While the 2021 ATP Tour season may still be in its opening stages, many of the top 21-and-under talents already have their sights set on where they want to finish the year. One such player is 20-year-old Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, who is eager to end his 2021 campaign at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.
”It would be perfect if I could qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals, but it is far away at the moment,” Machac told ATPTour.com. “I will do my best to qualify there.”
Machac has started the year in promising form. Earlier this month, the Czech qualified for the Australian Open main draw without dropping a set in Doha. Across three matches, Machac lost just 14 games to confirm his spot at the opening major championship of the year for the first time.
“The qualifying was very good. I was playing my best tennis, so I am looking forward to playing good in the main draw,” said Machac. “I will try my best and we will see.”
Born in Beroun, a town less than 20 miles southwest of Prague, Machac reached his first two ATP Challenger Tour finals in Koblenz (d. Van de Zandschulp) and Bratislava (l. to Marterer) last year. However, his most notable performance of 2020 came at Roland Garros.
Following the withdrawal of multiple players due to COVID-19, Machac made his Grand Slam qualifying draw debut and claimed his place in the main draw with three straight-sets wins. In his first tour-level match, the Czech pushed 27th seed Taylor Fritz to five sets in a three-hour, 39-minute battle.
”At Roland Garros, I was really nervous in every match,” said Machac. “I really wanted to go to the main draw at Roland Garros. It was the first time at a Grand Slam, so it was really hard to play every game and every point. It was a really good experience at Roland Garros and it will help me a lot for Australia.”
A maiden Grand Slam match win in Melbourne would give the Czech a boost in his bid to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals. Machac has watched each of the past three editions of the event, which have featured Top 10 stars Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I was catching the matches [as often] as I could,” said Machac. “It is a really good tournament. I am looking forward to it. It is different to the other events, it is really good and I would like to play the tournament.”
Growing up, Machac idolised both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Unable to pick sides in their matches, he enjoyed watching their battles in the hope of witnessing ‘the perfect match’. Despite his connection to the two most successful players in Grand Slam history, Machac believes his game shows a greater resemblance to the remaining member of the Big 3: Novak Djokovic.
”I don’t play like Federer or Nadal. I think my style is a little bit of Djokovic,” said Machac. “I have a really good backhand, a good forehand and I am serving okay, very good. I play good [on my] return.”
Machac’s sporting inspirations are not limited to the tennis court. The 6’0” right-hander, coached by two-time Roland Garros doubles champion Daniel Vacek, is also inspired by basketball legend Michael Jordan.
Machac, who enjoys playing basketball in his free time at home, gained a greater appreciation for the six-time NBA champion after watching the Netflix documentary ‘The Last Dance’ last year.
”I like him a lot. I like basketball. When I was younger, I didn’t look at basketball as much as now. I watched the Netflix series and after the series, I was the best fan of his,” said Machac. “Before, I really liked him but after the series I was a big fan. I would like to do everything that he did. He is really good. A legend.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Machac has had more time to watch television in recent weeks as he prepares for his Australian Open debut in quarantine. Alongside his hotel training regime, the Koblenz champion has filled his spare hours with gaming and Netflix dramas ‘Lupin’ and ‘You’.
“I wake up a little bit later than usual. I start working for one hour on the bicycle, some exercises, some gym work. After that, I take a shower, have lunch and watch a series or play some games.” said Machac. “I brought a Playstation, so sometimes I spend time on the Playstation. After, I have a little bit of stretching, a second practice and I try volleying against the wall. In the evening, I watch a series and I speak with my girlfriend.”
Machac’s hours spent in front of the television may have distracted him from quarantine life, but they have not affected his focus. The Czech is eager to play with ‘great stability’ throughout 2021 at Challenger level and qualify for as many Grand Slam main draws as he can.
With six straight-sets victories in as many matches, the 20-year-old owns a 100 per cent record in Grand Slam qualifying clashes. If he can maintain that level, he will have a great chance to earn the FedEx ATP Rankings points he will need to secure qualification for Milan.
None of the previous three editions of the Next Gen ATP Finals have featured a Czech player. Machac could be the man to change that statistic in 2021.
With the groups set and the draw unveiled, the countdown is on for the 2021 ATP Cup, which begins on 2 February in Melbourne. The event pits 12 countries against each other across four groups as they compete for a spot in the semi-finals.
All countries were qualified based on the FedEx ATP Rankings of their No. 1 singles players. But in a team tournament where depth is key, there are plenty of highly ranked No. 2 players to watch.
Leading the pack is 23-year-old Andrey Rublev, No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The second-ranked Russian will team up with No. 4 Daniil Medvedev to make powerhouse Team Russia the only country to feature two Top 10 singles players.
It’s a testament to just how rapid Rublev’s rise has been: he was ranked outside the Top 20 around the time of last year’s ATP Cup, and wasn’t the No. 2 Russian. Now, after earning a Tour-leading five trophies in 2020 and qualifying for his first Nitto ATP Finals, Rublev is ready to take on the ATP Cup.
Milos Raonic is also set to make his ATP Cup debut as Canada’s No. 2 player. Raonic, who rose from No. 32 to No. 14 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2020, will share singles duties with No. 12 Denis Shapovalov.
“I think for us [the key is] going to be depth,” Raonic said of having two Top 20 singles players in Team Canada. “That’s going to be important. I believe we’re probably up there among a few of the top teams that have a higher average ranking compared to other teams. Especially when you have to win two out of the three matches, I think that could be a great advantage for us and something that pays dividends.”
Top 5 No. 2 Singles Players At ATP Cup By FedEx ATP Rankings
|Andrey Rublev||Russia||No. 8|
|Roberto Bautista Agut||Spain||No. 13|
|Milos Raonic||Canada||No. 15|
|Fabio Fognini||Italy||No. 17|
|Dusan Lajovic||Serbia||No. 26|
Other standout No. 2 players are Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut and Italy’s Fabio Fognini, who are both ranked inside the Top 20 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. World No. 13 Bautista Agut finished last year’s tournament with a perfect 6-0 record (12-0 in sets) to help guide Spain to the final, while No. 17 Fognini earned three wins from five matches across singles and doubles.
World No. 26 Dusan Lajovic is also one to watch after he helped Team Serbia claim the inaugural ATP Cup title last year. Lajovic is ready to reprise his role alongside World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, amassing a 4-2 win-loss record at last year’s event.
“Representing your country is an honour that you only have once or twice in a year,” said Serbian No. 2 Lajovic. “The whole concept of being in a team, it’s a very rare opportunity for us. You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your team. And in this case, you’re playing for the people who are also your friends, and that makes it even more special.”
Fans gearing up for the 12-country ATP Cup can get a head start on the action from today with the launch of the ATP Cup Bracket Challenge Game.
The Game, developed by FanHub, a global leader of digital gaming platforms, tasks fans with picking the four group winners, semi-final winners and the ultimate ATP Cup champion. A dream VIP trip for two to the 2022 ATP Cup will be awarded to the best-performing fan.
The game features 12 public leagues by country, one overall league and unlimited leagues (both private and public) created by fans.
The grand prize for the winner of the overall league is a VIP trip for two to the semi-finals and final of the 2022 ATP Cup, including a backstage tour and meeting with an ATP Tour player.
Imagine a dream VIP trip for two to the 2022 #ATPCup ðŸ¤©— ATPCup (@ATPCup) January 26, 2021
It's time to play the ATP Cup Bracket Challenge!
Picks must be made before the tournament begins 10 a.m. 2 February in Melbourne. That is 11 p.m. 1 February in London and 6 p.m. 1 February in New York.. No changes can be made after the first ball has been struck.
ATP Cup, featuring the likes of World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev, will be held 2-6 February in Melbourne.
Dusan Lajovic is set to kick off his season at the ATP Cup, joining World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic when Team Serbia takes the court as the defending champion.
But even though he’s far from Serbia, Lajovic is feeling right at home. In fact, he has brought the whole neighbourhood with him: All four players reside in the same condominium complex in Belgrade. “Only one is ‘the impostor,'’' Lajovic joked. “[Our captain] Viktor [Troicki] lives in the centre of the city. We’ll try to welcome him and do our best to make him feel like he’s a part of the neighborhood.”
Lajovic, who is currently No. 26 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, won four of his six singles matches to help Serbia clinch the title last year, including standout victories over Top 20 Russian Karen Khachanov and #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. ATPTour.com caught up with Lajovic before this year’s event.
Why are you excited about representing Serbia again in the ATP Cup?
Personally, I think it was one of the greatest events that I participated in, and especially winning a title was an incredible experience with so many emotions. So many people from Serbia were there supporting us from the first day in Brisbane until the last day in Sydney at the final. And honestly, it felt like we were playing at home in the middle of our country. The people supporting us were really nice, and they kept on supporting us at events after the ATP Cup.
I think the new energy that it brought and the new format was also one of the things that was so interesting. On the other hand, being part of the team, who are my friends off the court, was another thing that really brought the emotion and togetherness in competing in an event that is not just individual.
Representing your country is an honour that you only have once or twice in a year. The whole concept of being in a team, it’s a very rare opportunity for us. You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your team. And in this case, you’re playing for the people who are also your friends, and that makes it even more special.
What is your favourite memory from last year’s tournament?
I don’t think there is only one memory. The matches that I played really well, the fights on court that were really tense, playing in this kind of environment in front of a crowd that was following every point very closely and trying to engage every time they could… This was the memory that I took from the overall experience. It was just going through every match and every tie that impacted me the most.
What does Team Serbia look like this year?
Team Serbia is me, Novak, Filip and Nikola with our captain Viktor. Actually from the five of us, four of us live in the same condominium in Belgrade. Only one is ‘the impostor’: Viktor who lives in the centre of the city. We’ll try to welcome him and do our best to make him feel like he’s a part of the neighborhood as well…
I’m only joking. We’ve just been friends for so long that it feels like home. It doesn’t matter that we’re on the other side of the world, just being with people that are close to you is a good feeling. You feel more relaxed and comfortable and safe.
Do you have any stories of you and your teammates from last year?
I will just say that last year during the ATP Cup, we played this card game Uno a lot. And it was as tense as it is on the court. The chairs were flying, the cards were flying off the balcony… It was really fun, and I hope this year we can have the same experience when we get together again.
If you could take one stroke from any one of your countrymen, what would it be and why?
Just one stroke? I would probably take eight out of 10 strokes from Novak at this point and then I don’t need anything else… Let’s say Novak’s return. I know it’s not one stroke, but I’d take his return and then let's start from there.
[VISIT ATP CUP]
Which player is most likely to not show up to a Team Serbia dinner on time?
Which player is most likely to be the team’s hype man?
I would say Viktor.
What are three things you love most about Serbia?
The food, the people and the nature.
Tell us one stereotype about your country or countrymen that's true and one that's a common misconception.
That you have Serbians everywhere you go. This is true, it’s completely true. Any country I go to, any tournament that I play, there are Serbians there. And my coach, who is Spanish, is like, “How come there are Serbians everywhere we go?” I mean, in Argentina, in Australia… we go to Brazil and there are Serbians there. Anywhere in Asia, there are Serbians. And we are a pretty small country!
The misconception… I think if you see any Serbians in American movies they are always some evil characters or shady backgrounds. We make good villains, but Serbian people are not all like that!
Tell us about one signature food from your country.
My favourite Serbian food… it’s tough to translate it in English. It’s called “sarma” (Serbian stuffed cabbage). It’s minced meat with rice, rolled into a cabbage which is cooked for a long time. It’s really delicious and we eat it for holidays.
Jannik Sinner and Nick Kyrgios will make their first indoor appearances of the 2021 ATP Tour season at the Open Sud de France in Montpellier.
Sinner will attempt to capture his second ATP Tour crown in his second appearance at the ATP 250. In his most recent indoor hard-court event, the #NextGenATP Italian defeated Alex de Minaur, Adrian Mannarino and Vasek Pospisil in consecutive matches to capture his maiden ATP Tour crown at the Sofia Open.
Kyrgios has already experienced success at a French indoor event. The 25-year-old, who claimed his maiden tour-level trophy in Marseille in 2016, will attempt to capture his seventh ATP Tour title on his tournament debut in Montpellier.
The ATP 250, which will be held from 22-28 February, will also feature three Top 20 players. Roberto Bautista Agut, two-time semi-finalist David Goffin and Pablo Carreno Busta will all return to the French south coast.
Three-time champion Richard Gasquet and 2019 titlist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will look to add to their Montpellier trophy collections. Ugo Humbert, who won two ATP Tour crowns in 2020, will also bid to extend the tradition of French champions at the event. Since the tournament made its ATP Tour debut in 2010, the event has crowned eight French champions from 10 editions.
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, the most accomplished doubles team in history, retired last August. Five months later, the legendary twins are at ease with their decision.
“Now we’re enjoying the afterlife. We’ve both got families. A lot of time with our kids. We understand how important it is to put that energy into raising good human beings,” Mike said. “Maybe they can carry on the legacy, the Bryan Brothers. You [Bob] have the Bryan Brothers, I have one. We’ll see, we’ll have fun doing something else. We’ll figure it out.”
Bob has three children — two sons and a daughter — and Mike has one son. Even before their retirement, family was important to the Americans. When the Bryan Brothers lifted some of their biggest trophies in recent years, Bob’s kids tended to be nearby (Mike’s son was born last April). In what ended up being the team’s final tournament, the 2020 Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com, Bob’s children were their to celebrate another trophy.
“We had a great 23 years, it’s almost too much time to do one thing,” Bob said. “I don’t miss it too much right now, but I do miss waking up having something to shoot for. The goals, the tournaments, just improving the game, having something to shoot for and doing it with you [Mike].”
Bob and Mike enjoyed unparalleled success, lifting 119 tour-level doubles trophies together. Some fans will remember them for their trademark chest bumps and all the time they spent signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. But the Bryan Brothers were also ferocious competitors, and that’s not something that will go away.
“The competition is fun,” Bob said. “I’m getting now into chess, parcheesi, other games.”
It wasn’t always as easy as the brothers made it look, especially in recent years. Bob underwent surgery on his right hip in August 2018, for example. But the pursuit of goals — in many cases, lofty for the Americans — kept them pushing forward into their 40s.
“You have one singular focus: that’s to win matches, to win tournaments, to try to finish No. 1. You have that drive and that vision that gets you out of bed,” Mike said. “We’re both competitors, we like getting the adrenaline rush. The highs and the lows of winning, losses, knowing where you stand against the rest of the teams on a weekly basis.”
As well-liked as they were — the twins won the Doubles Fans Favourite Award 14 times — and as tough as they still might have been on the court, Bob and Mike were ready to hang up their racquets aged 42. This was living proof that nothing lasts forever.
“We had a blast, but it was our time to step aside,” Bob said.
“I’m just going to miss the Tour,” Mike added. “This is what we’ve done for so long, it’s so comfortable. It’s really a simple life.”
The match schedule for the 2021 ATP Cup, the 12-country event being played at Melbourne Park from 2-6 February, was released Monday. The tournament dates have been pushed back 24 hours to allow quarantined players the best possible preparation and training opportunities.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev will all begin their 2021 campaigns on Day 1 of the event. In the day session, defending champion Serbia will open its bid for a second straight title against Canada on Rod Laver Arena and Austria will face Italy on John Cain Arena.
At last year’s event, Serbia overcame Canada 3-0 in the knockout stages. The tie produced one of the most memorable matches of the event, when Djokovic outlasted Denis Shapovalov in a final-set tie-break. They are set for a rematch as their country’s No. 1 singles players.
In the evening session, 2020 finalist Spain will face hosts Australia on Rod Laver Arena. Rafael Nadal and Alex de Minaur will meet again in singles after last year’s semi-finals, when Spain prevailed 3-0. Russia, which reached the semi-finals at the inaugural ATP Cup, will begin its title bid against Argentina. The two countries met in the knockout stages last year, with Russia earning a 3-0 victory.
An individual match to watch includes World No. 2 Nadal against 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, which will take place when Spain faces Greece in the evening session on Thursday 4 February.
Germany, Greece, France and Japan will play their first ties of the tournament on Day 2. Each tie will consist of three matches with No. 2 singles players competing before the No. 1 singles, followed by a doubles match.
The opening three days of the tournament will feature 12 group stage ties, with the four group winners advancing to the semi-finals. The semi-finals will be held simultaneously on Friday, before the two finalists meet in Saturday’s championship match.
To ensure the safety of all patrons on site, the Melbourne Park precinct will be split into different zones.
Spectators wanting to watch ATP Cup Group A and Group B matches will need to purchase a Rod Laver Arena Zone ticket while a John Cain Arena Zone ticket is required for Group C and Group D matches.
Group stage ticket prices are $20 for adults and $5 for kids and go on sale Thursday 28 January at 12.00pm AEDT via Ticketmaster.
This week, the ATP Challenger Tour rolls into France and Turkey for a pair of star-studded tournaments. All eyes will be on the indoor hard courts of Quimper, France and the outdoor clay of Antalya, Turkey, with former Top 10 stalwarts and #NextGenATP stars in action.
In Quimper, the 11th edition of the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale features former World No. 10 Lucas Pouille as its top seed and 20-year-old Sebastian Korda seeded second. Fellow #NextGenATP stars Brandon Nakashima and Hugo Gaston are also in the loaded field, along with Sunday's Istanbul champion Arthur Rinderknech.
It will be a long-awaited return to the tour for Pouille, as the five-time ATP Tour champion and 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist competes in his first tournament since undergoing right elbow surgery last year. To add another layer of emotions to his comeback, the Frenchman is also playing in his first tournament since becoming a father. Last week, his wife Clemence gave birth to their first child, Rose.
Having played just one match in the last 15 months, Pouille returns to the ATP Challenger Tour in search of matches and much-needed rhythm between the lines. He opens against Slovakia's Filip Horansky, with Rinderknech a potential quarter-final opponent. Fellow former Top 10 star Ernests Gulbis and in-form Americans Nakashima and Denis Kudla are also in his half of the draw.
Meanwhile, the bottom half of the Quimper draw is headlined by World No. 103 Korda, as the Florida native continues his quest for a Top 100 breakthrough. The runner-up at the ATP 250 event in Delray Beach earlier this month, he has won 17 of his last 20 matches, also including a maiden Challenger title in Eckental, Germany.
Korda will open against a qualifier, with sixth seed Jurij Rodionov a potential quarter-final opponent. Elsewhere, fellow 20-year-old Gaston battles 2019 champion Gregoire Barrere in a first-round clash, while a red-hot Marc-Andrea Huesler faces last week's Istanbul finalist Benjamin Bonzi.
Centre court in Antalya
At the inaugural Club Megasaray Open I, players hit the clay of Antalya for the first of two straight tournaments in the Turkish resort town. World No. 110 Jaume Munar leads the field, alongside second seed Daniel Elahi Galan and #NextGenATP stars Thiago Seyboth Wild and Lorenzo Musetti.
Munar concluded his 2020 campaign as one of the hottest players on the Challenger circuit, posting a 12-3 record to finish the season. He lifted the trophy in Lisbon, Portugal, in early October and reached another final in Marbella, Spain, later that month. The Spaniard opens against countryman Carlos Taberner this week.
Munar is joined by fourth seed Facundo Bagnis and Germany's Daniel Altmaier in the top half of the draw. Altmaier is also looking to carry the momentum from a strong 2020 campaign, having streaked to the Round of 16 at Roland Garros as a qualifier. There, he secured his first Top 10 victory over Matteo Berrettini.
Second seed Galan, meanwhile, opens against a qualifier on Tuesday. The Colombian is joined by Seyboth Wild and Musetti in the bottom half of the draw, as well as former World No. 21 Leonardo Mayer.
Dennis Novak broke into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time last season, and his surge started at the ATP Cup.
Novak played three tough three-setters for Austria as the country’s No. 2 singles player, and he earned a win against World No. 25 Guido Pella. The 6’ righty climbed as high as World No. 85 in March. Now, he is ready to begin another season by representing Austria in the ATP Cup.
Before the start of the 12-country event, Novak sat down with ATPTour.com to reveal how he has been passing the time during quarantine.
What is a day in the life of quarantine like for you?
We wake up, we get tested, we have breakfast. We get ready for practice... We have time to be outside. We come back, do some stretching, eat, shower and then watch some movies and try to kill the time.
Who is your most frequently contacted person during this quarantine period?
Dominic [Thiem]. [We keep in touch by] texting, playing games online against each other.
What games do you play against each other online?
We play a lot of Mario Kart on Nintendo Switch. That’s at the moment the only thing we play [on Nintendo Switch]. I play with Baby Bowser and he takes Toad. I also have a PlayStation with me. I play with his brother [Moritz Thiem]. We play Formula 1 and we have a few more games.
Have you been watching any shows in quarantine?
I just started a new show on Netflix, Shooter. I’m just really into it. I cannot stop. Also a French one, Lupin. But there is only one season out, so it’s only five or six episodes. For Shooter there are a lot more.
Are you reading any books or doing anything else?
I [recently] read two books about Covid, which were really interesting. I like to read biographies of sportsmen. For me, the best sports biography I’ve read was about Niki Lauda.
What are some of the best in-room workout tips that you have found?
You can do a lot just with your body weight and with the band, maybe. I think those are the two things I do the most.
What’s your go-to pick-up order that you have?
A lot of pasta and fish.
You’ve been watching some shows, playing some games. What else do you do to pass the time?
Just watching some news from home in Austria on the Internet, just being on the Internet, playing games, maybe sleeping. But that’s it.
New season, same story for Arthur Rinderknech.
One year ago, the Frenchman opened his 2020 campaign with a piece of silverware wrapped in his arms. This week, Rinderknech kicked off his 2021 ATP Challenger Tour season in similar fashion.
The 25-year-old wasted no time in finding the winning formula in Istanbul, reeling off seven wins in eight days as a qualifier to lift the trophy. With the Turkish metropolis blanketed in snow, Rinderknech turned up the heat on the indoor hard courts of the TED Sports Club. He rallied past countryman Benjamin Bonzi in Sunday's championship, taking the title 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(3) in two hours and 17 minutes.
"It feels great to win the first Challenger of the year and even more when it's a 125-level tournament," said Rinderknech. "I'm happy about the way I handled things this week and went through seven matches in eight days."
Rinderknech's triumph moves him 43 spots to a career-high No. 135 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. A former college standout at Texas A&M University, he outlasted #NextGenATP star Brandon Nakashima, before overcoming an in-form Marc-Andrea Huesler in the quarter-finals and defeating seventh seed Jozef Kovalik for a spot in the title match.
"I think the key was to go day-by-day and take it match-by-match, as it was a long week," Rinderknech added. "Taking care of my body and making sure I was staying fresh, mentally too. I wanted to play doubles with my partner Manuel Guinard, but we didn't get in and that would have been too much. We will play together in Quimper."
The Parisian is carrying some serious momentum from a breakout 2020 campaign. One of the revelations on the Challenger circuit last year, Rinderknech soared nearly 200 spots to a year-end position inside the Top 200. Not only did he open his season with a title on home soil in Rennes, but he followed that with a second crown in Calgary, Canada, just weeks later. And in September, he was rewarded for his efforts with a main draw wild card at Roland Garros, making his Grand Slam debut in his hometown.
Rinderknech, who finished 2020 in fourth place on the Challenger wins list with a 22-12 record, is the first qualifier to lift a trophy since Carlos Alcaraz achieved the feat in August. In addition, the 25-year-old is the youngest French champion in nearly two years.
Next week, Rinderknech will return home for the Open Quimper Bretagne Occidentale. He opens against a qualifier, with top seed and former World No. 10 Lucas Pouille also in his quarter at the Challenger 100 event. Rinderknech is one of nine players in the Top 150 to feature in Quimper.
The Australian Open lead-in week has been revamped to help give the 72 players in the 14-day quarantine lockdown the best possible preparation and training opportunities.
Following extensive consultation between the players and the Tours, Tennis Australia has designed a new schedule, taking into account the limited time many players have had to prepare.
The Murray River Open, the Great Ocean Road Open and the ATP Cup will be pushed back by 24 hours. The two ATP 250 events will commence on Monday 1 February, each featuring an increased singles main draw size of 56, while the ATP Cup will start on Tuesday 2 February.
“This has been a particularly challenging time for the athletes in hard lockdown and we, along with the WTA and ATP, aim to do everything we can to help,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“These changes to the lead-in events have been made to give the 72 players a little bit of extra time to help them prepare. We also will prioritise them for things like practice sessions, gym and ice baths.”
ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi also added, “Our number one goal with Tennis Australia and the WTA was to be as fair as possible to the players coming out of a hard quarantine.
“The extra 24 hours before the first ATP Tour events together with priority over practice and preparation will help. We are eager to start what I am sure will be a fantastic summer of tennis in Melbourne in front of our great Australian fans.”
There will now be three WTA 500 events - the two originally planned from Sunday 31 January to Saturday 6 February, with slightly reduced draw sizes. A third event, for those players who have been unable to train, will commence on Wednesday 3 and finish on Sunday 7 February.
“This revised schedule comprised of three WTA 500 events in the week leading into the upcoming Australian Open will allow for our athletes coming out of the respected quarantine period to properly focus on their preparation in a return to competition,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said.
“We appreciate the positive spirit of collaboration demonstrated by our friends at Tennis Australia and the ATP as these solutions were worked through in recent days. All of our players appreciate the opportunity to be here in Melbourne and look forward to getting on the court to compete and entertain the terrific fans that are here with some great tennis over the weeks ahead in what will be a very a safe and healthy environment.”
Tickets start from $20 for adults and just $5 for kids and will go on sale this week.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has confirmed that he won’t be competing in the 2021 Australian Open. Murray, now ranked No. 123 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, had been granted a wildcard to play in the tournament’s main draw but he tested positive for Covid-19 last week shortly before he was due to fly to Melbourne.
The 33-year-old Scot was asymptomatic and still hoped to compete in the event, but was unable to agree upon a “workable quarantine” after extensive talks with Tennis Australia. Murray had already been quarantining in the U.K. but would have faced an additional 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Melbourne.
“Gutted to share that I won’t be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open,” Murray said in a statement. “We’ve been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work. I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I’m devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It’s a country and tournament that I love.”
It would have been Murray’s first appearance at the Australian Open since 2019, when he lost in the first round to Roberto Bautista Agut and was given an emotional farewell tribute that proved to be premature. After returning from hip surgery in 2019, Murray won the European Open in Antwerp in October 2019 but has struggled to remain fit in recent months. He ended the 2020 season in October to address a pelvic injury but is now apparently ready to return to action.
As crazy, unpredictable and unprecedented as the 2020 season was, one thing left us captivated on the ATP Challenger Tour. A bevy of fresh faces entered the fray, challenging the established stars and introducing themselves with aplomb.
The #NextGenATP contingent was bolstered by the arrival of Carlos Alcaraz, Lorenzo Musetti and Sebastian Korda, with each lifting their maiden Challenger trophies while gaining global attention on the Grand Slam stage and the ATP Tour. And with the likes of Aslan Karatsev and Jurij Rodionov also soaring up the FedEx ATP Rankings, the season provided many unexpected and intriguing breakthroughs on the Challenger circuit.
So, which budding stars should you keep an eye on in 2021? We look ahead to the players that are eager to follow in their footsteps on the ATP Challenger Tour in the coming year.
Francisco Cerundolo [No. 139]
The man they call Fran was one of the breakout performers of the 2020 season and there is little to suggest that he won't carry the momentum into the new year. If you blinked, you may have missed the 22-year-old's rapid rise in October and November. But be assured, he's just getting started.
Inconspicuous yet ruthless, Cerundolo is poised to become a household name across the tennis world. He put the rest of the tour on notice in the final months of 2020, reeling off 20 of 23 matches and lifting three trophies - tied for the most on the ATP Challenger Tour. His dominant run saw him soar more than 100 spots to a career-high No. 139 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, becoming the youngest Argentine in the Top 200.
And if that wasn't an impressive feat in itself, his success on the court is coming while he's dominating in the classroom. Cerundolo is pursuing a bachelor's degree in management, taking online classes in economics and finance while competing on the road.
Marc-Andrea Huesler [No. 148]
Another of 2020's unheralded breakout stars, Huesler quietly built an impressive portfolio of titles and statement wins. The only player to lift Challenger trophies on multiple surfaces a year ago, he was one of the more dominant players on the planet following the tour's restart in August.
Not only did Huesler triumph on the clay of Sibiu and speedy carpet courts of Ismaning, in back-to-back tournaments no less, he also stepped up to the ATP Tour in grand fashion. The 24-year-old Swiss streaked to the semi-finals at the ATP 250 stop in Kitzbuhel, reeling off five straight wins as a qualifier, including his first career Top 20 victory over Fabio Fognini. Having opened the 2020 season on the sidelines with a foot injury, a healthy Huesler is hoping to continue turning the page on his career in 2021. He rose 132 spots to a career-high of No. 146 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
Botic Van de Zandschulp [No. 156]
One year ago, we featured Tallon Griekspoor on this list. Now, it's time for another rising Dutch star to crash the party. At No. 155 and No. 156, respectively, Griekspoor and Van de Zandschulp are looking to take tennis in The Netherlands to new heights in 2021.
While his name might be a mouthful to pronounce, his game is certainly a handful for opponents. Armed with a mammoth serve and booming forehand, Van de Zandschulp boasts an imposing brand of tennis that has seen him climb the FedEx ATP Rankings in the past year. He leapt more than 50 spots in 2020, peaking at a career-high No. 152 after reaching a pair of Challenger finals in Koblenz and Ismaning.
And just one week ago, the Dutchman secured victories over Lorenzo Musetti, Joao Menezes and Mathias Bourgue to punch his ticket to the Australian Open. It marks his first Grand Slam main draw appearance. Alongside Griekspoor, they are a Dutch double threat to watch in 2021.
Hugo Gaston [No. 161]
It was one of the biggest upsets at Roland Garros in recent memory. A young upstart, aged 20, Gaston shocked the world with a thrilling five-set victory over former champion Stan Wawrinka. The scenes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen remain some of the prevailing images of the 2020 tournament. Sitting outside the Top 200 and having never reached a Challenger final, the Frenchman turned in a fairytale run to the Round of 16 on home soil.
Now, at No. 161 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, it's time for Gaston to bring that same talent and flair to the ATP Challenger Tour. The Toulouse native showed great maturity and resolve to not only defeat Wawrinka, but also push World No. 3 Dominic Thiem to five sets in the subsequent round. Having reached just one semi-final on the Challenger circuit - nearly one year ago in Bergamo - Gaston will be hoping to carry his Parisian magic to even greater heights in 2021.
Brandon Nakashima [No. 170]
Nakashima is the only repeat entry on this list from 2020. One year ago, the #NextGenATP American was sitting outside the Top 350, but he has since slashed his FedEx ATP Ranking in half, soaring from No. 364 to a career-high No. 166 in November. The 19-year-old has taken great strides in his development, demonstrating an impressive all-around game and unflappable mental fortitude.
A native of southern California, Nakashima became the youngest American champion since Frances Tiafoe in 2017 with his maiden title in Orlando. At the age of 19, he did not drop a set all week at the USTA National Campus. Nakashima also triumphed in his Grand Slam debut at the US Open (d. Lorenzi) and reached the quarter-finals in his ATP Tour debut earlier in the year in Delray Beach.
One of four teenagers in the Top 200, along with Carlos Alcaraz, Lorenzo Musetti and Jannik Sinner, Nakashima joins an intense battle to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2021.
Aleksandar Vukic [No. 195]
and fellow former college stars J.J. Wolf [No. 127], Maxime Cressy [No. 168] & Arthur Rinderknech [No. 178]
For many, attending university in the U.S. and competing in the collegiate ranks is the ideal pathway to the pros. Often, junior players aren't ready to take the next step to the professional level immediately, and can benefit from the structure and coaching provided at an elite institution.
It seems like every year there is a former college star translating success to the ATP Challenger Tour. Recently, it was Cameron Norrie (TCU), Dominik Koepfer (Tulane) and Marcos Giron (UCLA), and in 2020 a bevy of players took the leap. Ohio State's Wolf, UCLA's Cressy and Texas A&M's Rinderknech all lifted trophies, surging towards the Top 100 behind breakthrough campaigns. And Vukic (Illinois) reached his first final in Monterrey.
In addition, Wolf and Cressy won their first Grand Slam matches at the 2020 US Open, eventually falling to Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, respectively. The spotlight couldn't have been greater for the Americans. Both have intriguing backstories, with 26 of Wolf's relatives having taken up a sport at either the collegiate or professional level, and the Paris-born Cressy moving to the U.S. as a teenager. Rinderknech, meanwhile, finished Top 5 in Challenger wins in 2020, posting a 22-12 record.
For Vukic, embarking on a journey from Australia to the University of Illinois was like going from one world to another. A three-time All-American at Illinois, 'Vuki' hails from Sydney, Australia, but has Eastern European heritage in his blood. His parents, who introduced him to the game at age five, are from Montenegro (dad) and Bosnia (mom).
The 24-year-old graduated with a degree in finance in 2018 and has battled on the ATP Challenger Tour ever since. In March, all the work finally paid off. In the week before the COVID-19 shutdown, Vukic reached his first Challenger final on the hard courts of Monterrey, Mexico (l. to Mannarino). He secured the biggest win of his young career in upsetting World No. 56 Feliciano Lopez in the second round. Vukic would later qualify for Roland Garros, making his Grand Slam debut after saving two match points and rallying from a set and a break deficit against Alcaraz. His mettle tested, the Aussie demonstrated great poise in punching his ticket to the main draw.
Now, just shy of his career-high No. 190 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Vukic is hoping his breakout 2020 campaign carries to the new year. His efforts were already rewarded with a main draw wild card into next month's Australian Open.
Tomas Machac [No. 197]
Machac was the best kept secret on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2020. He's the #NextGenATP few are familiar with, but that won't last long. In February, right before the COVID-19 shutdown, the 20-year-old won his maiden Challenger crown on the indoor hard courts of Koblenz, Germany. And he's certainly shown that his game translates to all surfaces, storming through Roland Garros qualifying before pushing 27th seed Taylor Fritz to five sets.
At the age of 19, his victory in Koblenz marked the first time a Czech teen had lifted a Challenger trophy since Jiri Vesely in 2013. Having opened the year outside the Top 350, Machac would surge to the year-end Top 200, also reaching the final in Bratislava. It looks like 2021 is shaping to be even more fruitful for the Czech, having blitzed his three opponents to qualify for the Australian Open in Doha. He did not drop serve once.
Felipe Meligeni [No. 230]
We look outside the Top 200 for these last three entries. They are three players that made small strides in 2020 and certainly have the firepower to make some noise in the new year.
Exactly 27 years after his uncle Fernando Meligeni won his maiden Challenger title in Sao Paulo, Felipe lifted his first trophy in the same city. The 22-year-old Brazilian dropped one set all week at the Clube Hipico Santo Amaro in November, eventually rising to a career-high No. 230.
His uncle was a former World No. 25 and Roland Garros semi-finalist in 1999. During his career, Fernando claimed more than 200 matches, including wins over former World No. 1s Pete Sampras, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Patrick Rafter, Carlos Moya and Andy Roddick. Now, 27 years later, the Brazilian's nephew is carving a path of his own. He would kick off 2021 with his biggest win on a hard court, upsetting former World No. 24 Martin Klizan in Australian Open qualifying.
Kacper Zuk [No. 267]
The future of Polish tennis has arrived. His name is Kacper Zuk. The 22-year-old provided one of the upsets of the year in 2020, stunning current World No. 61 and top seed Vasek Pospisil on the indoor hard courts of Calgary, Canada. Just one month after defeating another Top 100 star, Dennis Novak, at the ATP Cup, Zuk would reel off four wins in five days to reach his first Challenger semi-final.
That spurred the Pole to dominate the ITF circuit upon the resumption of professional tennis in August. He would clinch three titles, posting a 15-0 record, en route to cracking the Top 300 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. With an affable and infectious personality off the court, Zuk is a ruthless competitor between the lines. He may be slender in stature, but the 22-year-old packs a punch from the baseline and is a relentless attacking force. Having peaked at No. 259 in November, he is poised to continue to climb towards the Top 200 and beyond in 2021.
Duje Ajdukovic [No. 321]
In October, a new era of Croatian tennis launched in the seaside city of Split. The inaugural Split Open featured native son Ajdukovic among its semi-finalists. The 19-year-old made an impressive Challenger debut in his hometown, stunning former Top 100 players Martin Klizan and Jozef Kovalik. He dropped a combined 10 games in those two matches.
Born and raised in Split, near the Firule Tennis Club where the tournament is held, Ajdukovic is joined by former Top 10 stars Goran Ivanisevic, Mario Ancic, Nikola Pilic and doubles No. 1 Mate Pavic as Croatians who developed their games at that very site. Now, the budding #NextGenATP star enters his second season on the ATP Challenger Tour. He reached a second semi-final in Maia, Portugal, to conclude his 2020 campaign and the World No. 321 will be targeting the Top 300 and beyond as 2021 gets underway.
Andrey Rublev soared from No. 23 to No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on the back of five ATP Tour titles in 2020, when he was named by his peers as the ATP Most Improved Player of the Year.
His breakthrough was centred on his hard-court performances last year, with an ATP Tour-leading 31 match wins on the surface — better than World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (30), Nitto ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev (28) and US Open finalist Alexander Zverev (25).
According to the Infosys ATP Performance Zone, Rublev had the third-best winning percentage on hard-courts (79.5%) over the past 52 weeks, behind only Djokovic (88.2%) and Gael Monfils (80%).
Best Winning % On Hard Courts In 2020
|Player||Win-Loss Record||Winning %|
|1) Novak Djokovic||30-4||88.2%|
|2) Gael Monfils||16-4||80%|
|3) Andrey Rublev||31-8||79.5%|
|4) Daniil Medvedev||28-8||77.8%|
|5) Rafael Nadal||18-6||75%|
Rublev opened the 2020 season with an 11-match winning streak on hard courts, including back-to-back ATP Tour titles in Doha (d. Moutet) and in Adelaide (d. Harris), making him the first player to win consecutive titles in the first two weeks of the season since Dominik Hrbaty in 2004. He compiled another 11-match winning streak on the surface in October with titles in St. Petersburg (d. Coric) and Vienna (d. Sonego).
It was quite the turnaround for Rublev, who saw his career winning percentage on hard courts skyrocket from the start of 2020 thanks to his 31-8 record (79.5%). Remarkably, the Russian compiled a 72-60 career record (54.5%) on the surface between 2014 and 2019.
With growing confidence, Rublev has captured five of his seven ATP Tour titles on hard courts, and since 2014 he has won four times as many matches on hard courts (103) than he has on clay courts (25). Last year, the 23-year-old went 10-2 on clay — including the Hamburg European Open title (d. Tsitsipas) — for an overall 41-10 season record (80.3%).
The World No. 8 has recorded 103 of his 132 career match wins on hard courts. Next month, he will begin his 2021 campaign alongside Daniil Medvedev, when they both represent Russia in the ATP Cup.
Rublev's Career Win-Loss Record By Surface
|Surface||Win-Loss Record / %||Titles|
|Hard||103-68 / 60.2%||5|
|Clay||25-18 / 58.1%||2|
|Grass||4-3 / 57.1%||0|
|Total||132-89 / 59.7%||7|
“The Last Time” that Roberto Bautista Agut lost an ATP Cup match? Never happened.
The World No. 13 earned a reputation for being Spain’s reliable closer at last year’s inaugural event, winning all six of his singles matches without dropping a set to put his country into the final. Bautista Agut will hope to reprise that role as he teams up with Rafael Nadal, Pablo Carreno Busta and Marcel Granollers to try to bring home Spain’s first ATP Cup crown.
Speaking to ATPTour.com from quarantine, Bautista Agut revealed "The Last Time"...
I forgot an important birthday or anniversary?
Actually last year. It was my anniversary with my wife! Somehow I managed to survive...
Being famous helped me?
It was one time I was going out to dinner. There was a restaurant in America during the summer that always seems to be overbooked. And so I called… and I let them know it was me. And they were able to get me a table and I got to have dinner there.
I went to a music concert?
It must have been over a year ago by now, more or less. I went to see a concert at the Plaza de Toros in Valencia. [Spanish pop singer] Manuel Carrasco was performing.
I watched a new TV series?
I’m actually watching a new one now, it’s a Spanish series called La Valla (“The Barrier”). I recommend it.
I missed a flight?
Actually I’ve never missed a flight. The only time I missed one was when the flight was cancelled, but never because I was running late.
I paid money to rent a tennis court?
I don’t remember at all… I have no idea, but it definitely couldn’t have happened in Spain. If it happened it must have been abroad, but I honestly don’t remember.
[VISIT ATP CUP]
I strung a tennis racquet?
I have never strung a tennis racquet in my life. I know nothing about stringing.
I met a person that I really admired?
Recently I met a violinist that did me the favour of performing at my son’s baptism. I was really excited to meet him. He put together a beautiful concert for the family and the baby.
I shared a hotel room with another player?
That’s got to be so long ago. Juniors? No, actually back when I played Challengers. When you play at the [ATP Challenger Series] level it’s pretty common to share hotel rooms because that way we split the costs.
Milos Raonic has been doing anything but sleeping in during his 14-day quarantine period ahead of the Australian swing. The World No. 15 in the FedEx ATP Rankings is gearing up to represent Canada in the ATP Cup alongside Denis Shapovalov, Peter Polansky and Steven Diez, and he’s determined to maximise precious time on the tennis court.
But what is Raonic up to when he’s not on court? And what is his go-to delivery dish? The Canadian sat down for a chat with ATPTour.com to reveal seven things he’s been up to during quarantine…
1. Getting creative with his in-room workouts.
"I hope the hotel doesn’t see that’s the use of the minibar fridge... But you can get creative in a hotel room. Our creativity has been using a fridge as a step-up, but there’s other ways. Towels can be used for different workouts. There’s many ways you can get creative, but for us our big thing was coming prepared and trying to have as much with us as possible… I was aware of how the conditions would be, so we came here and we brought a lot of things that we could use."
2. Organising his day to make the most of practice court time.
"So you hear the night before what time your slot is [to go outside for five hours] and what time you’ll get picked up. And then you adjust your day to that. You get ready and wait by your door for them to come around again once they’ve also corralled your team and the player you’re practising with. And then you’ll all come out to the elevator, go down in the same elevator. By the way, getting your hands sanitised and always wearing masks throughout this whole process. Then get in the car and head to the courts. You step straight out on court and you practice for your allotted time – that’s what we’re all trying to make the most of, the time on court.
"After that you get to go to the gym, one of many across the whole venue that was built for the players. Your gym is actually correlated with your court. So anybody that day that practised on that court uses the exact same gym after, so that way they have time to clean it, to sanitise it… So you go to your gym, after that you have one hour to eat. And again... so if you practised on Court 3, you go to the gym for Court 3, then you go for the table in the area outside that’s for Court 3 for your time to eat.
"And after that you get picked up. Straight in the elevator, straight upstairs, straight to your room… The rest of the time, you really try to make the most of it. I’ve spent time doing other things, other kind of workouts to supplement the trainings that I’ve been able to do at the venue. Spent time reading, studying, doing various things. But you know, with the consistency it has been settling. It has been generous that we get to get out for those five hours."
3. Getting a lot of chevapi delivered.
"There’s a great restaurant here called Chevapi Grill. It’s Balkan cuisine and the dish [chevapi, made of grilled sausages] I believe originated from Bosnia. But it’s a dish that’s famous throughout all of former Yugoslavia. I’ve had it many times. Growing up in Canada, my parents would always take us out to get it. There’s a great one here that I get on Uber Eats from Chevapi Grill. I’ve had it a good portion of the time since I’ve been here, and it’s been nostalgic and it’s been enjoyable."
4. Picking up some interesting reading material.
"I’ve actually been reading a book called Barbarians at the Gate. It’s from a famous company takeover [RJR Nabisco] in the '80s that’s actually been very interesting for me. That’s sort of kept me busy, but I have a long ways to go."
[VISIT ATP CUP]
5. Keeping in touch with loved ones.
"It doesn’t matter if it’s quarantine or not, the person that I speak to the most is my girlfriend. Facetime, text, phone calls… whatever is possible at the moment. At this moment she’s also in quarantine in Belgium, so we’ve actually both had a bit more time than normal to keep in touch."
6. Beating boredom by staying mentally engaged.
"Just make sure you’re always doing something. I think if you get yourself caught up in doing stuff mindlessly, either you get caught up in a binge of a TV show or you can get caught up going through YouTube videos or scrolling through social media.
"I think you have to find something that engages you a bit more. That’s what makes the biggest difference. Because if you have something that you’re excited to stay awake for and that you’re eager about, that helped make that transition a lot easier. If you’re sort of like, I’m just doing stuff to kill time, then you could also be sleeping to kill time too. So it’s harder to weigh out those options."
7. And beating jet lag by not sleeping in.
"I don’t really tend to sleep in. I’ve actually gotten on a schedule pretty well, it only took me about two days to get used to it. Obviously the first four days we didn’t get to go anywhere, and the toughest thing about those days was keeping yourself awake… But once I was able to get through that and now with the benefit of being able to get out and being in the sun, it’s helped significantly to get used to the jetlag."
The 12 countries set to compete in the second edition of the ATP Cup, taking place in Melbourne the week prior to the Australian Open, were assigned to four groups at the official tournament draw on Friday.
Top seed Serbia, headlined by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, will lead Group A, which will also consist of Germany and Canada. One year ago, Serbia battled through the field to lift the inaugural ATP Cup trophy in Sydney.
Second seed Spain, which finished runner-up in 2020, will aim to move through Group B, which includes Greece and Australia. World No. 2 Rafael Nadal leads the way for his country for the second consecutive year.
Austria, headed by World No. 3 Dominic Thiem, will look to advance through Group C against Italy and France. Fourth seed Russia, headlined by reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev, will try to do the same in Group D, which includes Argentina and Japan.
The draw was hosted by Todd Woodbridge, with participation from Mark Philippoussis, John Fitzgerald, Jim Courier and Mark Petchey.
This year’s five-day event will be played at Melbourne Park alongside two ATP 250 events, the Great Ocean Road Open and the Murray River Open. Following the group stage, the four group winners will advance to the knock-out semi-finals to continue battling for the prestigious title.
The 2021 ATP Cup will feature 12 of the Top 13 players in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Each country will consist of four players, with each tie comprising two singles matches and one doubles match.
Tickets will go on sale next week. More information will be released in due course.
The draw for the 2021 edition of the ATP Cup will be held on Friday, 22 January at 12:00pm AEDT (1am GMT). This year 12 countries will battle it out for the newest team trophy in men’s tennis.
Streaming Times For Draw
Melbourne: Fri. 22 Jan, 12 noon
London: Fri. 22 Jan, 1 a.m.
New York: Thu. 21 Jan, 8 p.m.
Watch The Draw Here
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal headline the event as the top-ranked singles players for Team Serbia and Team Spain, respectively.
Reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev leads Team Russia alongside fellow Top 10 star Andrey Rublev, and World No. 3 Dominic Thiem will lead Team Austria. The 2021 ATP Cup will feature 12 of the Top 13 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Each team will consist of four players per country.
Qualification for the 2021 ATP Cup is based on the FedEx ATP Rankings of each country’s top-ranked singles player, while Australia qualifies by virtue of a host wildcard.
The 12 teams will be divided into four groups of three for group stage, round-robin play. The four group winners will qualify for the knock-out stages, starting with the semi-finals.
|Team||No. 1 Player||Captain|
|Serbia||Novak Djokovic||Viktor Troicki|
|Spain||Rafael Nadal||Pepe Vendrell|
|Austria||Dominic Thiem||Wolfgang Thiem|
|Russia||Daniil Medvedev||Evgeny Donskoy|
|Greece||Stefanos Tsitsipas||Apostolos Tsitsipas|
|Germany||Alexander Zverev||Mischa Zverev|
|Argentina||Diego Schwartzman||Jose Acasuso|
|Italy||Matteo Berrettini||Vincenzo Santopadre|
|Japan||Kei Nishikori||Max Mirnyi|
|France||Gael Monfils||Richard Ruckelshausen|
|Canada||Denis Shapovalov||Peter Polansky|
|Australia||Alex de Minaur||Lleyton Hewitt|
HOW TO WATCH THE DRAW
Todd Woodbridge, a winner of 22 Grand Slam doubles titles, will be joined by former Wimbledon and US Open finalist Mark Philippoussis and John Fitzgerald to conduct the draw. Commentators Jim Courier and Mark Petchey will also feature. Official Martin Oosthuysen and ATP Cup Tournament Director Tom Larner will oversee proceedings.
The draw will be broadcast on the tournament's official Facebook page at 12:00pm AEDT (1am GMT) so fans can follow from around the world. The latest news and live updates will be posted on Twitter and Instagram.
HOW THE DRAW WORKS
The first four countries will be placed into separate groups. Countries ranked 5 to 8 will then be randomly drawn, followed by countries ranked 9 to 12.
This article was updated on 24 January to reflect a change to Team Argentina's captain.
The ATP has issued updates to the 2021 ATP Tour calendar alongside measures to create increased playing opportunities, in the face of scheduling challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The updates are headlined by the addition of two new ATP 250 events, granted as single-year licences for the 2021 season, in Singapore, following the conclusion of the Australian Open, and Marbella, following the Miami Open presented by Itau, from 5 April.
Other measures to create additional playing opportunities include the expansion of the Singles Main Draw/Qualifying Draw size at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships from 32/16 to 48/24, while the Qualifying Draw size at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel will increase from 16 to 32. In addition, qualifying draw sizes at ATP 250 Cordoba Open, Argentina Open (Buenos Aires) and Chile Dove Men+Care Open (Santiago) are also to be expanded from 16 to 32.
Elsewhere, the Hungarian Open, the ATP 250 clay-court tournament typically held in April in Budapest, has been approved for relocation to Belgrade, Serbia, from 2021.
The Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship, the ATP 250 event in Houston, typically scheduled in April, has announced it will not take place in 2021. The ATP continues to assess opportunities for additional single-year licenses to fill any gaps in the calendar and will communicate any additions in due course.
All other tournaments on the original 2021 calendar remain unchanged at this time and are planned to take place as scheduled.
Frances Tiafoe has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reflect, step away from the sport and assess his game and his career.
Having dropped more than 30 places in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the early months of 2020, he struggled for form and confidence. But while the five-month suspension of the ATP Tour stopped many in-form stars from carrying their momentum into further events, it helped Tiafoe to break a cycle of disappointing results and find his way out of a difficult position.
"The pandemic was probably the best thing that happened to me in my career, if we are going to be frank. I was in a dark place pre-pandemic,” Tiafoe told ATPTour.com. “My ranking took a serious hit, obviously losing the quarter-finals [points] in Melbourne. It kind of saved me, because I had Miami coming up where I was defending quarter-finals [points].
“I looked at the guy in the mirror [and asked], ‘Why are you here? What are the things you need to change and what are the things you need to keep building on?’ It helped me a lot. There were a lot of deep conversations with my guys and I wouldn’t have made it to the second week of the US Open without that.”
There were many difficult questions that Tiafoe had to answer during the ATP Tour suspension. The 6’2” right-hander decided that to move forward in his career, he needed to embrace change.
“It was like, ‘Frances Tiafoe. What does that look like post-pandemic? What do you want to change? Are you going to be the same guy or are you going to add some things and change some things?’ I just wanted to be a different guy,” said Tiafoe.
After a couple of months away from the sport, Tiafoe began to miss the feeling of competition. The 2019 Australian Open quarter-finalist returned to action at the Western & Southern Open with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and he pushed former World No. 1 Andy Murray to three sets in his first match.
Despite the loss, Tiafoe took the positives out of his first performance in more than five months and overcame Andreas Seppi, John Millman and Marton Fucsovics to reach the Round of 16 in New York for the first time.
“I was so happy once [I found out that] the US Open was going to get underway,” said Tiafoe. “I couldn’t wait to get out there and I think that was why I did well. I'm at my best when I am enjoying the game and loving the game."
As Tiafoe prepares to celebrate his 23rd birthday on 20 January, he is ready to begin a new phase of his career.
“When you first come on Tour, you are Bugs Bunny [and] just excited to be out there,” said Tiafoe. “You want to play everybody, you want to go to all the tournaments. I am young, but I feel like a veteran. I have been playing on Tour for a while, I am going on 23 now and now I know everybody. I have definitely changed a lot, it doesn’t maybe seem that way but I have definitely changed a lot.”
Having started to work with former World No. 6 Wayne Ferreira during the 2020 lockdown, part of Tiafoe’s maturation has been in the way he now approaches the game. The World No. 62 is keen to find the right balance when it comes to having fun on the court, as he aims to make his mark on the sport.
“I definitely understand that you are going to be one of the guys who is going to have fun every week and everyone loves or you are going to be a guy that everyone loves, but [also someone] they are going to see going deep in tournaments with the fans really embracing you,” said Tiafoe. “I think with me doing that, obviously with the Australia run, fans really embraced that and really got behind that. Instead of being the guy that has fun, I am trying to be the guy who is going to be legendary.”
With a quarter-final run in Delray Beach to open the year, Tiafoe will aim to build on his encouraging start to the season at the Great Ocean Road Open (Melbourne 2). After finding his way through dark times, the American is now ready for a bright and successful 2021 campaign.
"[My motivation] is at a pretty high scale,” said Tiafoe. “I'm ready to do a lot of great things in 2021."