampras to become No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 3 May 1999, remaining atop tennis’ mountain for six weeks. “I think it’s the ultimate goal for every professional tennis player, to be able to reach that pinnacle. That’s what we play for,” Kafelnikov told ATPTour.com. “It’s one of the most enjoyable accomplishments from my career.”

Kafelnikov made national history by becoming the first Russian to reach World No. 1. At the time, there was only one other Russian in the Top 100: Marat Safin, who reached World No. 1 the following year.

Grand Slam Highlights
Kafelnikov arrived at 1996 Roland Garros as one of the tournament favourites, crushing World No. 1 Pete Sampras in Dusseldorf the week before the clay-court Grand Slam. Four of the Top 5 seeds lost by the fourth round and Kafelnikov took full advantage.

The 22-year-old felt in great physical shape during the fortnight, going for four eight-kilometre runs around Court Philippe Chatrier during the tournament. Kafelnikov earned his second and final ATP Head2Head win against Sampras in the semi-finals before overcoming surprising cramps late in the championship match against Michael Stich to become the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion. He also won the doubles title alongside Daniel Vacek. No man has won the singles and doubles trophy at the same major since.

“I’ve got news for you: Nobody will [do it again] for a very long time,” Kafelnikov said. “If you ask me when the next time we’re going to see a champion in singles and doubles at the same Slam, I don’t see that happening for many, many years to come.”

Kafelnikov won his second and final major singles title at the 1999 Australian Open, beating five players who reached the Top 5 of the FedEx ATP Rankings to lift the trophy. That victory helped propel the Russian to World No. 1 later in the year. He also won Grand Slam doubles titles at Roland Garros in 1997 (w/Vacek) and 2002 (w/Haarhuis) as well as the 1997 US Open (w/Vacek).

Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Kafelnikov competed at the ATP Tour’s season finale, now called the Nitto ATP Finals, seven times. The Russian advanced through round-robin play three times, highlighted by a trip to the championship match in 1997. He battled past Carlos Moya in two tie-breaks to reach the final in Germany, but was unable to challenge Sampras, who triumphed in straight sets.

Tour Highlights
The International Tennis Hall of Famer (inducted in 2019) won his first ATP Tour match at 1992 Moscow, defeating Spaniard Marcos Aurelio Gorriz. That proved a happy hunting ground for the home favourite, as Kafelnikov won five consecutive titles at the tournament from 1997-2001. He lost in the 1996 final against Goran Ivanisevic before winning 28 consecutive matches in Moscow.

Kafelnikov was a model of consistency during his career, winning multiple titles each year from 1994-2002. Kafelnikov claimed 26 tour-level singles titles. Although he never claimed ATP Masters 1000 glory, the right-hander made five championship matches at that level. He proved capable on all surfaces, winning ATP Tour titles on clay, hard, grass and carpet. He completed his singles career at 2003 St. Petersburg, falling in the second round against rising Russian star Mikhail Youzhny. In doubles, Kafelnikov won 27 tour-level titles, including seven Masters 1000s.

Biggest Rivalries
There wasn’t one man who served as a consistent foil for Kafelnikov. The Russian believes his generation was so saturated with talent, that there were many rivals to contend with.

“You take Marcelo Rios, Guga, Moya. Pete and Andre were dominating the Tour at the time,” Kafelnikov said. “To me, the whole field was a big competition. I played many great matches against Guga. Me and Marat didn’t play any big matches against each other, thank God. We both had about 20 guys who were great rivals for both of us.”

If you had to pick one rival for Kafelnikov, it might be Gustavo Kuerten. The Brazilian beat the Russian in three Roland Garros quarter-finals (1997, 2000-01), needing five sets in two of those matches. Kuerten lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in each of those years. It wasn’t always the biggest stars who frustrated Kafelnikov, either. He never enjoyed playing Dominik Hrbaty (4-9) or Thomas Johansson (5-9).

“Dominik’s game was such a solid game that he had every answer to all my shots,” Kafelnikov said. “If I was hitting the ball hard, the ball was coming back twice as hard. That stuff was driving me nuts. Those two players [Hrbaty and Johansson] read my game so well.”

Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 609-306

Overall Titles/Finals Record: 26-20

Legacy
The Russian maximised his all-around game and stellar fitness to compete — and in many cases, beat — the best players in the world. Kafelnikov’s strength was his backhand, especially up the line. His two-hander was one of the best of his generation.

“I was not even close to being as gifted as John McEnroe or Roger Federer or even Marat Safin, or Marcelo Rios or Nick Kyrgios,” Kafelnikov said. “I was never that gifted. But I was a really hard worker. I’m sure that because of that, I’ve got all my titles, all my goals.” 

Besides his work ethic, Kafelnikov will be remembered for showing young Russians they could enjoy success on the ATP Tour. He was the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion and World No. 1. Today, three Russians are inside the Top 15 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“Yevgeny was the guy who really made it click for me that it was possible to become an unbelievable tennis player,” Safin told ATPTour.com. “Yevgeny achieved to be the elite in tennis, so for me that was the goal, it was like, ‘Wow’. To that point no Russian guy like him made it, so because of him I [knew] I had a chance.”

Memorable Moment
Kafelnikov does not consider one achievement from his career greater than the rest. Instead, he cherishes his Grand Slam victories, reaching World No. 1 and winning the singles gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

In familiar circumstances, Kafelnikov played Kuerten in a consequential quarter-final, defeating the Brazilian 6-4, 7-5. With gold on the line, the Russian battled hard to scrape past rising German Tommy Haas 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. 

Marat Safin on Kafelnikov
“I learned a lot from him when I was younger, practising with him. I understood the intensity of the tennis ball, the way he played from the baseline and how close he stood to the line. For me it was the most shocking moment in my tennis understanding. It was due to him. I never told him, but I understood what it meant to take the ball early [because of Yevgeny]. It clicked and from that point I started to play better and better because of him.”

Larry Stefanki on Kafelnikov
"He was a workhorse, playing both singles and doubles most weeks. Yevgeny and competition merely went together. He always showed up to win. He loved the big matches and played his best tennis under the most extreme pressure. He absolutely cherished being under the gun to have to win a match."

Kafelnikov on Kafelnikov
"
All my success came because I worked hard. That's how I will always be remembered."

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
Strong and tall with a powerful and reliable baseline game, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a handful for all those who had to face him across the net. The poker-faced Russian was also adept at volleying when he chose to be and that made him a difficult player to outmanoeuvre.

His no-fuss approach to the game didn’t make him a box office headliner like some of his peers, but his results spoke for themselves. He became the first Russian to win a Grand Slam title when he defeated Michael Stich at Roland Garros in 1996 and he added to his haul that same year by winning the doubles crown as well. In doing so, he remains the last player to win both the singles and doubles titles at the same Slam event, a record that will likely stand for a long time.

After retiring at the St. Petersburg Open in October 2003, the multi-talented Russian turned himself to a variety of different endeavors. He played successfully in the World Series of Poker, competed at the Russian Open, Austrian Open and Czech Masters on the European golf tour, and briefly coached fellow Russian Marat Safin.

When not engaging in those activities, he also had interests in fishing, watching football, baseball and ice hockey and spent two years playing on the ATP Champions Tour.

Posted: August 6, 2020, 2:37 pm

It’s easy to be mesmerised by Daniil Medvedev’s unorthodox groundstrokes.

To better wrap your head around what makes the 6’6” Russian so potent from the back of the court, don’t focus on his flailing follow-throughs. Keep your eye on the ball as it travels like a laser beam to the other side of the court, and notice how deep it lands near the baseline.

Daniil dines on depth.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Medvedev’s maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last summer, identifies that he never lost the depth battle in his six matches. Hitting the ball deep in the court is arguably the best thing you can do to force an error in tennis, as your opponent has to either move back to hit the ball in their strike zone or shorten their swing to successfully time the ball on the rise. Quite often, they do neither, and errors abound.

Deep Groundstrokes (Percentage Shots Deep Of Service Line)
In Medvedev’s opening round 6-2, 7-5 victory over Kyle Edmund, both players hit 85 per cent of their rally balls past the service line. From then on, Medvedev hit the ball deeper than every opponent. Overall, Medvedev hit on average 85 per cent of his shots past the service line, while opponents managed just 79 per cent.

Medvedev's Run To 2019 Cincinnati Title

Round
Opponent Opp. % Shots
Past Service Line
Med. % Shots
Past Service Line
Final
David Goffin 83%
88%
SF
Novak Djokovic 80%
82%
QF
Andrey Rublev 86%
91%
R16 Jan-Lennard Struff 77%
86%
R32
Benoit Paire 62%
79%
R64
Kyle Edmund 85%
85%
-
Average 79%
85%

Winners & Unforced Errors
You would naturally associate hitting more winners with winning more matches, but it’s not always the case. Medvedev failed to hit more winners than his opponent in every match, and only 39 per cent (55/103) of overall winners came off the Russian’s racquet. In four of the six matches, Medvedev’s winners were all in single digits. His opponents were always in double digits, with Paire and Djokovic leading the way with 19 winners each in their respective matches against the Muscovite.

Where Medvedev did excel was committing fewer unforced errors. He only committed 41 per cent (103/250) of total unforced errors, and only once, against Djokovic, did he commit more (24-19) than his opponent.

Cross-Court & Down-The-Line
Hawk-Eye ball-tracking technology uncovered that almost two out of three shots for both Medvedev and his opponents were directed cross-court, with the other third struck down-the-line. The Russian hit 63 per cent of his shots on average cross-court and 37 per cent down-the-line, which were the same combined percentages for his opponents.

Speed Of Shot
While Medvedev hit the ball significantly deeper (85% to 79%) past the service line than his opponents, his average groundstroke speed was slightly slower from both wings.

Average Forehand Speed

Medvedev = 72mph
Six Opponents = 73mph

Average Backhand Speed

Medvedev = 65mph
Six Opponents = 66mph

Medvedev has risen to No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and will be looking to defend his Western & Southern Open title in New York later this month. Of all the jewels in his game, depth is a diamond.

Posted: August 6, 2020, 2:29 pm

Which players will be best equipped to start strong when the five-month Tour suspension ends later this month?

I think this period is the best for middle-aged players, guys between 25 and 30. I believe they already have experience on the ATP Tour and it’s the right moment for them to improve their game and to do a “check-up” of what happened in the first part of their career.

They are starting to know a bit more about themselves as people and players. Middle-aged players are starting to understand the limitations they had before and now they've had the time to work on those things, while still having the energy to do so. They’re still very young and healthy. For them, it will be great.

When you are young, you can still practise a lot without injury. You have many things to improve in your game. It’s the right time to work a lot, to improve on weaknesses, to finally have the time to work without having the pressure of having a tournament right after. This is the time if you want to improve something in your game. Some things need time to be fixed.

What is really hard in tennis is you always have things coming up and tournaments to play. You say, ‘I would really like to work on my second serve, but I need the time to do it.’ Let’s say I want to be more aggressive on the second serve, one week after working on it, you play a tournament and you hit 10 double faults in a row. Then you quit that attempt to improve. You just lost and you say, ‘Ah, but my ranking!’ You have a lot of pressure with that. 

[ATP HERITAGE]

It’s never easy to find the time to work when you are young once you are on the Tour because it’s one tournament per week. When you have a bit more time like this, it’s the time to say, ‘Okay, I can work on this for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks and practise, test it in practice, test it in a match or in practice for one more month before you bring it into the match.’ That helps a lot sometimes. That’s what I would do if I was younger.

For people like me, for the older players, I think the key in this period is to work a lot with the body. It is most important to stay healthy and to try to work enough to stay in good shape, but not working too much, and take the time to prevent injuries. Your body is not the same as when you were 20. Then you were able to go four hours every day no matter what you are doing and have no problem. For us older players, it’s a bit different now.

Read Blog: A Message To Dad: 'You're Not My Tennis Coach!'

You can also use the time to work on court and what I said before is still true. But managing the body is even more important. You know a big injury when you are 35 or 36 may be the last injury and then your career is over. When you have this in mind, to stay healthy is more important. It’s also the hardest part of the practice. Try to practise, try to be ready, but don't push too much. Don’t get injured in a stupid way.

It’s almost impossible for anyone to make some drastic changes to their game at this moment. In general it’s really hard to make significant changes, because when you come on Tour and you are 21 years old, it’s already 15 years you have been playing tennis. You are new on Tour, but you are already doing what you were doing for a long time. When you do something for a very long time, it’s always hard to change it. When you are 35, it’s 30 years you’ve been playing tennis.

One example: my volley is not great. I tried to improve this all my career, so I can still work on it now. It’s not a problem, but it’s never going to be a great volley. It’s just something that I don’t feel as good with as some other things on the tennis court. It will be a very big surprise if suddenly in three months I come back and I have the best volley on Tour and I play serve-and-volley and return-and-volley. It has to be realistic at some point.

Of course I’m improving and I know a lot of things that I can improve, but it’s not that much anymore about the tennis. It’s still about me being more relaxed, being more confident, trying to use the time to maybe see things differently and maybe having a different approach. Then the results will be very different on court, but without working that much on the tennis itself. The tennis is there for 30 years now, so that’s it.

Posted: August 5, 2020, 7:22 pm

Is #NextGenATP star Denis Shapovalov making a return to the rap game?

Judging by the 21-year-old’s social media activity, he is. The Canadian recently started a new Instagram account (@shapo.music), where he posted the teaser of a song called ‘Night Train’.

“Night Train 🚂... coming soon?” Shapovalov wrote in his post.

The lefty has entered the rap scene before. At last year’s BNP Paribas Open, Shapovalov beat Steve Johnson in his opening match. The #NextGenATP star agreed with the Stadium 3 emcee that if he won his next match on that court, he’d rap. After defeating Marin Cilic in the Round of 32, the Canadian kept his word.

“Definitely not ready, but I'll give it a go,” Shapovalov said to a cheering crowd.

Denis Sh-RAP-ovalov 🎼

ICONIC, @denis_shapo #BNPPO19 pic.twitter.com/FNfCLybTTo

— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 12, 2019

“I'm here in Cali with the fans gettin' hella lit. Happy with the win today, now I gotta float a spit. Lovin' the support, I leave it all on the court. Fightin' like a wolf, I'll be back for more so take care and good night. Know this the good life. Hot tubs and court time. Thursday we back, ight!?”

It was all in good fun. Even though Shapovalov was more focused on his match than being prepared to rap, he enjoys writing lyrics in his free time.

“That was cool,” Shapovalov said in his press conference that day. “It's something I have been doing as a hobby. It's just a fun little part of me.”

If Shapovalov does come out with produced music, perhaps he will soon have a new nickname; not ‘Shapo’, but ‘MC Shapo’.

Posted: August 5, 2020, 5:56 pm

The USTA today announced that the US Open will offer $53.4 million in total player compensation in 2020 – nearly 95 per cent of its total from 2019 – with $7.6 million dedicated toward player relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USTA, ATP and WTA Tours worked collaboratively to build a payment structure for the 2020 US Open that would feature critical financial balance and support for players. First-round prize money for men’s and women’s singles increased by 5 per cent over 2019 ($61,000 from $58,000), while second and third-round singles prize money was unchanged. Doubles prize money for the rounds of 32, 16 and the quarter-finals also remained the same as 2019.

Both the men’s and women’s singles champion will earn $3 million.

2020 US Open Prize Money

 Round  Singles  Doubles (per team)
 Winner  $3,000,000  $400,000
 Runner-up  $1,500,000  $240,000
 Semi-finalist   $800,000  $130,000
Quarter-finalist  $425,000  $91,000
 Round of 16  $250,000  $50,000
 Round of 32  $163,000  $30,000 
 Round of 64   $100,000  xxxxx
 Round of 128  $61,000  xxxxx

The USTA will also provide $6.6 million in additional relief grants and subsidies due to the decision to not hold qualifying and the reduction of the doubles draws. These funds will be allocated equally to the ATP and WTA, which will then make the determination of how to distribute and/or utilise them to provide replacement playing and ranking-point opportunities. Previously in 2020, the USTA contributed $1 million to an international player relief fund.

“We’re proud to be able to offer a player compensation package that maintains nearly 95 per cent of the prize pool from 2019,” said Mike Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. “The prize money distribution for the 2020 US Open is the result of close collaboration between the USTA, WTA and ATP, and represents a commitment to supporting players and their financial well-being during an unprecedented time.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western & Southern Open will also be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year. The main draw of the ATP Masters 1000 begins on 22 August.

Posted: August 5, 2020, 4:21 pm

There’s never a dull moment when Nick Kyrgios is playing, but arguably the most event-filled week of his career took place during last year’s title run at the Citi Open.

The Aussie saved a match point in his semi-final victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas and overcame back spasms to defeat Daniil Medvedev for his second ATP 500 title of the season. With ATP Tour trainers treating his body, Tournament Manager Mark Ein orchestrating an emergency delivery of racquets and helpful fans doling out advice, it took a village to get Kyrgios to his sixth ATP Tour crown.

ATPTour.com looks back at some of his memorable moments on and off the court that week in Washington.

Suggested Serving
There’s no on-court coaching on the ATP Tour, but that didn’t stop fans from giving Kyrgios serving tips.

Upon reaching match point in his last three matches of the week, Kyrgios asked a fan where to direct his serve. In his quarter-final match against Norbert Gombos, a female spectator suggested going out wide. He obliged and cracked an ace, jogging back to her in celebration before she kissed the Aussie on the cheek and hugged him.

He did the same thing against against Tsitsipas, following a fan’s recommendation to hit his serve out wide before cracking a forehand winner and rushing back to shake the spectator’s hand. Kyrgios repeated the trend on championship point against Medvedev and was once again told to serve out wide, leading the Aussie to hit an ace before collapsing to the ground in celebration.

Racquet Emergency
Kyrgios was down to one racquet the night before his Sunday final against Medvedev. His dad had sent five more from Canberra, Australia, but they were stuck in customs at FedEx's Washington Dulles International Airport distribution centre and not due to be delivered until Monday. Making matters worse, the centre was closed on Sunday.

After texting Ein with his dilemma, the Tournament Manager sprang into action and reached out to an executive contact he had at FedEx. By Sunday morning, Kyrgios had the racquet delivery in hand with plenty of time before taking to court.

“[Ein] was able to pull some strings for me, and that was massive honestly for FedEx to make an exception and get me some racquets for the final, which was awesome. I'm super thankful to Mark and to FedEx,” Kyrgios said. “Everything happens for a reason. I got the racquets and got the 'W'.”

Special Delivery
Kyrgios wasn’t only receiving deliveries that week. Early in the third set of his semi-final with Tsitsipas, the Greek had difficulties with one of his shoelaces. A ballboy rushed the shoe up to Tsitsipas’ father, Apostolos, who quickly went to work in repairing it.

When the problem was fixed, Kyrgios took the sneaker from Apostolos and jogged over to his opponent’s chair, presenting it on bended knee and with his head bowed. A bemused Stefanos smiled and gave a thumbs-up.

“Some people love him. Some people hate him. I believe we need people like him in the game,” Stefanos said afterwards. “Otherwise, everything becomes too serious. He’s fun.”

Posted: August 5, 2020, 3:32 pm

Jannik Sinner will be among a trio of #NextGenATP stars competing in the Western & Southern Open qualifying draw later this month. The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion will make his second ATP Masters 1000 appearance, following his debut at the level at last year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.

Sinner will be joined in qualifying by fellow #NextGenATP stars Corentin Moutet of France and Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Moutet made a fast start to his 2020 ATP Tour campaign, winning six matches from qualifying to reach his maiden tour-level championship match at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha (l. to Rublev). Davidovich Fokina, who qualified for last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, will try to reach his second Masters 1000 main draw.

[ATP APP]

Richard Gasquet, who made the 2019 Western & Southern Open semi-finals, will have to qualify this year. The World No. 50 owns a 15-13 tournament record. Two-time quarter-finalist Gilles Simon will aim to make his 12th appearance in the main draw.

Alexander Bublik and Mikael Ymer will attempt to make their main draw debuts at the Masters 1000 event. Bublik will hope to build on his strong start to the year. The 23-year-old has claimed 10 victories from 17 tour-level matches in 2020, highlighted by a run to the Open 13 Provence semi-finals in Marseille (l. to Tsitsipas). Ymer will try to extend his perfect record in qualifying events this year, after reaching main draws in Doha and Auckland in January.

In the women’s qualifying draw, former champions Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva will compete for a place in the main draw. Former World No. 1 Azarenka defeated Serena Williams to win the 2013 edition of the event, while Zvonareva overcame Katerina Srebotnik to claim the title in 2006.

Posted: August 4, 2020, 8:19 pm

Three-time champion Novak Djokovic will lead this year’s US Open playing field, featuring younger ATP Tour stars Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, who will be eying an opportunity to make their Grand Slam breakthroughs.

Djokovic, who won the US Open in 2011, ’15 and ’18, will be attempting to win an 18th Grand Slam title. The Serb was on an unbeaten 18-match winning streak to start 2020 before the ATP Tour was suspended due to COVID-19 in March. That run included his eighth title at the Australian Open and him steering Serbia to victory in the inaugural ATP Cup.

Younger ATP Tour stars will look to snap the 'Big Three' stranglehold at the majors, with Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer combining to win the past 13 Grand Slam titles. Nadal has announced that he will not travel to the United States in 2020 and Federer is sidelined from this year's US Open as he recovers from knee surgery.

Thiem is a three-time Grand Slam finalist, having fallen to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open championship match and to Nadal in the 2018-19 Roland Garros finals. Medvedev reached his first and only Grand Slam final last year in New York, when he pushed Nadal to five sets.

Tsitsipas, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, reached the 2019 Australian Open semi-finals after beating Federer in the fourth round. Zverev, a winner of three ATP Masters 1000 titles, achieved his best Grand Slam result earlier this year at the Australian Open, where he reached the semi-finals (l. Thiem).

Also in the US Open field is Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who reached the semi-finals last year (l. Djokovic). World No. 10 David Goffin will also be at Flushing Meadows, as will 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

Former finalists Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson are also entered, as is 2019 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov.

Explaining why he would not be at Flushing Meadows for both the Western & Southern Open and the US Open, Nadal wrote on Instagram, "After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it...

"All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV.

"This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I'd rather not travel.

Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Alex de Minaur and Jannik Sinner lead the group of #NextGenATP stars in New York. Shapovalov’s best result at Flushing Meadows came on his debut in 2017, when he beat Medvedev and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route to the Round of 16. De Minaur matched the Canadian’s run last year, beating Kei Nishikori in the third round.

The Western & Southern Open will be played at Flushing Meadows 22-28 August, followed by the US Open, which begins 31 August. Both tournaments will be played without fans in attendance.

Posted: August 4, 2020, 6:07 pm

You have to finish off Novak Djokovic. Otherwise, the World No. 1 might not only win that match, but the entire tournament.

The Serbian is a 79-time tour-level titlist. On a record seven of those occasions, he saved at least one match point during the tournament. Djokovic accomplished the feat at 2007 Vienna, 2009 Basel, 2011 US Open, 2012 Shanghai, 2017 Doha, 2019 Wimbledon and 2020 Dubai.

Djokovic returned from the brink to earn a crown in his most recent tournament at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. In the semi-finals, the top seed saved three consecutive match points before defeating Gael Monfils 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-1. The Serbian rode that momentum to the title by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“It's like being on the edge of a cliff,” Djokovic said about facing match points. “You know there is no way back so you have to jump over and try to find a way to survive I guess and pray for the best and believe that you can make it.

“That's one of the things that I feel at the moment. Okay, one point away, one shot away. There is no going back. This is it. I accept the situation and try to make the most out of it.”

[ATP HERITAGE]

Since 2015, players have won 53 tour-level titles after saving match point(s) during the tournament. Djokovic and Lucas Pouille lead the way during that period by winning three different events from match point(s) down.

Pouille has won three of his five ATP Tour titles from the brink of defeat, saving at least one match point at Budapest and Stuttgart in 2017 as well as Montpellier in 2018. Since 2015, seven different players have saved match point(s) in two different matches at the same tournament before lifting the title, led by Dominic Thiem at 2016 Buenos Aires

Players Who Saved Match Point(s) In Multiple Matches, Won Title (since 2015)

 Player  Tournament
 Rajeev Ram  2015 Newport
 Dominic Thiem  2016 Buenos Aires
 Martin Klizan  2016 Rotterdam
 Victor Estrella Burgos  2017 Quito 
 Feliciano Lopez  2017 Queen's Club
 Bernard Tomic  2018 Chengdu
 Jiri Vesely  2020 Pune

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray has saved at least one match point en route to a title twice since 2015. In the semi-finals of the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals, Murray saved one match point before battling past Milos Raonic 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(9). In the championship match, with year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on the line, Murray beat Djokovic for the title.

Murray also notably saved seven match points in the quarter-finals of the 2017 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7(4), 7-6(18), 6-1 before lifting the trophy on the weekend. The top seed saved all seven match points in the 38-point second-set tie-break, which lasted 31 minutes.

“It's obviously a special match to win because of how it went,” Murray said. “I'll probably never play another tie-break like that again.”

Posted: August 4, 2020, 4:19 pm

Editor's Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players and tournaments during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 2 August 2019.

One of the golden rules in sport is to never take your eyes off the ball.

But, during a remarkable rally at the 2019 Citi Open, Frances Tiafoe believed he had done enough to win the first point in a crucial game against Daniil Medvedev. He was wrong.

[ATP HERITAGE]

The exchange, which was featured as Play of the Day on ABC’s breakfast programme, Good Morning America, saw home favourite Tiafoe bring Medvedev to the net with a drop shot before flicking a backhand volley past his opponent and turning his back on the court. But, with impressive speed, Medvedev changed direction to track down the ball and chip it into the vacant space for a winner.

Despite his lapse in concentration with Medvedev serving for the match, Tiafoe did manage to eventually break serve and reach 5-5. But Medvedev responded quickly to claim the win two games later, setting a quarter-final clash against Marin Cilic. The Russian reached the final, losing against Nick Kyrgios.

Posted: August 4, 2020, 4:13 pm

Organisers of the Mutua Madrid Open on Tuesday announced the cancellation of the tournament's 2020 edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ATP Masters 1000 event is typically held in May, but was rescheduled to September because of the virus. Unfortunately, due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, the tournament made a decision in conjunction with local authorities to cancel the event.

“We have given our all to stage the tournament," Tournament Director Feliciano Lopez said. “After the first cancellation in May, we got to work on the September date with the hope of being able to enjoy first-class tennis in the Caja Mágica during this year, which has been so hard for everyone. However, the continued instability is still too great to hold a tournament like this in complete safety. Once again, we would like to thank the Madrid City Council and all of our sponsors and suppliers for being by our side during every step we have taken."

After a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Community of Madrid announced a number of new measures to control the virus’ spread, including a directive that social gatherings are to be reduced to 10 people, both in public and private meetings, further reducing the feasibility of operating the tournament.

The next edition of the Mutua Madrid Open will take place from 30 April to 9 May 2021 in the Caja Mágica. Any fans that decided to keep their tickets after the postponement in May are guaranteed tickets for the same session and seats in 2021.

ATP & WTA Statement:
The ATP and WTA regret to confirm the cancellation of the 2020 Mutua Madrid Open, a decision that has been taken in line with local authorities due to health and safety concerns. We would like to recognise the efforts of the tournament organisers who have gone to great lengths in exploring all options to run this year’s tournament, despite the many challenges presented by COVID-19. Both tours are assessing updates to the 2020 provisional calendars in regards to events following the US Open, and an update will be published in due course.

Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman, said: “We share in the disappointment that the Mutua Madrid Open will not be able to take place this year. The circumstances concerning COVID-19 are continually evolving and we continue to take guidance from local authorities in our decision-making. I would like to thank the Mutua Madrid Open tournament organisers for their efforts to run this year’s event, which included the rescheduling of their dates from May to September, and we look forward to the event’s successful return in 2021.”

Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, said: “We are disappointed the Mutua Madrid Open will not be held this year but we are proud of the dedication set forth by Feliciano and the entire tournament team, who have worked tirelessly to consider and facilitate all possible alternatives in making the tournament happen this year. We know how beloved this combined men’s and women’s event is for fans, especially with the anticipation of the Tour’s return to play, but we remain vigilant to ensure health and safety remains our top priority for all.”

Posted: August 4, 2020, 3:00 pm

When Andre Agassi made his Citi Open debut in 1987, he was so disgusted with his first-round loss that he gave away all of his racquets and vowed to quit tennis. It’s safe to say he’s glad that never happened.

The American gave Washington, D.C. another shot in 1990 and faithfully returned each year, only missing this event in 2005. His five titles (1990-91, 1995, 1998-1999) remain a tournament record after more than 20 years.

ATPTour.com looks at Agassi’s five trips to the winner’s circle.

1990
Agassi’s performance in his return to Washington, D.C. was a stark contrast from his debut at this event. The 20-year-old, then No. 4 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, delivered his best tennis from the first point. He cruised to the title without dropping a set, easily dismissing fellow American Jim Grabb 6-1, 6-4 in the championship match.

"You haven't seen me let up on someone for awhile and I don't think you'll see it again for awhile. I'm just different now,” Agassi said. "It seems like every day that goes by, I'm more aware of the ability I've been given.”

1991
The American returned the following year to deliver the first successful title defence of his career. He once again raced through five matches without dropping a set and required just 65 minutes in the final to defeat Petr Korda 6-3, 6-4, marking his 14th ATP Tour crown.

"If I don't rise to the occasion, there’s no telling what will happen,” Agassi said. "But I am playing my best tennis. I went out there focused. I got through the week rather easily."

1995
Agassi battled Stefan Edberg — and the heat — in what remains one of the most dramatic finals in tournament history.

With the temperature on court reaching 48 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit), the American became ill at 5-3 in the third set and vomited into a courtside flower pot. He felt sick once again at 5-5 and raced to the locker room, explaining afterwards that he “didn’t see an opportune place to puke".

But while he lost his lunch, he didn’t lose his cool. It was Edberg who wilted in the final game as the Swede hit three consecutive unforced errors to give Agassi a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win.

"I haven't experienced this kind of heat,” the Las Vegas-native said afterwards. "I don't know if I'll experience this kind of heat again until next year here. It's crazy. I don't know why I keep coming back.”

1998
Guillermo Vilas, Jimmy Connors and Agassi shared the tournament record for most titles until 1998, when Agassi picked up his fourth crown in breathtakingly dominant fashion. He didn’t drop a set throughout the week and only lost six games combined in his last three matches, winning 11 consecutive games in the final to blitz Scott Draper 6-2, 6-0. The match only lasted 50 minutes and a sheepish Draper apologised to the crowd afterwards, but Agassi was in no mood to do the same.

"If this was disappointing," Agassi told the crowd, "I hope to disappoint 20,000 people at the U.S. Open this year.”

1999
Agassi’s last Citi Open title followed the trend of his other trophy-winning performances at this event as he once again prevailed without losing a set. He defeated Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6(3), 6-1 in the championship match, marking the first time he had won five titles at an individual tour-level event.

"It's interesting what it feels like to win a fifth title somewhere – I've never done that before," Agassi said. "It seems only fitting that it's here.”

Posted: August 4, 2020, 2:40 pm

There will be no shortage of star power when the ATP Challenger Tour resumes play in two weeks. After being sidelined since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players competing on the Challenger circuit will return to action at clay-court events in Prague, Czech Republic and Todi, Italy.

Scheduled to commence on 17 August, the I.CLTK Prague Open 2020 by Moneta features six players inside the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Top Czech and World No. 65 Jiri Vesely is the highest-ranked player on the entry list and will be joined by Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber and Dominik Koepfer, as well as Hungary's Attila Balazs and Marton Fucsovics.

World No. 71 Pierre-Hugues Herbert is also on the Prague entry list, as well as Finnish No. 1 Emil Ruusuvuori. Sitting one spot off a Top 100 breakthrough, the #NextGenATP star is hoping to join the club immediately. Arthur Rinderknech, the 2020 wins leader on the ATP Challenger Tour, will be in Prague as well. The former Texas A&M University standout won 16 of 20 matches in January and February, before the tour was suspended.

India's top-ranked player and World No. 127 Sumit Nagal knows it won't be easy, with such a strong field right out of the gates at the Challenger 125 stop.

"I'm really excited to play matches again and get in that competitive mode," Nagal told ATPTour.com. "It's what we train for. Everyone is feeling the same way. No one wants to be home anymore after all these months. All the players are going to try to play as much as they can. I cannot wait to get on the court and hit the ball again. I'm just really excited."

Prague kicks off a four-week swing in the Czech Republic, which opens with a two-week stop in the capital city and weaves to historic events in Ostrava and Prostejov. With the goal of minimizing travel amid the pandemic, it is an important cluster of events planned for the ATP Challenger Tour restart in August.

Another four-week swing will be simultaneously held in Italy, which opens with a Challenger 100 event in Todi. The tournament also features six players inside the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Federico Delbonis (2017 champion), Roberto Carballes Baena and home hopes Gianluca Mager, Andreas Seppi, Stefano Travaglia and Salvatore Caruso are the Top 100 stars on the entry list.

Mager was on a tear prior to the tour's suspension, reaching his first ATP Tour final in Rio de Janeiro. Seppi also appeared in a Tour-level championship in February, finishing runner-up to Kyle Edmund at the New York Open.

The 2020 edition of the Internazionali di Tennis Citta di Todi is the first in three years, returning after the tournament's decade-long run came to an end in 2017. Former finalist and World No. 16 Marco Cecchinato is also in the field, as well as #NextGenATP stars Jurij Rodionov and Alexei Popyrin. Rodionov was one of the hottest players on the Challenger circuit in February, winning titles in Dallas and Morelos and posting a 15-2 record.

Following Todi, the tour of Italy swings to Trieste, Cordenons and Parma. Many players competing in Todi are also on the Trieste entry list, including Cecchinato, Popyrin and Rodionov.

Prague Entry List (48 draw): Attila Balazs, Alex Bolt, Jay Clarke, Kimmer Coppejans, Enzo Couacaud, Steven Diez, Joao Domingues, Damir Dzumhur, Marton Fucsovics, Daniel Elahi Galan, Peter Gojowczyk, Ernests Gulbis, Robin Haase, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Filip Horansky, Denis Istomin, Ilya Ivashka, Martin Klizan, Dominik Koepfer, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jozef Kovalik, Andrey Kuznetsov, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Henri Laaksonen, Yannick Maden, Pedro Martinez, Nikola Milojevic, Sumit Nagal, Sebastian Ofner, Dmitry Popko, Arthur Rinderknech, Blaz Rola, Lukas Rosol, Emil Ruusuvuori, Roman Safiullin, Mohamed Safwat, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Viktor Troicki, Botic Van de Zandschulp, Juan Pablo Varillas, Jiri Vesely

Todi Entry List (32 draw): Facundo Bagnis, Roberto Carballes Baena, Salvatore Caruso, Marco Cecchinato, Maxime Cressy, Federico Delbonis, Federico Gaio, Alessandro Giannessi, Lorenzo Giustino, Emilio Gomez, Yannick Hanfmann, Antoine Hoang, Lukas Lacko, Paolo Lorenzi, Gianluca Mager, Roberto Marcora, Joao Menezes, Alexei Popyrin, Jurij Rodionov, Andreas Seppi, Pedro Sousa, Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Carlos Taberner, Stefano Travaglia, Mario Vilella Martinez

ATP Challenger Tour 

Posted: August 4, 2020, 4:26 am

Doubles players don’t necessarily need to return aggressively to return successfully. Sometimes an consistent return placed accurately could be just as effective, forcing the serving team to hit a difficult volley.

Jamie Murray, a former No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Doubles Rankings, points to several players who stand out with their consistent returning, including 2019 year-end No. 1 doubles team Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

“The [Colombians] make a lot of returns. Bruno [Soares] is one of the best. He has been for a long time, certainly on the backhand side for sure, and his ability to put the ball in play and start the point is a big talent in itself,” Murray said. “[Ivan] Dodig as well has very good returns. [He has a] backhand money shot, can get the ball in play, but can also hit hard and be aggressive. Can hit both ways as well, which is another skill, to be able to hit down the line and cross-court.”

Soares recently had a group chat with Cabal and Farah in which they discussed who they feel has the best consistent return.

“You have an aggressive backhand, you’re able to generate a lot of power. Let’s keep talking about your forehand,” Soares joked with Farah. “Seb is aggressive with the forehand and he can generate a lot of power, but sometimes he uses the lob, which is tough for the opponents to beat. In terms of consistency, I may be a little bit better throughout the year. Just trying to be honest!”

Farah believes his partner, Cabal, has the best consistent return, but not for the reason you’d expect.

“Just to destroy Bruno’s ego,” Farah joked.

While players unanimously selected Lukasz Kubot as the best aggressive returner, opinion was far more split on who the best consistent returner is. In this installment of the ATP Tour's 'Ultimate Doubles Series', Soares led the way.

Bruno Soares
“He’s very good at holding the ball and he makes you move, and then he goes in the other direction. He’s very good visually.” - Neal Skupski

“He just makes a lot of returns and avoids the net player a lot.” - Joe Salisbury 

Mike Bryan
“Mike is one of the best returners ever. We always had trouble serving against him. He’s always solid, it doesn’t matter forehand or backhand. He always puts the ball back in play.” - Marcelo Melo

“Whenever he has his hands on the ball, he’s going to make you play and you’re going to have to play a tough volley.” - Jurgen Melzer

Mike Bryan

Marcel Granollers
“I’ve played a couple matches where I’ve just gone, 'What’s wrong with this guy?' Hard, kick, slice, anything and he’s just always had answers for me at times.” - Robert Lindstedt 

“He’s a very good returner, especially off the backhand side. On the forehand side, he can go with the chip lob or he can dink it to your feet. Very crafty. He’s one who you’ve always got to be on your toes against.” - Neal Skupski

Ivan Dodig
“I know something about this. I’ve played with Ivan for a while. I’m the guy who is also shooting [for a poach] and he’s helping me out making tonnes of returns. He’s there every day and his level of return is very, very high.” - Filip Polasek

Ivan Dodig

Edouard Roger-Vasselin
“I feel like he can play both sides of the court, deuce and ad, he’s been really successful on both. Forehand and backhand alike he can hit the ball down at your feet seemingly every time. Maybe not the biggest return in the world, but he makes you play and you’re feeling just a constant pressure that he’s able to put on you with that quality.” - Rajeev Ram

Jamie Murray
“When it comes to just guys who are good at making balls and I needed a shot to be made… I think there are some who can put the ball low, can put the ball up above you. Jamie Murray finds a way to get a lot of points started and I think he applies pressure in a whole different way. While it might not be necessarily blowing you off the court, he’s testing your mind out there a lot and you’ve got to maintain good balance, because he can get the ball in places that are really tough to deal with.” - Raven Klaasen

Posted: August 4, 2020, 3:49 am

Editor's Note: ATPTour.com is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players and tournaments during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 30 July 2018.

The Citi Open is celebrating its 50th edition this year with one of the best fields in the history of the ATP 500 tournament. While the muggy heat of Washington, D.C., which tests out every players’ physical conditioning, endures, back in 1969, in the infancy of Open tennis, when doors were — in some cases, reluctantly opened to amateur, contract and professional players — a small group of dedicated individuals took tennis out of the traditional country clubs to a racially integrated district of the city. The original tournament team was small in number and facilities at Rock Creek Park were far from world-class, as they are today.

Donald Dell, one of the sport’s leading powerbrokers for more than 50 years, relays the story of how his father would drive Arthur Ashe back home through the night from far-flung junior tournaments, knowing full well that the shameful reality of race in the 1950s meant that if they stopped, they would not be able to stay in the same hotel. A decade later, a lifelong friendship already cemented and months before the first US Open, which Ashe won in September 1968, the pair was driving around Washington, D.C. and an idea was floated. “Why don’t we run a tournament here?” Ashe asked. “I’d like to play in it, but it has to be in an integrated area so black faces come out and watch the tennis. If you do it at a public park, a public facility and not a country club, I’ll play the event."

Dell, and his childhood friend John Harris, had already run a number of exhibition matches for the Washington Area Tennis Patrons Foundation [founded in 1955], which had helped Dell for expenses to get him into junior tournaments. Now named the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation, the organisation helps to provide children with equipment, instruction, and financial means to play tennis. “In 1963 we ran the first exhibition and Chuck McKinley played, earning an extra $500 for help towards playing tournaments,” Harris told ATPWorldTour.com. “In 1966, the U.S. captain George MacCall rang up in May or June asking us for help to raise money for the Davis Cup team. He wondered if we could put together a preview to that year’s final, between American and Australian teams. We needed to guarantee $10,000, but the event raised $9,000-10,000 for the Foundation, its biggest cheque to date. It was after that point that we tried to work towards getting a sanction for a fully-fledged tournament.”

One year later, an exhibition match — a part of the ‘Summer in the Parks’ program — was held in the middle of a Washington, D.C. street near Lincoln Park, with Dell and Charlie Pasarell facing Ashe and Senator Bobby Kennedy. Dell, an advance man [looking after every public appearance] for Kennedy in 1966 and the presidential campaign of 1968, recalled to ATPWorldTour.com, “We had 4,000 people turn up, in the inner city. It was the final precursor to the inaugural tournament.” Harris adds, “We opted for Rock Creek Park, because it was a nice location and a huge park. Not many other clubs could host an event, for parking and the growth we foresaw. Buses took people to the park. We also wanted to help the Foundation in helping inner-city kids, so the tournament needed to be fully integrated.”

Early international calendars published for 1969, didn’t feature Washington, D.C., which would be held on green clay courts in the vast 2,000-acre park of a soon-to-be affluent African-American neighbourhood the week before the first grass-court tournament on U.S. soil at Merion Cricket Club, a private club in Haverford, Pennsylvania. Only the Swedish International Championships in Bastad [now named the SkiStar Swedish Open] and the Irish Championships in Dublin, held in the week immediately after the conclusion of The Championships at Wimbledon, are published for the week of 7 July 1969.

Raising funds and getting a title sponsor quickly in 1969 became a major concern for Dell, Harris and their three-man tournament team. “We needed to raise $25,000, which was an awful lot of money in 1968,” says Dell. “We managed to get four friends, Washington businessmen, to each guarantee $5,000. I put up $5,000, anonymously, myself. Incredibly, our long search for a title sponsor — The Washington Star newspaper — ended just six weeks before the event was due to begin." There had been only two prize-money tournaments — the Pacific Southwest in Los Angeles and the US Open — in the United States in 1968, when the sport went open to amateurs and professional players, with purses totalling $150,000. In 1969, there were five open events out of 14 on U.S. soil, and prize money had nearly trebled to $440,000.

Dell, in his final year as captain of the Unites States Davis Cup team, was largely responsible for such an influx of banknotes and made North America a profitable tennis circuit. Bud Collins, writing for The Boston Globe, noted, “Acting en bloc, with their captain behind them, the [10-player] team informed USLTA [now the United States Tennis Association] tournament officials that they would appear at no tournament, which did not put up substantial prize money. They also made it clear they would enter into none of the old-style expense deals, and that they would boycott tournaments that did so with other players.”

Cliff Richey, who stayed at the Washington Hilton for the inaugural tournament, told ATPWorldTour.com, “Washington, D.C. preceded Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Washington had a $25,000 prize money pot, with $5,000 to the titlist. Cincinnati had a $17,500 prize money pot and less for the champion. It was Donald Dell who organised the U.S. tournaments that summer to offer the winner $5,000 each, to standardise prize money and professionalise how tournaments were organised.”

First known as The Washington Star International (1969-1981) — then, subsequently, as the Sovran Bank Classic (1982-1992), the Newsweek Tennis Classic (1993), the Legg Mason Tennis Classic (1994-2011) and the Citi Open (since 2012) — the venue had little in the way of on-site facilities. Players arrived on-site already in their tennis attire. There were no showers, media and tournament officials set up their desks beside fans in tents, while wooden bleachers were erected around one of three clay courts.

“Wooden bleachers had to be erected each year, there were tents and trailers for ball boys, volunteers, linesmen, players and tournament officials,” Harold Solomon, the 1974 champion, told ATPWorldTour.com. “A changing facility was built in the early 70s with a locker room, but to say it was modest would be an understatement. There were wall-mounted air conditioners, which barely got the temperature down to 90 degrees on hot days, plastic matts on the shower floor, metal lockers, with only room for a very small number of players at a time and limited bathroom facilities. Towels were at a premium, escaping the heat was the trick.”

“We once had Colonel Powell [the statesman and four-star general of the U.S. Army] as the referee for a while and he made sure the tournament was run like the Army. In fact, one time, after a particularly long break from a severe thunderstorm, my doubles partner Zan Guerry and I were defaulted by the Colonel when Zan was a few seconds late following the deluge. He was in the parking lot running up to the courts and the Colonel had his stop watch out and he counted him out while being two seconds past the allocated time!”

Magazine 1969

Thomaz Koch, who beat Arthur Ashe 7-5, 9-7, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4 in the 1969 Washington, D.C. final, recalled to ATPWorldTour.com, “I remember talking to Donald Dell before the final, asking to play best of three sets otherwise I would miss my flight back to Brazil. Well, in those days most of the finals were played over the best-of-five sets and this match was no different. After being two sets up, I got very angry to have to play another three sets and I was sure, by that time, my flight would be long gone. I finished my match in a big hurry. Donald provided me to be escorted by the police to the airport and the flight was even delayed so that I could make my flight and later connection.”

Harris, who was the head of Potomac Ventures, Inc., a firm which managed office and commercial space, also remembers, “At the trophy presentation, after giving a brief speech, Thomaz put his hand on my shoulder saying, ‘$5,000 is too much for one player.’”

Washington, D.C.-born Solomon said, “There was a certain air of excitement and open tennis was in its infancy. It was more like a family atmosphere. Fans were there not necessarily to be seen, but to be a part of an emerging sport that many of them and their families were participating in. It soon became an annual event that the community had taken on as its own.”

The tournament soon grew in appeal among Senators, Congressmen, business leaders and the well-to-do, with family members of former U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton watching matches or presenting the trophy in the first 30 years of the tournament. "A sitting President has never attended, but the WTEF had two dinners at the house of George H. Bush, when he was the Vice President,” remembers Harris. "Tim Henman once visited the White House and dined with one-time Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

From 992 seats on the west side of the main court in the first year, Harris, the tournament co-chairman until 1994, says, “We added 1,500 seats on the south side and a further 1,500 the following year, when we also created a locker room with showers." In 1972, there was a major development when Dell and Harris donated the tournament sanction to the WTEF, making it the sole owner and charity benefactor. "In 1972, we gave them the sanction, so now they’re maybe the only charity in the United States that owns a professional event. " By 1977, when a pro shop was built, there were 5,700 seats around the main court.

For the first 10 years, attendance records were smashed year-on-year, but in 1978 there was the threat of a shift in tournament week from the U.S. Pro Championships, played in Boston, on clay courts one week prior to the start of the US Open, which was being held at its new site in Flushing Meadows, New York. Longwood Cricket Club in suburban Brookline favoured shifting the U.S Pro tournament week to early summer in 1979, but did not believe it ought to change the surface to hard, as the US Open had done after three years of clay competition. Dell and Harris held firm, arguing that Washington, D.C. had built up a tradition as being the first major tournament in the United States after Wimbledon.

The green clay courts made way for hard courts in 1987, the year of Ivan Lendl’s second title, when the whole U.S. circuit reverted to cement. Jimmy Connors, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro have all walked through the park and tested their skills at the ATP Tour 500-level tournament. Today, the Stadium court seats 7,500 spectators. From the original five-man team in 1969, there are now 500 volunteers all on hand in or around the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center, which has become a world-class venue and, since 2011, a WTA Tour stop.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. TOURNAMENT ALL-TIME MATCH WINS LEADERS

Player Match Record Finals Record Tournament Appearances
1) Andre Agassi (USA) 44-12 5-1 17
2) Guillermo Vilas (ARG) 38-7 3-2 10
3) Andy Roddick (USA) 30-6 3-1 9
4) Harold Solomon (USA) 25-13 1-1 14
5) John Isner (USA) 25-9 0-3 9
6) Eddie Dibbs (USA) 25-12 0-1 12
7) Jose-Luis Clerc (ARG) 25-5 2-1 7
8) Michael Chang (USA) 25-5 2-0 8
9) Jimmy Connors (USA) 25-4 3-0 7
10) Arthur Ashe (USA) 24-7 0-2 8

There has been one constant that no player has ever been able to avoid. The summer heat of Washington, D.C. has always played a contributing factor in how well any player will perform at Rock Creek Park. There are stories aplenty when order of play start times had to be adjusted as the conditions tested a player’s physical conditioning to the maximum.

Marty Riessen, runner-up in 1971 and 1972, told ATPWorldTour.com, “I’ve never played in any other place like it. Playing in D.C. in the summer was hot and humid, more of an endurance contest. I remember my match with Tony Roche [in the 1972 final] when I had match point. I served and came in for an easy volley, but I was perspiring so much that my hand slipped on my grip and I couldn’t make the volley.”

Solomon recalls, “I was playing the Australian Phil Dent in a hot and muggy night match [in 1977]. We had this long, long match and I started getting cramps badly all over my body in the third set and after almost three hours, somehow, I won the final point and walked up to shake Phil's hand and my hand cramped around his and I collapsed onto the court and had to be lifted off. The next day in the paper there was a picture of me victorious, but still shaking his hand while collapsed on the court in agony!”

Lendl, the 1982 and 1987 titlist, one of the fittest players of his era, told ATPWorldTour.com, “I still remember how hot it was! Both David Wheaton and I cramping in my three-set win over him in 1987.”

Andre Agassi, who earned a record five trophies from six Washington, D.C. finals, in addition to 44 match wins from 17 tournament appearances, admitted, “I always loved playing in the heat, but it was a constant negotiation. It was the only tournament in the world where I went through two or three shirts a set.

“I have so many memories, such as playing Stefan Edberg [in the 1995 final] and winning 7-5 in the third set on one of the hottest days and literally being sick in the tree planter by the side of the court. We were so tired, I hit the ball high up in the air and was sick. It was one of the first times both of us sat down during the trophy ceremony. We were so spent. Another memory is playing Petr Korda in the 1991 final and when we got to the net to flip the coin, I realised I had played all night matches and he all day matches. He had sun blisters all over his head. He was burned to a crisp and thought it was slightly unfair.”

At this year's Citi Open, the focus of American attention will be on John Isner, who is looking to master the conditions and potentially become the 13th different American to lift the Washington, D.C. trophy - and the first since Andy Roddick in 2007. The 33-year-old arrives in the capital of the United States on the back of winning his fifth title at the BB&T Atlanta Open on Sunday. “I have made the Washington final three times, but I’ve never won it,” Isner told ATPWorldTour.com. “I’ve always played very well in D.C. I won five three-set tie-breaks in a row to reach the final out of no-where. No one knew who I was, I was fresh out of college. I certainly won’t forget my match against [Gael] Monfils in the semi-finals for a long time.” Isner, in the form of his life, will compete in one of the strongest fields for the 50th edition, boasting the likes of former World No. 1 Murray, Stan Wawrinka, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Kei Nishikori.

The Citi Open has always been a tournament dedicated to, and for the people, of Washington, D.C. Through the dedication of Dell, who acted as Ashe’s manager for 23 years and was a founding father of the ATP in 1972, and Harris, who stage-managed the tournament from his one-room office for the first 13 editions, the sport was brought to the masses — not just the privileged elite — in one of the biggest cities in the United States, a setting that combines history, beauty and a great atmosphere.

Posted: August 3, 2020, 6:04 pm

Two-time champion Andy Murray and Americans Tommy Paul, Tennys Sandgren and Frances Tiafoe have been awarded wild cards for the Western & Southern Open.

Murray, who claimed the Cincinnati title in 2008 and 2011, is the sixth Western & Southern Open champion entered in this year’s tournament, joining Daniil Medvedev (2019), Novak Djokovic (2018), Grigor Dimitrov (2017), Marin Cilic (2016) and Rafael Nadal (2013) in the ATP Masters 1000 field. The tournament will be held from 20-28 August at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A three-time Grand Slam winner, Murray is a 46-time tour-level titlist. In January 2019, Murray underwent a hip resurfacing operation. He came back to play doubles last June, then returned to singles competition at last year’s Western & Southern Open before winning the title at Antwerp in October. The Western & Southern Open, where he owns a 31-12 singles record, will be Murray’s first tour-level action in 2020.

Paul started the 2020 campaign by reaching his first career ATP Tour semi-final at Adelaide. One month later he was a quarter-finalist in Acapulco. In 2019, he was 30-5 on the ATP Challenger Tour with three titles. The 23-year-old will be making his second Western & Southern Open main draw appearance.

Sandgren has reached the Australian Open quarter-finals twice in the past three years. In 2019, Sandgren did not drop a set in Auckland where he claimed his first ATP Tour title. Sandgren played two seasons at the University of Tennessee where he led the Volunteers to the NCAA team final in 2010. He will be making his debut in the main draw of the Western & Southern Open.

Tiafoe was a quarter-finalist at the 2019 Australian Open, which came less than a year after he claimed his first career ATP Tour title at Delray Beach in February 2018. In 2017, Tiafoe defeated his highest-ranked opponent when he upset World No. 7 Alexander Zverev in Cincinnati to reach the Round of 16. The 22-year-old will be making his fourth appearance at the Western & Southern Open, where he has a 3-3 record.

Sixteen Top 20 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings are on the entry list of this month's Western & Southern Open, the first tournament to be played since the ATP Tour was suspended in early March. Twelve additional players will join the field through a two-round qualifying event.

Posted: August 3, 2020, 4:35 pm

John Isner wasn’t even supposed to be in the main draw of the 2007 Citi Open. By the end of the week, the American captivated fans with a dream run to the final and established a pattern of producing clutch tennis in tie-breaks that has remained a staple of his career.

Isner, then 22 and sitting at No. 416 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, completed his college tennis career a month earlier at the University of Georgia. He expected to play the qualifying draw in Washington, D.C., but received a main draw wild card at the last minute after Fernando Gonzalez withdrew due to a back injury.

Competing in only his second tour-level event, Isner put the opportunity to use and scored his maiden ATP Tour win with a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) victory against Tim Henman. The match provided most fans with their first glimpse at Isner’s rocket serve, which regularly exceeded 135 miles per hour.

But he was far from finished. Isner scored four more third-set tie-break wins against Benjamin Becker, Wayne Odesnik, Tommy Haas and Gael Monfils to advance to the championship match. Monfils served for their semi-final battle at 6-5 in the third set, but Isner fought back and eventually collapsed to the ground in jubilation after prevailing 6-7(4), 7-6(1), 7-6(2). The American's inspired run made him the first player to win five consecutive third-set tiebreaks at a tour-level event.

"If I had one win this week I would have called it successful, let alone five," Isner said. “I would have been proud of just having a good showing against Henman.

"I was able to pull that match out and then it was just a snowball thing. I was getting more and more confident.”

Isner was finally brought back to earth against Andy Roddick. In a battle of big serves and crunching forehands, the top seed secured the lone service break in the opening set and held his nerve to close out a 6-4, 7-6(2) win. Despite the loss, Isner was more than satisfied with his week.

“I’ll always remember playing Andy Roddick in an ATP Tour final. You can never take that away from me,” Isner said. “It’s a dream come true, an unbelievable honour. I’ll never, ever forget it.”

The run in Washington, D.C. propelled Isner inside the Top 200. He made his Top 100 debut just six months later and has remained a perennial staple on Tour ever since.

Did You Know?
According to the ATP Performance Zone, Isner ranks second in the Open Era with 438 tour-level tie-break victories (438-284). The American only trails Roger Federer, who has won 460 (460-244).

Posted: August 3, 2020, 2:48 pm

First contested in July 1969, the Citi Open is one of 13 prestigious ATP 500 events on the calendar. The 2020 edition of the tournament was due to take place this month, before its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ATPTour.com looks at five things to know about the event.

An Elite Honour Roll
Held at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, the Citi Open has welcomed some of the greatest names in tennis history over the past 50 years. In fact, 46 of the previous 51 editions of the singles event have been won by players who have reached the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings during their careers.

Six former World No. 1s — Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick — have triumphed at the tournament. Agassi owns a record five titles in Washington, D.C., while Connors and Roddick each claimed three trophies.

In doubles, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan have won a record four team titles (2005-07, 2015). The American twins share the record for most trophies at the event with countryman Marty Riessen. The American won back-to-back doubles crowns with Tom Okker (1971-72) and also lifted the title alongside Tom Gorman (1974) and Sherwood Stewart (1979).

Andy Roddick captured his third Citi Open title in 2007.

Agassi Sets The Mark
From 1990 to 2000, Agassi won five titles from six final appearances in Washington, D.C. The Las Vegas native captured his first trophy in the American capital in his second tournament appearance, winning each of the 10 sets he contested to claim the 1990 crown. Agassi repeated that feat the following year, beating Petr Korda in the championship match.

In a classic 1995 final, Agassi outlasted Edberg 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to claim his third trophy at the event. Across his five title runs at the ATP 500, the second set of that final against Edberg was the only set he lost. Agassi added his fourth and fifth Washington, D.C. titles in 1998 and 1999, beating Scott Draper and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the championship matches.

Agassi fell short of winning his sixth tournament trophy in 2000. Once again, the 1999 year-end World No. 1 advanced to the final without dropping a set, but Alex Corretja claimed the title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory. Agassi finished his career with a record 44 match wins in the United States' capital.

[ATP APP]

Delpo’s Unbeaten Run
After losing his tournament debut in 2007, Juan Martin del Potro claimed 14 straight victories across his next three appearances at the ATP 500 to enter the history books. The Argentine captured his maiden Washington crown in 2008, beating Viktor Troicki in the championship match, and doubled his trophy tally the next year.

Del Potro survived two final-set tie-breaks against former World No. 1s en route to the 2009 title. The Tower of Tandil rallied from a set down to overcome Hewitt in the Round of 16 and outlasted Roddick in the final to lift his second straight trophy at the event.

With a three-set triumph against John Isner in the 2013 championship match, Del Potro joined fellow three-time winners Guillermo Vilas, Connors and Roddick in an exclusive club. Only five-time champion Agassi has won more trophies in Washington, D.C.

"It’s amazing. I’m so happy to win here once again," said Del Potro. "Always when you win a tournament, it’s special, it’s big.”

Bryan Brothers Equal Riessen’s Record
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan are the only doubles team to win three consecutive trophies in Washington, D.C. The pair achieved the feat between 2005 and 2007, dropping just three sets across 12 victories to complete their first three title runs in the District of Columbia.

The Bryan Brothers had to wait another eight years before they returned to the championship match. The American twins, aiming to equal Riessen’s tournament record haul of four doubles trophies, beat Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in straight sets to claim their record-equalling fourth crown in 2015.

Bryans

Zverev Goes Back-To-Back
Alexander Zverev has reached the quarter-finals or better in each of his four appearances at the Citi Open. After compiling a 6-2 record across his opening two visits, the German claimed 10 straight wins to become only the fourth player in tournament history to win consecutive singles trophies at the event.

Zverev claimed his maiden ATP 500 crown in Washington, D.C. in 2017 with consecutive wins against Daniil Medvedev, Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson. One year later, the 6’6” right-hander returned to the final with wins against Nishikori and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Zverev confirmed his place alongside fellow back-to-back tournament winners Agassi, Michael Chang and Del Potro with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Alex de Minaur in the championship match.

Posted: August 3, 2020, 1:50 pm