Tuesday, November 20, 2018

ATP unveils 'ATP Cup' Team Event for 2020

The ATP and Tennis Australia today officially unveiled the ATP Cup - a new team competition to kickstart the men’s tennis season from 2020. The tournament, which was announced during the Nitto ATP Finals in London, will be played across three Australian cities over ten days in the lead up to the Australian Open and will feature teams from 24 countries.

World No. 1 and President of the ATP Player Council Novak Djokovic was among the players who joined ATP Executive Chairman & President Chris Kermode and Craig Tiley, CEO of Tennis Australia, to reveal the details of the competition, which has been shaped through extensive consultation over several years with players, tournament organisers and sponsors. The launch also revealed the ATP Cup’s new brand identity and a promotional video to bring the plans to life.

The event sees the return of an ATP team competition into the calendar for the first time since the ATP World Team Cup, which was held in Dusseldorf from 1978-2012.

The move represents the latest initiative by ATP to innovate in the sport, as well as providing increased earning opportunities for its players, and introducing new fans to the game. The tournament will ensure every season starts with an event with a truly global profile, giving players the chance to see their nation crowned the best in the world. The 2020 ATP Cup will offer US$15 million in prize money and up to 750 ATP Rankings points to the winners.

Djokovic, who finished 2018 as year-end No.1 for a fifth time, stated: “I like that it’s owned by ATP, by the players, and that we have ranking points, and it’s going to be the best way to kick start the season. Australia is a country that has a Grand Slam, that nurtures tennis tradition. More than 90 per cent of the time we’re playing as individuals and we don’t have too many team events. This is going to bring together a lot of nations and for me personally it will be a very nice and proud moment to represent my country.”

Kermode added: “This new event fits perfectly with our strategy to innovate and look towards the future. We know from our extensive discussions with the players that the ATP Cup will provide a great way for them to open their season – bringing together the world’s best for a major team event that compliments existing scheduling, provides highly-coveted ATP ranking points and clearly links to the Australian Open. The first week of the season is when the players want to play and that’s why the tournament has their strong support. By staging the event with Tennis Australia, which is renowned for its experience as an outstanding event promoter, we know that the tournament will be a great success from year one.”

Tennis Australia CEO, Craig Tiley added: “This is an amazing opportunity, in close collaboration with the players and the tour, to deliver a globally impactful event that further elevates the sport and the fan interest in it.

“We want to keep growing tennis, give the players an environment where they can perform to the best of their abilities and then ensure they are appropriately appreciated and rewarded. This event will help us all achieve that while connecting with new generations of tennis fans. It will provide a new source of inspiration for young athletes to choose our sport.”

The format of the ATP Cup will see nations split into six groups, with eight teams emerging from the round-robin stage to compete in the knockout phase until only one team is left standing. There will be up to five players in each team, with ties comprising two singles matches and one doubles match. The criteria for entry into the ATP Cup will be based off the ATP Ranking of the No. 1 singles player from each country.

Venue announcements will be made in due course.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Roger Federer : 'It's been a historic season'

There was a lot on the line for Roger Federer at the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals. The Swiss had a chance to not only extend his record to seven titles at the season finale, but lift his 100th tour-level trophy, becoming just the second player to do so (Jimmy Connors, 109).

But Federer fell short in the semi-finals at The O2 on Saturday, losing against an impressive Alexander Zverev. Perhaps the fact that at 37, Federer had a chance to reach his 11th championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals speaks even louder than the disappointment of losing.

“I must tell you I'm very proud that at 37 I'm still so competitive and so happy playing tennis. From that standpoint, as disappointed as I might be about this match, if I take a step back, I'm actually very happy about the season,” Federer said. “It's been a historic season in some ways. Got back to World No. 1. For me, that was a huge moment in my life, to be honest, in my career because I never thought I would get there again.”

In January 2017, Federer fell to No. 17 in the ATP Rankings after missing six months due to a knee injury. The Swiss hadn’t been placed that low in more than 15 years. But Federer battled back, and this February, after winning the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament for the third time, he returned to the top of tennis’ proverbial mountain, becoming the oldest player to attain top spot and set the record for the longest period between stints as World No. 1

Throw in a 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and two more tour-level triumphs in addition to Rotterdam — in Stuttgart and Basel — and Federer still had a strong season, despite falling short in London.

“[Pete] Sampras once upon a time said, ‘If you win a Slam, it's a good season’. So [my season] started great. I played super well in Australia again. So obviously I can't wait to go back there in a couple of months,” said Federer, who finishes his year with a 48-10 record. “The second half of the season could have been better, maybe. I also have high hopes to always do well. So I'm happy I gave myself opportunities again in that second half of the season. I maybe lost a couple of too-close matches that could have changed things around for me a little bit.”

There was plenty of build-up surrounding the possibility of Federer claiming a historic 100th title at the prestigious season finale after claiming victory No. 99 at home in Basel. But Federer was quick to throw a light-hearted response back to a reporter who said after the Swiss’ loss to Zverev that, “you need 100 titles”.

“I don't need it, but go ahead,” Federer said with a smile. “I will breathe air also if I don't.”

Federer will still finish the year at No. 3 in the ATP Rankings, the 14th time he has ended a season inside the Top 3. Federer even made personal history in 2018 with a career-best 17-0 start before losing in the BNP Paribas Open final.

“Five years ago, where was I? I was probably fighting with back pain in '13, not sure if I was ever going to figure that back pain out again because I had it for almost probably four or five months of the season. It really rocked my tennis for a bit,” Federer admitted. “Here I am having actually a pretty good season physically, as well, won another Slam, got back to World No. 1. So, yes, you can see it as a very, very positive season. That's probably how I will look back on it, as well.”

If nothing else, Saturday’s defeat will serve as more motivation for Federer. He saw that he was once again in contention for one of the sport’s crowning jewels, the Nitto ATP Finals title. And now, Federer can begin the process of chasing after it once again.

“I'm here now. So I'm a little bit disappointed there because I believe I was close. Being close makes me believe I can keep going, I can win again. That's uplifting in some ways,” Federer said. “But because I know I could have won, I'm also disappointed because I aim high. From that standpoint, I'm a little bit disappointed now, which is normal. Overall I'm happy how the season went. There are many positives, to be quite honest. So I'm excited for next season.”

Did You Know?

Federer has now won four titles or more 14 times in his career. And at the Nitto ATP Finals, he has advanced to the semi-finals or better in 15 of his 16 appearances.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Roger Federer won't let No. 100 get in his head

Entering Thursday at the Nitto ATP Finals, there was a chance Roger Federer would fail to reach the semi-finals at the season finale for just the second time in 16 appearances. But one impressive straight-sets win against fourth seed Kevin Anderson later, and the 37-year-old is through round-robin play atop Group Lleyton Hewitt.

Suddenly, a major milestone is within reach. If Federer wins two more matches, he will lift his 100th tour-level trophy, with Jimmy Connors (109 titles) the only other player who has achieved the feat.

“Personally I'm still not thinking of the number, 100. I won't let that get in my head, make me go crazy because it should be something I'm excited about and not something I should feel extra pressure [to earn],” Federer said. “It's just going to be hard to finish it. I'm happy I gave myself the opportunity. I'm happy that I'm raising my level of play throughout this week. This is what I hope to do. It's exciting to be in this situation now, of course, no doubt.”

Just four days ago, the Swiss lost a round-robin match at the Nitto ATP Finals in straight sets for the first time, so he knows that he has to take it one step at a time. That is part of what makes this tournament so special; every match poses a major challenge.

“I think regardless of the numbers, this is a massive tournament for the players. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I've loved being part of the Tennis Masters Cup, today [the Nitto ATP] Finals,” Federer said. “I've always tried to pace myself in a way… that I would have something left in the tank, that I would peak at this event.”

And Federer has gotten better with every match at The O2 in 2018. After an exchange of breaks in the first set against tournament debutant Anderson, Federer used his backhand slice well to throw off the game of the South African, who had not faced break point in the entire event. Federer broke him four times.

“I'm feeling great,” Federer said. “I'm very happy that I still have energy left in the tank. Mentally, I feel fresh.”

And Federer’s secret sauce continues to work. The second seed took a day off of practice after losing to Kei Nishikori on Sunday. And that strategy has not failed him since.

“Look, I'm a big believer in vacation. I'm a big believer in taking time off sometimes. When I go to work, I go hard, I go the right way, I go professional about it with my team,” Federer said. “I didn't think of taking a day off, to be honest, after the Nishikori match. I thought, ‘What are we going to do? Where are we going to train?’”

But Federer’s team suggested taking a day off, and the Swiss heeded their advice. He did not practice on Wednesday after beating Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, and Federer says he doubts he will hit balls on Friday. Why change something if it’s not broken?

“It's one of the first times I've done it like that,” Federer said. “I'm happy it's paying off so far. But I’ve got to be very, very focused the moment I step on court for the practice, the warm-up. I think that's key, as well.”

And Federer will look to remain focused regardless of his opponent in the semi-finals. Novak Djokovic leads Group Guga Kuerten after two matches, with Marin Cilic, John Isner and Alexander Zverev still hoping to advance. Federer, this year’s Australian Open, Rotterdam, Stuttgart and Basel titlist, is now 57-14 at the Nitto ATP Finals. And while he’s triumphed at the tournament six times, the Swiss seeks his first victory since 2011.

“I'm happy that this is another week like this. Didn't look like it maybe 72 hours ago,” Federer said. “But I was able to come back and play good tennis.”

Sadly he lost against Zvarev, but Zvarev played well so I hope he can beat Djokovic though a big part of me highly doubts it.  

It's too bad Roger's final tournament of the season ended on a loss. 

But he'll have plenty of chances to get #100 next year, maybe even at Aussie Open. 

Rest up Roger, see you in 2019.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Roger Federer gets his revenge on Anderson reaches semis at ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer walked onto Centre Court at The O2 on Thursday knowing he needed a strong performance if he wanted to advance to the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals for the 15th time.

And Federer responded in a big way, defeating fourth seed Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3 to not only guarantee that he would move on to the last four in London, but that he would win Group Lleyton Hewitt with a 2-1 record.

The week might not have started off well for the 37-year-old Swiss, who shockingly fell in his opening match against Kei Nishikori in straight sets, the first time he has fallen in two sets at the event in round-robin play. But Federer bounced back to beat Dominic Thiem and now Anderson without dropping a set.

"We’re used to you lose, you leave and you don’t hang around. So from that standpoint, I think it was more straightforward for me today," Federer said on court after his win. "I’ve always wanted to go out with a bang today and win the match. If I go through, great, if I don’t well I don’t deserve to be through and that’s okay, too. I’m happy I’m still alive."

Federer came out focused early against Anderson, who was 2-0 in his Nitto ATP Finals debut, breaking first. But the second seed played a sloppy service game and struggled to pinpoint his serve like usual to give that break back.

From there, though, Federer locked down his game, and did well to win 68 per cent of second-serve return points against the big-serving Anderson to triumph in 77 minutes. The 99-time tour-level champion did everything in his power to keep Anderson from getting in a rhythm, hitting dagger-like backhand slices short in the court to elicit mishits from his opponent, and to bring Anderson into the net without the 6'8" right-hander necessarily wanting to journey into the forecourt.

"Unfortunately I had a rocky service game myself after that [first service break. I didn't let that frustrate me or disappoint me. I kept on plugging away, kept on trying," Federer said. "I think my attitude was good today. I think I had an aggressive playing mindset, a good variation as well with my slice. I think it was just a good match from my side."

With Thiem’s victory over Nishikori in straight sets earlier in the day, Anderson was already guaranteed to become the first South African to move into the semi-finals at the season finale since the tournament began in 1970. So Federer will face the second-placed competitor in Group Guga Kuerten, while Anderson will clash against that group’s winner.

"I’m very happy. First match was tough against Kei, never got going. And with the back against the wall, maybe it’s easier for me to play, I’m not sure. But I fought hard," Federer said. "In the end, I played some good tennis today and I’m very happy. Kevin’s had a wonderful year, and so have the other two guys. It’s been a fun group, with many different kinds of players in the group. I’m thrilled. Thanks for the support, of course, and I’m excited to be in the semis."

The win is even sweeter for the Swiss, as Anderson came from two sets and a match point down against Federer in this year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals to earn perhaps the biggest win of his career en route to the final at SW19. Federer now leads Anderson 5-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

Did You Know?

Federer broke Anderson four times in the match. The South African had not faced a break point in his first two matches at the season finale.

Looks like just like in Paris Roger is getting better with each match. 

I think he may need to play more matches before tournaments to help him fine tune things. 

But I guess we'll see next year, he does tend the start the year off strong. 

It could have just been that he really wanted to prove a point vs Anderson over his Wimbledon loss.

Saturday's match against Zvarev should be an interesting one. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Agnieszka Radwanska announces retirement from professional tennis

Former World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska has announced her retirement from professional tennis.

In a statement, the Pole said: "I'd like to share with you one of the most important decisions of my life. Today, after 13 years of playing tennis competitively, I have decided to end my career. This was not an easy decision. I am grateful to have so many special memories, including 20 WTA titles, the WTA Championships in Singapore, a Wimbledon final, and so many others.

"Unfortunately I am no longer able to train and play the way I used to, and recently my body can't live up to my expectations. Taking into consideration my health and the heavy burdens of professional tennis, I have to concede that I’m not able to push my body to the limits required."

Radwanska was the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open Era, and the first to win the WTA Finals. She was also voted the WTA Fan Favorite for six consecutive years.

She thanked her family and support team, and added: "I’m hanging the racquet up and say goodbye to the pro tour, but I’m not leaving tennis. Tennis is and always has been special in my life. But now it’s time for new challenges, new ideas, equally as exciting as those on the tennis court, I hope.

"Throughout my career, I always did my best to represent my country in the best possible way. I hope that my tennis matches were the source of emotions and joy for you all. Your support, warm words and faith in me were with me in every single match I played and this is what I’m thankful for. Thank you for every sleepless night in front of the TV and all those Fan Favorite awards – that was the biggest honour and best reward for my hard work. I am truly grateful for having the best and most loyal fans in all of tennis."

In all, Radwanska won 20 career WTA singles titles. In addition to her Wimbledon exploits, she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open twice, the quarterfinals of the French Open once, and also regularly featured in the second week of the US Open.

“Congratulations to Agnieszka on an outstanding career,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon. “Agnieszka embodies the qualities that make a true champion, on the court delivering world class performances and incredible displays of athleticism, and off the court with her poise, professionalism and support for her fellow players. Agnieszka leaves a legacy on the game across the globe and on behalf of the WTA, she will truly be missed.”

Tennis will not be the same without you Aga, every match was always exciting to watch just for the sheer amount of incredible shots.  

There's a reason why the media dubbed you the Polish Ninja. Not only is this a huge loss for the sport of tennis itself, but for Polish tennis in particular. 

I think it's going to be a while before we have another player that can reach the elite level the way she did.  

Aga has always been compared to Martina Hingis for her similar style when it comes to net play, which is the biggest complement one can receive when it comes to the sport.  

With both of them retired now, I hope the new generation of players that come along adapt some of those same play qualities. It would be a real shame if that got completely lost.

Thank you for 13 years of  outstanding athleticism, and for representing your country with absolute grace and respect, you will be sorely missed on the WTA tour.  All the best in the new chapter ahead. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Players defend Roger Federer over Julien Benneteau's unfair advantage claims

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic leapt to the defence of great rival Roger Federer on Tuesday (AEDT) after claims that the Swiss enjoys preferential treatment on Tour.

Frenchman Julien Benneteau caused a stir during an interview on French radio station RMC Sport on Monday in which he said tournament referees were often kinder to Federer when it came to scheduling his matches.

Benneteau was particularly referring to the Australian Open where he said 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer played “12 or 13” of his 14 matches at Melbourne in the past two years at night, so avoiding the often scorching temperatures.

He also suggested Federer’s Laver Cup project, an exhibition team event in which Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is also involved, represented a conflict of interest.

“When he [Federer] promotes the Laver Cup, there are a number of conflicts of interest that have become disturbing,” Benneteau said.

“In the organisation of this event, there’s Craig Tiley, the boss of the Australian Open, who deals with marketing and television rights. He is paid by Roger Federer’s agent and, on the back of that, as luck would have it, Federer played 12 of his 14 matches at 7.30pm.”

Asked for his thoughts after his round-robin victory over American John Isner at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, Djokovic said Federer had earned the right for special treatment.

“In the end of the day, in a way he deserves the special treatment because he’s six-time champion of Australian Open and arguably the best player ever,” Djokovic told reporters.

“If he doesn’t have it, who is going to have it? People want to see him play on the centre court, and they want to see him play in showtime, the best hours, which is 7:30 at night in Rod Laver Arena.

Asked for his thoughts after his round-robin victory over American John Isner at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, Djokovic said Federer had earned the right for special treatment.

“I understand Julien’s point because sometimes it does seem that maybe certain players get more favoured year after year in certain tournaments. On the other side, you have to understand that Federer is a driving force of tennis in terms of revenue, in terms of attention.

“Julien and guys like him are also benefiting from tennis, because of Roger, because of what he has done for the sport.”

Isner went even further, saying the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal should get even more privileges.

“If anything, maybe they should get more special treatment because those guys, the top players, have made other players below them a lot of money,” the American said after his 6-4 6-3 defeat.

“It is like the Tiger Woods effect in golf. So that is how you can look at a guy like Roger. He is men’s tennis in my opinion. He deserves everything and more that he’s ever had.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Roger Federer stays alive at ATP World Tour Finals defeating Thiem in straights

On a one-sided day of competition in London, Roger Federer and Kevin Anderson win in straight sets – meaning everyone in the Lleyton Hewitt Group is still in the hunt for the semifinals.

Roger Federer shook off a rusty performance in his first match at the ATP Finals by beating Dominic Thiem in straight sets in his second outing in London on Tuesday.

The Swiss star brushed Thiem aside in just 66 minutes, winning 6-2 6-3 to get his campaign back on track.

The victory followed Kevin Anderson’s 6-0 6-1 thumping of Kei Nishikori, a result that saw Anderson head the Lleyton Hewitt Group standings with two-straight-sets victories. All four players remain in contention for the semifinals

Lleyton Hewitt Group

1Kevin Anderson2-04-025-10
2Roger Federer1-12-221-18
3Kei Nishikori1-12-214-21
4Dominic Thiem0-20-414-25

It also continued a streak of one-sided matches at the season-ending event; not one of the six round-robin matches played so far in London have extended to three sets.

“Amongst the best (matches) I’ve played. I felt I did a fantastic job throughout really,” said Anderson, who next plays Federer.

Nishikori beat an error-strewn Federer on the first day of the ATP Finals, but in his second outing he could not content with Anderson, who landed 78 per cent of his first serves, smacked 10 aces and did offer up a break point during the 64-minute rout.

The Japanese hastened his own demise with 24 unforced errors – including 15 from his forehand alone.

Still, it wasn’t as many unforced errors as what Thiem produced.

The Austrian managed just 11 winners while spraying 34 errors in his first match against Federer in two years. He won just three of his 11 points at net, and like Nishikori was unable to earn a break point at any stage of the match.

Federer appeared much sharper than in his first match, dominating on serve and landing 80 per cent of his returns to neutralise Thiem’s delivery.

“It feels good, I’m very happy I showed a reaction after the last match against Kei,” Federer said.

“No match is easy here and it’s not something I’m used to, losing and then coming back and playing again, but it’s a great challenge and I’m happy with my attitude and how I played.”

His attention now turns to Anderson, whom he lost to in their most recent meeting in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

“I hope it’s not a match like Kevin played this afternoon,” Federer said. “It’s never easy to play against him, especially indoors. He deserved that win at Wimbledon but hopefully I’ll get my revenge.”

Anderson simply needs to win a set off Federer to secure his place in the semifinals.

The only way his misses out is if he loses in straight sets and Nishikori wins in straight – and even then he could qualify if the group standings require a count of games won and loss to determine the semifinalists.

Roger Federer cancels practice ahead of Thiem clash at ATP World Tour Finals

Federer was due to prepare for his meeting with Dominic Thiem tomorrow at Queen's Club in west London.

The Swiss star has opted to use the ATP 500 grass courts, despite the ATP Finals taking place on a hard court.

But after storming away from the O2 Arena last night in a foul mood following his shock defeat to Kei Nishikori, the world No 3 cancelled his practice session.

Federer had moaned about not finding a practice court with similar conditions to the match court after his opening-round defeat.

"I've been feeling, I mean, fine. It's just that practice has been a bit all over the place," Federer said.

"I practised in Queen's, practised on the outside courts here, then centre as well. So it's not always exactly the same conditions."

Federer has once again been handed the evening slot tomorrow so he will clash with Thiem at 8pm.

A defeat will likely spell the end of his campaign with one round-robin match remaining.

"I've been feeling, I mean, fine. It's just that practice has been a bit all over the place," Federer said.

"I practised in Queen's, practised on the outside courts here, then centre as well. So it's not always exactly the same conditions."

Federer has once again been handed the evening slot tomorrow so he will clash with Thiem at 8pm.

A defeat will likely spell the end of his campaign with one round-robin match remaining.

The court is very weird," said Zverev.

"When you hit it flat and hard like Cilic does, the court is very fast.

"When you hit it with more topspin, the court takes it away and it bounces up.

"It's more different than other tournaments. For me, it is pretty quick.

"Also Roger wants to play on the fastest court possible, I guess (smiling)."

This does not bode well, I guess we'll see tomorrow, but this is definitely not good. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Roger Federer loses 1st round of round robin in straight sets at ATP World Tour Finals

Seventh seed Kei Nishikori defeated six-time former champion Roger Federer 7-6(4), 6-3 on Sunday night at the Nitto ATP Finals. Nishikori, who is a two-time semi-finalist at the season finale held at The O2 in London, had not beaten Federer since March 2014 in Miami.

Nishikori required 88 minutes to wrap up the Group Lleyton Hewitt round-robin match. It marked his 43rd match win of the season, which includes three runner-up finishes at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Nadal), the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 (l. to Medvedev) and the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna (l. to Anderson.

Nishikori dropped to 0/30 when serving at 5-6, but trusted his technique and attacked Federer’s backhand to work his way back to level terms with a net approach and half volley backhand on the stretch. Nishikori shut the door closed and in the tie-break won six of the first seven points to put pressure on Federer. The second seed recovered to 4/6, however Federer struck a forehand in the net to end the 51-minute opener.

The pair exchanged service breaks at the beginning of the second set, then Nishikori broke Federer’s serve for a 4-2 advantage when aggressive play from the baseline once again reaped dividends.

Federer, who has now competed at the year-end championships 16 times, lifted the trophy in 2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11. He drops to a 46-9 match record on the season.

“I felt we both struggled throughout the first set,” said Federer. “I had my chances maybe a bit more than he did. Then I started to feel better in the second set. I think we both did. The level went up. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the lead that I got early. That was important, I think, at the end. That was the key of the match, that sort of - I guess – [a] 10-minute swing at the end of the first throughout maybe 1-1 in the second.”

Federer will next play sixth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem on Tuesday in the round-robin group. Thiem lost to first-time qualifier and fourth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa during the afternoon.


The up and down performances of 2018 continue, this was probably his worst one, or 2nd worst one after Wimbledon.  Paris was his best (even though he also lost), this was definitely his worst.  

He was looking all kinds of uncomfortable and unhappy, it wasn't the Roger we know and love that's for sure.

Neither player was particularly impressive in this one to be honest, but Nishikori did just enough in the end by cleaning up his unforced errors.   

It's the first time in years that he's lost the opening round of round robin at this tournament in straight sets (and 46 previous victories). So things will only be harder now. 

But I'm holding on to hope that he'll find a way to bounce back against Thiem on Tuesday. 

Friday, November 09, 2018

Roger Federer eager to end positive season with success in London

Heading into the Nitto ATP Finals, Roger Federer took a moment to reflect on his 2018 season as he looks to end his year with a milestone 100th tour-level trophy at The O2 in London.

After a stunning 2017 season which saw the Swiss capture seven titles, including Grand Slam crowns at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, Federer was clear that his 2018 season has been a success as he heads into the elite eight-man event. After defending his Australian Open title to win his 20th major trophy in Januay, Federer has lifted three further titles this year and compiled a 46-8 tour-level record.

"If I would have known that last year, this would have been the season [I would have], I would have taken it," said Federer. "I am very happy that I won a Grand Slam. I am very happy that I played as well as I did throughout the season. Maybe Wimbledon and the US Open didn't go the way I was hoping, but those were really the only two disappointments of the season.

"I won a bunch of tournaments again and played great at the Australian Open. Again, I won my home tournament in Basel... I have just had a really solid season. I stayed injury free also, for most of the year, so I am actually very happy with this season so far."

With a record six titles at the Nitto ATP Finals, second-seeded Federer is eager to capture his first trophy at the season-ending tournament since 2011. Including his debut in 2002, the 99-time tour-level champion has competed in 15 of the past 16 editions of the event. Only in 2016, after cutting his season short to aid rehabilitation from knee surgery, has the Swiss not appeared at the season finale.

"I love playing this event. I always have, ever since I qualified for the very first time back in 2002," said Federer. "It was a massive highlight in my career to be amongst the best eight and I actually had a great run too, that first time in Shanghai."

Two of Federer's six triumphs in the unique competition have come in London, having lifted back-to-back titles at The 02 in 2010 and 2011. Playing in front of a packed crowd, in a world-renowned venue, has always provided Federer with the perfect end to a successful season. More than 250,000 fans attend the event annually, with global viewership figures reaching an average of 95 million viewers each year.

"Here at The O2 we have really had some great crowds, a beautiful, great venue and also some good matches too," said Federer.

Having hosted the event since 2009, when Nikolay Davydenko defeated Juan Martin del Potro in the championship match, the 10th edition of the event begins with questions over the future location of the tournament. With a contract in place until 2020 at The O2, plans for the future of the event, from 2021 onwards, will be announced early next year. Alongside a number of interested cities, London will be up for consideration when the ATP World Tour makes its decision not before March 2019.

"If [the tournament] stays I think it is definitely a good choice," said Federer. "I don't know what the options are. I think the options are clearly important to look at... If The O2 is happy and the crowds keep coming here to this venue and the Tour has a good deal, why not stay here?

"I don't see a reason to change, unless there is somewhere else. A city that really wants it badly and is really willing to come in and support the Tour in a major way for many years to come... I have enjoyed playing in a city that knows tennis very well and has got a strong media following. It has been a good place for us players to showcase our talents."

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Roger Federer wins ATP World Tour Fan Favourite Award 16th year in a row

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas have been named among the recipients of the 2018 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon, with winners revealed ahead of Friday evening’s award presentations at the Official Launch of the Nitto ATP Finals.

Djokovic, who will receive the 2018 year-end ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy this Sunday at The O2, has also been selected by fellow players as the Comeback Player of the Year following his historic return from elbow surgery and a No. 22 ATP Ranking in June to clinch year-end No. 1. Marian Vajda, who guided Djokovic in his return to the top with the pair reuniting in April, has been named by his peers as ATP Coach of the Year.

Nadal has been honoured by players as winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for a second time, while fans have selected Federer as the ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon for a 16th straight year. In doubles, a new pair – Americans Mike Bryan and Jack Sock – has been crowned Fans’ Favourites.

A pair of #NextGenATP players win in two player-voted categories, with 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur awarded Newcomer of the Year and 20-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas taking Most Improved Player of the Year honours. Other winners include Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic, the year-end ATP World Tour No. 1 Doubles Team, and Tommy Robredo, who receives the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award.

The ATP World Tour's best tournaments have also been revealed, with the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (Masters 1000), the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club (500) and the Intrum Stockholm Open (250) named the Tournaments of the Year in their respective categories.

And the BBC’s Sue Barker has been recognised as the recipient of the Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award for her long-standing contribution to the popularity of the game.

2018 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon

ATP World Tour No. 1
(determined by ATP Rankings)
Comeback Player of the Year
(voted by ATP players)

Novak Djokovic: The Serbian secured a historic return to year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, becoming the first player to be ranked outside the Top 20 and climb to the top spot in the same season. Djokovic fell as low as No. 22 in June after undergoing right elbow surgery earlier in the year. Everything changed when he entered Wimbledon, subsequently posting a 31-2 record including Grand Slam titles at the grass-court major and the US Open, as well as ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in Cincinnati and Shanghai. With his victory in Cincinnati, he notched the Career Golden Masters, becoming the first player to complete the set of all nine Masters 1000 titles. Having previously finished at year-end No. 1 in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, Djokovic joins Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer for the second-most top finishes, behind only Pete Sampras (6).

ATP World Tour No. 1 Doubles Team
(determined by ATP Doubles Team Rankings)

Oliver Marach & Mate Pavic: The Austrian-Croatian duo clinched the year-end top spot for the first time, becoming the first players from their respective countries to achieve the feat in any of the ATP Rankings (singles, doubles, team). Marach and Pavic completed a dominant campaign, beginning with a 17-match win streak and titles in Doha, Auckland and the Australian Open. Also champions in Geneva and Chengdu, they reached a total of nine finals, including runner-up finishes at Roland Garros and Monte-Carlo. Marach, 38, is the oldest member of a year-end No. 1 doubles team since 38-year-old Sherwood Stewart in 1984. The 25-year-old Pavic is the youngest member of a year-end No. 1 doubles team since Todd Woodbridge, 24, in 1995. It marks the fifth straight year in which a different team has finished as year-end No. 1.

Most Improved Player of the Year
(voted by ATP players)

Stefanos Tsitsipas: The 20-year-old became the top-ranked Greek in ATP Rankings history after rising to a career-high No. 15 this season, and he also became the first player from Greece to win a tour-level title. The champion at the Intrum Stockholm Open, Tsitsipas dropped just one set en route to the indoor-hard court crown. He rose from a season-opening ATP Ranking of No. 91 to become the youngest member of the Top 20. He also finished runner-up at the ATP World Tour 500 event in Barcelona and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Toronto, falling to Rafael Nadal in both finals. In Toronto, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990.

Newcomer of the Year
(voted by ATP players)

Alex de Minaur: From outside the Top 200 to open the year, de Minaur soared to a career-high No. 31 in 2018. De Minaur began his campaign with a first tour-level semi-final in Brisbane and final in Sydney. He would carry the momentum to the Challenger circuit, where he captured his maiden title in Nottingham in June. The 19-year-old also reached his biggest final at the ATP World Tour 500 event in Washington and earned third-round finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open. In 2017, de Minaur won two tour-level matches. In 2018, he secured a total of 24 victories. Making his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, he is one of just two teenagers in the year-end Top 100 of the ATP Rankings.

Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
(voted by ATP players)

Rafael Nadal: Fellow players voted Nadal as the winner of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for a second time, recognising the Spaniard for his fair play, professionalism and integrity on and off the court. Nadal also received this honour in 2010. This season, the 32-year-old Spaniard spent 36 weeks atop the ATP Rankings and won five titles, including record 11th titles at Roland Garros, Monte-Carlo and Barcelona. Off the court, Nadal supported flood relief efforts in Mallorca.

Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award
(awarded by ATP)

Tommy Robredo: To honour the memory of his close friend, the Spaniard launched his foundation and an international wheelchair tennis tournament, the Santi Silvas Open, in 2009. Robredo’s foundation organises activities which encourage sports training for disabled people, especially wheelchair tennis. It also creates awareness of the importance of sport as beneficial to mental and physical health, and at the same time as a stimulant to personal growth and wellbeing.

ATP Coach of the Year
(voted by ATP coaches)

Marian Vajda: Vajda and long-time pupil Novak Djokovic reunited this past April at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters after a one-year split in 2017. The 53-year-old Slovakian guided Djokovic to a return to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings and Grand Slam victories at Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns in Cincinnati and Shanghai. Vajda is a former World No. 34 and won a pair of ATP World Tour titles in the late 1980s.

ATPWorldTour.com Fans' Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon (Singles)
(voted by fans)

Roger Federer: The 37-year-old Swiss extended his reign in this category, winning the popular vote from fans for a 16th straight year to take his record tally of ATP World Tour Awards to 37. This season, Federer became the oldest World No. 1 in the 45-year history of the ATP Rankings and also claimed his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Ahead of the Nitto ATP Finals, he won his 99th tour-level title at his hometown tournament in Basel.

ATPWorldTour.com Fans' Favourite presented by Moët & Chandon (Doubles)
(voted by fans)

Mike Bryan & Jack Sock: The Americans claimed the fan-voted award in their first year as a duo. Mike Bryan previously won this Award with his brother Bob Bryan from 2005-17. With Bob sidelined with injury since Madrid, Mike Bryan and Sock teamed up during the grass-court swing and won the Wimbledon title in only their second tournament together. They followed with a second Grand Slam title at the US Open.

Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award
(awarded by ATP)

Sue Barker: As accomplished in a television studio as she once was on a tennis court, the former Roland Garros champion and World No. 3 anchors BBC's tennis coverage, including this coming week from the Nitto ATP Finals. Each summer at the All England Club, Barker performs what has become a Wimbledon tradition: an on-court interview with the new men’s and women’s singles champions. Barker started her television career with Channel 7 in Australia, before working for SKY and then becoming one of the most celebrated presenters at the BBC.

ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year
(voted by ATP players)

BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells): The BNP Paribas Open wins in the Masters 1000 category for a fifth straight year. Ahead of the 2018 tournament, the BNP Paribas Open unveiled a brand-new “Full Bloom” marketing campaign that highlighted the world-class venue and players set amidst the stunning natural beauty and backdrop of the desert landscape. In parallel, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden underwent a beautification project to further amplify the feeling of Tennis Paradise. Inside Stadium 1, video walls were replaced and upgraded to complement the action on court. Earlier this year, BNP Paribas extended its title sponsorship of the tournament through 2023.

ATP World Tour 500 Tournament of the Year
(voted by ATP players)

Fever-Tree Championships (Queen’s Club): The Fever-Tree Championships reclaims the distinction as Tournament of the Year after previously winning in the ATP World Tour 500 category in 2015-16 and the 250 category in 2013-14. The grass-court event has been staged for more than a century at The Queen’s Club in London, and has increased its centre court capacity by more than 30 per cent over the last two years. In 2018, the tournament welcomed Fever-Tree, the premium mixer drinks company, as its title-sponsor.

ATP World Tour 250 Tournament of the Year
(voted by ATP players)

Intrum Stockholm Open (Stockholm): The Intrum Stockholm Open wins the Tournament of the Year award in the 250 category for the second time. It previously shared the honour with the Winston-Salem Open in 2016. The indoor hard-court tournament marked its 50th anniversary this year. With the help of new tournament promoter Game Set Events, it celebrated unique moments of the tournament, including interviews on court with Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg.

Monday, November 05, 2018

2018 Nitto ATP Finals draw announced

The draw ceremony for the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November, was made on The One Show, live on BBC One, on Monday night. Boris Becker, the 1998, 1992 and 1995 champion, took part in the draw.

Singles – Group Guga Kuerten

[3] Alexander Zverev (GER)
[5] Marin Cilic (CRO)
[8] John Isner (USA)

Singles – Group Lleyton Hewitt

[2] Roger Federer (SUI)
[4] Kevin Anderson (RSA)
[6] Dominic Thiem (AUT)
[7] Kei Nishikori (JPN)

Djokovic, a five-time year-end No. 1, leads Group Guga Kuerten alongside Alexander Zverev (1-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record), Marin Cilic (Djokovic leads 16-2) and John Isner (Djokovic leads 8-2). Djokovic, who has a 49-11 match record in 2018, including a 31-2 mark since the start of Wimbledon, has qualified for the season finale for the 11th time (2007-16), highlighted by five title runs in 2008 (d. Davydenko), 2012 (d. Federer), 2013 (d. Nadal) and 2014-15 (d. Federer both times).

Federer, a six-time former champion at the prestigious event, has compiled a 46-8 match record in 2018, including four titles. The Swiss has been drawn in Group Lleyton Hewitt with Kevin Anderson (4-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record), Dominic Thiem (Thiem leads 2-1) and Kei Nishikori (Federer leads 7-2).

Eight different countries are represented in the elite eight-man singles field for the third consecutive year. Gustavo Kuerten won the 2000 season finale, when the event was held in Lisbon, while Lleyton Hewitt won two titles in 2001 (in Sydney) and 2002 (in Shanghai).

Karen Khachanov, who beat Djokovic for his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title on Sunday at the Rolex Paris Masters, and Borna Coric are first and second alternates respectively in the singles field.

The two doubles groups will be published later today.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Roger Federer remains upbeat after Paris Masters loss to Djokovic

Despite admitting to some regrets after falling in a final-set tie-break to Novak Djokovic in the Rolex Paris Masters semi-finals on Saturday, Roger Federer remained upbeat about his progress, as he looks to end his season on a high at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

The 37-year-old Swiss, who was aiming to move one win from collecting his 100th tour-level title, was making his first tournament appearance in the French capital since 2015, but eventually fell to his great rival after three hours and two minutes. Federer's outside chance of finishing 2018 as year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings also came to an end.

"I think the level was good from my side," said Federer. "Clearly I have some regrets. When you lose a close match like this you always have. Wherever they are in the match.

"But, overall, it was a good tournament. I can look back and think it was definitely worth it to come to Paris. The welcome was great. I played some good tennis, so I can be happy."

Federer also took the time to praise Djokovic, who has won 22 consecutive matches, ahead of his final meeting against Russian Karen Khachanov on Sunday. Djokovic will be aiming to collect his third successive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy, which would bring the 31-year-old level with Rafael Nadal's record haul of 33 titles at the level.

"Novak is obviously on a roll. You can feel it," said Federer. "He protects his serve very well. I think I did the same as well. And at the end it came down to a few things here and there.

"I'm happy with my game. It's better than last week in Basel. There I won the tournament and here I played in the semis and it needed somebody of Novak's calibre to beat me. So, that's all right. I'm looking forward to a rest now and a good preparation for London."

With added confidence, following on from capturing a record ninth crown at the Swiss Indoors Basel last week, Federer has every reason for positivity as he switches his focus to the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London from 11-18 November. The six-time champion is chasing his first trophy at the event since 2011 and remains well aware of the challenges the elite eight-man event presents.

"Last week, I obtained the title [in Basel] and it gave me a lot of confidence. I saved a lot of break points. I wasn't tense. I wasn't nervous. So I got used to playing matches again," said Federer. "We're going to play against the Top 10 from the first [match in London]. It's not simple. My body is in shape. Mentally I felt tough. So, it's a good thing as well. And I reached the semi-finals [in Paris]... I can still be satisfied."

Friday, November 02, 2018

Roger Federer sets up another meeting with Novak Djokovic at Paris Masters semis

Roger Federer continued chasing his 100th tour-level title on Friday with an impressive 6-4, 6-4 victory against in-form Kei Nishikori, setting a blockbuster Rolex Paris Masters semi-final against four-time tournament winner Novak Djokovic.

It will be Federer’s 47th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Djokovic, who has won 21 tour-level matches in a row, and 30 of his past 31 matches dating back to the start of Wimbledon. In their only clash this season, Djokovic defeated Federer in straight sets to win the Western & Southern Open to complete the Career Golden Masters.

"I want to play well. I want to try to win, obviously. I know he's on a hot streak so I think it's going to be tough. But nevertheless I think I've got nothing to lose," Federer said. "I also like this type of surface, I like playing indoors. Indoors has treated me very well, winning Rotterdam and Basel. I think I'm ready to do something tomorrow, but clearly I have to play a lot of good tennis tomorrow because those are the question Novak asks of you. It's not just maybe a serve here or there or a return here or there, he's going to ask the question time and time again because he defends very well and he plays well on the offence and plus he's serving consistently well at the moment so I think it's going to be tough."

Federer will have plenty of motivation to avenge that loss, as he stands two matches from becoming the second player behind Jimmy Connors (109) to win 100 titles. Last week, the Swiss lifted his ninth hometown trophy at the Swiss Indoors Basel to give him 99 crowns overall, and he has now won seven matches in a row to improve his record to 46-7 in 2018.

Federer leads Nishikori 7-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, and the Swiss has triumphed in their past six meetings, including a match just three weeks ago at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. While Nishikori broke the 37-year-old twice in China, Federer’s serve dominated their Parisian quarter-final, as the third seed lost just one first-serve point (27/28) and saved the only break point he faced. Federer won a higher percentage of second-serve points (59%) than Nishikori did on his first serve (57%).

"I think for me it was really important to go through two sets and not get broken and play very consistently and solid and not make too many wild shots on my own service games and just play solid and I think I was able to deliver that in a very nice way today. Kei is one of the best returners in the game and if you allow him to come into your service games too frequently, he's going to really hurt you. I think I was able to avoid that and then winning straight sets is always nice. It saves energy for not only what is to come tomorrow or the following week, but for your career. That's why you could be more successful if you win quick matches. I've done that well throughout my career and it was nice to get one again tonight."

The 2011 Paris champion, who is into the last four here for the first time since 2013, only landed 52 per cent of his first serves. But he placed his delivery quite well, painting the lines with various spins and paces to keep an elite returner in Nishikori from being aggressive on return. That kept the Japanese star from controlling many baseline rallies, allowing Federer to cruise to victory in 79 minutes.

By virtue of his loss against Federer, Nishikori will finish ninth in the ATP Race To London. That means that Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem have clinched the final two spots at the Nitto ATP Finals, to take place at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.

Did You Know?

Saturday's semi-final between Federer and Djokovic will be their 10th consecutive meeting at the Nitto ATP Finals, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event or a Grand Slam.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Roger Federer makes a winning return at Paris Masters

Roger Federer began his pursuit of tour-level title No. 100 on Thursday, beating 13th seed Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters.

"I think both of us were far from our best, but we fought with what we had and at the end I think I maybe served a bit better in the important moments than Fabio did. Off the baseline, it was tough. He takes the ball early and can really redirect really well. But I’m very happy because it means I’m moving on in the tournament."

Federer, who received a walkover into the Round of 16 due to Milos Raonic's withdrawal, is trying to triumph in Bercy for the second time in his career. The Swiss has now moved into the last eight at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in five of his past six appearances.

The 27-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titlist is gaining momentum ahead of his 16th appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals. Federer, currently No. 3 in the ATP Rankings, will try to lift a record seventh trophy at the season finale in London, to take place at The O2 from 11-18 November. The 37-year-old improves to 45-7 in 2018, making at least the quarter-finals in 10 of 12 events this season.

Federer now leads Fognini 4-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, winning all 10 sets they have played. The 99-time tour-level champion has won nine of those 10 sets by a margin of 6-4 or greater, coming out victorious on Thursday in just 73 minutes.

Federer did well on return, continuing the momentum he gained winning the title at last week’s Swiss Indoors Basel. The third seed won 46 per cent of his return points to eliminate the Italian, who captured three ATP World Tour titles this season. Federer will next face seventh seed Kevin Anderson or No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori.

Did You Know?

Federer has 45 match wins in 2018. The 37-year-old has earned 40 or more victories 17 times (2001-15 and 2017-18).

His first serve percentage is still all over the place, I guess this is just the Roger we'll be getting for the remainder of this year.  But at least he won fairly easily.