Remember The Name: Inside The Cerundolo Clan's ATP Tour Breakthrough

Until last week, there were probably few tennis fans who had heard the surname Cerundolo, or knew that it belonged to two players on the ATP Tour: brothers Juan Manuel Cerundolo, 19, and Francisco Cerundolo, 22. But this week the Cordoba Open was the best possible stage for the sons of renowned Argentine coach, Alejandro, to introduce themselves to the world.

Neither player has reached the Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but the Cerundolo name is now etched in the tennis world’s collective memory. Francisco, thanks to a wild card and Juan Manuel, having come through qualifying, became the first Argentine brothers to appear together in the main draw of an ATP Tour tournament in the past 30 years (since Carlos and Alejandro Gattiker in Quito and Kitzbuhel, 1981).

Although this feat was praiseworthy in itself, it’s not the end of the story. The youngest member of the Cerundolo clan would not be content just reaching an ATP Tour main draw for the first time. Juan Manuel completed a dream week in which he picked up win after win until he had racked up eight in a row – enough to pick up the trophy. He became the fifth-lowest ranked champion since 1990, and the player with the lowest ranking to win a title since Pablo Andujar in Marrakech in 2018.

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“I still can’t believe what I did. It’s really crazy!” said the Argentine #NextGenATP player. Throughout the week, the familiar chant of “Vamos, Juanma!” could be heard regularly from the stands in Cordoba. His father, Alejandro Cerundolo, cheered his son on with a significant dose of intensity and reason, while his mother Maria Luz kept the passion more to herself.

Before either of their sons picked up an ATP Tour trophy, they were already proud parents, brimming with joy just seeing Francisco and Juan Manuel compete together at an ATP 250 tournament. Watching their youngest son break so many records and clear so many hurdles during the week was an intense experience for them.

Patriarch Alejandro, known by everyone as ‘El Toto’, was a professional tennis player himself and came close to being among the Top 300 in the world early in the 1980s. A coach and an educator, his pride was evident in Cordoba. “Juan should be at least in the Top 50, if we’re being objective,” he told ATPTour.com. “The question I always had was how quickly he could do it. He was always precocious, a special kid. Every time it looks like he gets a little bit behind, he does crazy things like this that are a little confounding.”

However, Juan Manuel’s mother, a sports psychologist, is never surprised by her son’s cool personality on court. “He’s always been like that on court. He’s very calm, not very expressive. Sometimes his coaches would like him to be a little more extroverted, to shout a little, but just because he’s like that it doesn’t mean he’s not very strong mentally. Quite the opposite. Mental strength is not found in what you say outwardly. It’s on the inside, and he knows how to find it.”

The 19-year-old’s success has come very early for a player who just attained his highest ranking of No. 181 in the world. But it was Francisco, currently ranked higher at No. 137, was the first to bring the family name to light on the ATP Challenger Tour. In fact, he had arrived in Cordoba after reaching the final in Concepcion a week earlier, and had picked up the trophy in Campinas in his last tournament in November last year.

Apart from all their recent success, do the brothers share any on-court similarities? “Our styles are completely different,” said Juan Manuel laughing. “He’s aggressive, he hits the ball very hard, and I’m more of a counter-attacker, left-handed, defensive.”

One thing is for sure: From now on, nobody will confuse the Cerundolo brothers.

Andujar, Djere Lead Seeds Into Buenos Aires Second Round

© Sergio Llamera/Argentina Open

Sixth seed Pablo Andujar begins his Argentina Open campaign with a straight-sets victory over Juan Ignacio Londero on Monday.

Djere to face either Delbonis or 19-year-old Cerundolo next

Sixth seed Pablo Andujar and seventh seed Laslo Djere punched their ticket into the second round at the Argentina Open as main draw action began on Monday.

Andujar cruised past Juan Ignacio Londero 6-3, 6-0 in his first match since the Australian Open. He trailed by an early break against the Argentine, who sits at No. 90 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. But after recovering from the 0-2 deficit, the Spaniard took control of the contest.

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The sixth seed stayed solid in the pressure-filled moments, saving nine of the 10 break points he faced on Court Guillermo Vilas to see off Londero after an hour and 33 minutes. He will face the winner of an all-Italian clash between Gianluca Mager and Salvatore Caruso

Seventh seed Djere had to rally after dropping the opening set in a hard-fought tie-break, and bounced back with a 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3 victory. Djere will face an Argentine in the second round as he awaits the winner of Federico Delbonis and 19-year-old Juan Manuel Cerundolo, who claimed the Cordoba Open title on Sunday. 

How To Watch

Elsewhere in Buenos Aires, Dominik Koepfer completed a turnaround against local wild card Thiago Agustin Tirante to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, while Thiago Monteiro took down Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2, 6-3. In qualifying, 22-year-old Francisco Cerundolo was also back in action as he defeated countryman Agustin Velotti 6-4, 7-5 to join younger brother Juan Manuel in the main draw. 

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Murray Surges Past Haase In Rotterdam Comeback

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray had to rally from 0-3 in the third set to take down fellow wild card Robin Haase 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 on Monday at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament.

Currently No. 123 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Murray outlasted Haase after two hours and 29 minutes as the match became a physical battle. He struck 33 winners including six aces en route to his first tour-level victory since the 2020 US Open.

“I found a way and actually at the end started to play a bit better. From the mental side and the physical side was positive. I thought I moved pretty well,” Murray said. “I played for two-and-a-half hours and my hips and groin and stuff felt good, so that was positive. But from a tennis side it was average at best.”

Haase gave Murray plenty of trouble with several highlight-reel worthy shots in the pair’s entertaining battle. Murray, who has been working his way back to fitness after a major hip injury, was contesting his second tour-level match of the year.  

The Scot needed a few games to settle into the match, but Haase didn’t give him any respite as he got off to a double-break 4-1 lead in the first set. In the second, Haase had two chances to take the lead at 3-3 before Murray lifted his level, saving both break points on the back of strong first serves.

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Murray took the second set after a tie-break, but found himself in trouble again in the third as Haase opened up a 3-0 lead with an early break. Murray continued to hang in the rallies and managed his emotions to stay in the contest, going on a six-game run to seal his spot in the second round.

“I think from the mental side, I did really well to win because I was really struggling with my game for probably about an hour-and -a-half of that match. I haven’t really felt like that many times in my career,” Murray said. “I was mistiming the ball, it was very strange. I didn’t quite know what to do out there and then when I sort of did feel I was making the right decisions, I was just mistiming the ball. It wasn’t coming off my racquet like usual.”

How To Watch

The victory improves Murray’s ATP Head2Head record against Haase to 5-1. Interestingly, Haase’s only win over Murray came in Rotterdam when the pair contested their first ATP Tour meeting here in 2008.

Murray will face either No. 4 seed Andrey Rublev or American qualifier Marcos Giron in the second round. 

Medvedev Readies For ‘One Of The Strongest Draws Ever’ In Rotterdam

Daniil Medvedev rewarded himself for reaching the Australian Open final with a handful of days off, and then got right back to work as he set his sights on a major breakthrough at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. 

The Russian is the top seed at the season’s first ATP 500 event. He leads a stacked field that features four of the tour’s Top 10 including Stefanos Tsitsipas and countryman Andrey Rublev, two players he defeated en route to the final in Melbourne. 

Medvedev must take on one of the toughest Rotterdam fields in recent memory in his quest to become the new World No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. If the Russian reaches the final, he will become the first player outside the Big Four — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — to hold a top two spot since Lleyton Hewitt was World No. 2 back in 2005.

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“The draw is really strong. I think for [an ATP] 500 event, it’s one of the strongest draws I’ve seen maybe ever,” Medvedev said in a pre-tournament press conference. “We have [four] Top 10 guys, which is unbelievable.” 

It’s an additional challenge for a player who doesn’t mind going about things the hard way. Medvedev had to defeat the top three players in the world to win the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, and he beat 12 Top 10 opponents during his 20-match winning streak that ended in Melbourne. During that stretch, Medvedev won his third Masters 1000 crown at the Rolex Paris Masters, the biggest title of his career in London, helped lead Russia to its first ATP Cup and reached his second Grand Slam final at Melbourne Park. 

“There’s some confidence when you win tournaments. I won three in a row, one of them [the ATP Cup] was a team competition, of course,” he said. “When you get the confidence going, in the tight moments you feel like you can always make the winners or put the ball back in the court when you have to and make your opponent miss.”

Medvedev admitted that the idea of potentially ending the week with a career-high FedEx ATP Ranking comes with some additional pressure, but he’s determined to take it one match at a time as he seeks his first trophy in Rotterdam.

“It’s a normal part of a tennis career to have some pressure,” Medvedev said. “I would say the most pressure would start around [the] quarters or semis. In the first or second round, it’s still kind of far to look ahead. I’m getting ready for my first round and I’m not thinking at all about this, but for sure when it comes closer it’s going to stay in my mind.”

How To Watch

Medvedev will face Dusan Lajovic in the opening round as the Russian contests his first match since the Australian Open final. He previously reached the semi-finals in Rotterdam in 2019, and will aim to improve his 1-1 ATP Head2Head record against the Serbian player. Should he advance, Top 10 players Alexander Zverev and Robert Bautista Agut loom in his section as potential semi-final matchups.

“The courts are really slow here so the conditions he probably will like,” Medvedev said of his clash against Lajovic. “Of course it’s indoor hard, so the serve and return will be very important. The more returns you make and more aces you hit the more pressure you put [on your opponent]. I’m definitely expecting a tough match against Dusan.”

Hockey Culture: Grant Fuhr on how he became part of Oilers dynasty

Welcome to Hockey Culture, the NBC Sports multi-platform content offering dedicated to bringing equality and inclusion to hockey. Led by NBC Sports’ Anson Carter, Hockey Culture addresses contemporary topics within the sport, aim to promote diversity around the game , and increase community engagement.

Hall of Fame netminder Grant Fuhr joins Anson Carter to discuss his time with hometown Edmonton during their Stanley Cup reign, his experiences as a Black player in the NHL and building bonds over time.

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You can watch previous Hockey Culture episodes featuring Ryan Reaves, Darnell Nurse, Willie O’Ree, Harnarayan Singh, and more by clicking here.