Bagnis Upsets Murray In Melbourne

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Facundo Bagnis saves 11 of 13 break points to beat Andy Murray on Tuesday in Melbourne.

Nadal, Opelka, Dimitrov and Goffin compete at ATP 250 event

Facundo Bagnis upset Andy Murray 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 in two hours and 27 minutes on Tuesday at the Melbourne Summer Set. The Argentine saved 11 of 13 break points and will now play third-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov. Former World No. 1 Murray, who started working with German coach Jan de Witt during the off-season, twice came within one point of a 5-1 lead in the second set before Bagnis fought back.

Elsewhere, Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp struck eight aces and won 81 per cent of his first-service points for a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Adrian Mannarino of France in 82 minutes. He awaits the winner of eighth-seeded American Mackenzie McDonald and Peter Gojowczyk of Germany.

Rafael Nadal seeks the 89th title of his illustrious career this week at the ATP 250 event. Reilly Opelka and David Goffin also compete at Melbourne Park.

Andreas Seppi, Ricardas Berankis, Maxime Cressy and Rinky Hijikata all came through qualifying for a spot in the main draw.

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In Hubi Poland Trusts; Matkowski Looks To ATP Cup Experience

Two years ago, Hubert Hurkacz won all three of his singles matches at the ATP Cup, but Team Poland came unstuck in the deciding doubles match in each tie. This time around, captain Marcin Matkowski believes the squad has a better chance of recording a first win.

“The guys came on 26 December, so they have already had a few good days of practice,” said Matkowski, who retired in 2019. “We played two years ago, and we have great experience and great memories from that. We played three very close matches.

“This year, we came [to Sydney] with the thought of having better results. [It] won’t be easy, but we are confident if we are playing our best we can win [this time].”

Hurkacz, who was No. 37 in the FedEx ATP Rankings at the 2020 ATP Cup, enjoyed a career-best 2021 that included three ATP Tour crowns, including the Miami Open presented by Itau (d. Sinner). With the support of Kamil Majchrzak, Kacper Zuk, Jan Zielinski and Szymon Walkow, the World No. 9 is positive about Poland’s chances.

“It’s great to be here with the whole team,” said Hurkacz. “I mean, it’s so much fun. All of us bring, I think, great energy, and we will definitely enjoy it here and, hopefully, we’ll get many wins.”

Matkowski, who captured 17 tour-level doubles titles, added, “I think we bring a much more experienced team. Hubert said he’s playing better doubles, which obviously he is, his results show that. Besides him we have Jan and Szymon, who can help us a lot in doubles. I feel very strongly about our doubles position.

“If it’s not 2-0, [but] 1-1, I think we have a very good chance of winning a tie whoever goes on court. We are confident we can learn from our experience two years ago and obviously… it’s not a problem for Hubert to play if he’s needed in two matches.

“Obviously, from experience, I know in Australia that the fans like doubles. They always support doubles players… [and] with the ATP Cup format, doubles usually is the match that decides the tie.”

With a big Polish community in Sydney, Majchrzak and Zuk are also excited about the opportunity to represent Poland in Group D. Poland plays Greece on Saturday, Georgia on Monday and Argentina on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to helping my team this year,” said Majchrzak. “I’m very happy that I’m fit again and I can try to help my team and play for Poland.”

Zuk admitted that the experience of playing in 2020, helped him to rise up from No. 460 to a career-high of No. 162 over the past two years. “It gave me lots of experience and confidence,” said Zuk. “I started to play much better [and] I improved a lot. I’m happy to be here again and I will try to help to our team.”

By The Numbers: 2021 ATP Challenger Tour

Bonzi Tops Wins Leaderboard
Benjamin Bonzi was a dominant force on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2021. The Frenchman amassed a tour-leading 50 match wins this year, joining the exclusive ’50 Wins Club’ in a single season. In the history of the Challenger circuit, only seven other players have won as many matches in a campaign. He concluded his breakout season with a 50-13 record, soaring to a career-high No. 60 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry finished a close second, posting 49 wins.

Meanwhile, Jenson Brooksby was the most consistent performer, boasting an 88.5 win percentage (min. 25 matches played). The American star took full advantage of his opportunities, claiming 23 of 26 matches played in 2021. Sebastian Baez (86.3) and Tallon Griekspoor (85.7) were the only other players with at least 80 percent matches won.

Baez, meanwhile, became the winningest player age 20 & under in Challenger history. His 44 match wins are the most in a single season for a player before their 21st birthday.

Player Match Wins
Win Percentage
Benjamin Bonzi 50 79.4
Tomas Martin Etcheverry 49 72.1
Sebastian Baez 44 86.3
Tallon Griekspoor 42 85.7

Griekspoor Smashes Titles Record
Entering the year, only three players had won six titles in a single season on the ATP Challenger Tour. But in 2021 alone, an additional three players matched that record, with Griekspoor (8), Bonzi (6) and Baez (6) lifting trophy after trophy.

The 25-year-old Griekspoor captured the record for most crowns in a season with his victory in Tenerife, Spain. He would add an unprecedented eighth piece of silverware with a title the following week in the Slovak capital of Bratislava. In fact, since falling to Novak Djokovic at the US Open, the Dutchman did not lose another match for the rest of the year. He would reel off five straight titles on the ATP Challenger Tour in October and November, dominating on the clay of Murcia and Napoli I & II, before moving to the hard courts of Tenerife and Bratislava. His 25-match win streak is the longest in Challenger history.

Bonzi, meanwhile, set the tone in 2021, becoming the first of the trio to reach the six-title milestone. His victories in Potchefstroom and Ostrava were followed by a 20-match win streak, lifting four straight trophies in Segovia, Saint-Tropez, Cassis and Rennes.

Baez reached a tour-leading nine finals in 2021, all on clay, with titles coming on Chilean soil in Concepcion and Santiago I & II, as well as in Zagreb, Buenos Aires and Campinas.

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Challenger Season In Review: 12 Storylines In 2021

Teen Titans
Nine different teenagers accounted for a total of 15 Challenger titles this year, with Holger Rune (4), Juan Manuel Cerundolo (3) and Jiri Lehecka (2) the lone players with multiple crowns.

At 18 years and 6 months, Rune became the fourth-youngest player to win his fourth Challenger title. Only a 17-year-old Richard Gasquet (2003) and an 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz (2021) and Felix Auger-Aliassime (2018) were younger.

Cerundolo made Argentine history this year, becoming the third-youngest player from his country to win three Challenger titles. Only Juan Martin del Potro and Guillermo Coria were younger when they lifted their third trophies.

Alcaraz, Dominic Stricker, Dalibor Svrcina, Brandon Nakashima, Carlos Gimeno Valero and Giulio Zeppieri were the only other teenage winners of the year. At the age of 18 years and 18 days, Alcaraz became the youngest champion of 2021 with his victory in Oeiras, Portugal.

Player Title Age
Carlos Alcaraz Oeiras, POR 18 years, 8 days
Holger Rune Biella, ITA 18 years, 1 month
Holger Rune San Marino, SMR 18 years, 3 months
Holger Rune Verona, ITA 18 years, 3 months
Holger Rune Bergamo, ITA 18 years, 6 months
Dominic Stricker Lugano, SUI 18 years, 7 months
Dalibor Svrcina Prague, CZE 18 years, 10 months

Biggest Movers To Top 100
The four biggest movers to the year-end Top 100 won multiple Challenger titles in 2021. Cerundolo led the way, jumping 252 spots to a year-end position of No. 89 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Player Ranking Jump
Year-End 2020 – 2021
2021 Titles
Juan Manuel Cerundolo +252 341 – 89 3
Jenson Brooksby +251 307 – 56 3
Alex Molcan +225 312 – 87 2
Sebastian Baez +212 309 – 97 6

Title Leaders By Country
Players from 35 countries won titles this year. Argentina boasted a tour-leading 20 titles from 11 different players, with the United States coming a close second with 19 victories.

In fact, the Argentine contingent tied the record for most titles in a season, with Argentina 2016, Argentina 2007 and France 2005 the other members of the ’20 Titles Club’. Baez led the charge with six crowns, alongside Cerundolo with three and Etcheverry and Coria with two apiece.

Dimitar Kuzmanov became the first Challenger champion from Bulgaria since Grigor Dimitrov in 2011, with his title in Barcelona.

Country

Titles

Winners

Argentina

20

Baez-6, JM Cerundolo-3, Etcheverry-2, Coria-2, Cachin-1, Bagnis-1, F Cerundolo-1, Carabelli-1, Mena-1, Tirante-1, Ficovich-1

United States

19

Brooksby-3, Kozlov-3, Eubanks-2, Krueger-2, Nakashima-2, Korda-1, McDonald-1, Fratangelo-1, Sock-1, Tiafoe-1, Wolf-1, Cressy-1

Spain

11

Taberner-3, Zapata Miralles-2, Munar-1, Gimeno Valero-1, Carballes Baena-1, Alcaraz-1, Vilella Martinez-1, Martinez-1

France

11

Bonzi-6, Rinderknech-1, Couacaud-1, Lestienne-1, Grenier-1, Blancaneaux-1

ATP Tour & ATP Challenger Tour Winners
Four players lifted trophies on both the ATP Tour and ATP Challenger Tour this year.

Player ATP Tour title
ATP Challenger title(s)
Juan Manuel Cerundolo Cordoba Rome, ITA; Como, ITA; Banja Luka, BIH
Sebastian Korda Parma Quimper, FRA
Carlos Alcaraz Umag Oeiras, POR
Soonwoo Kwon Nur-Sultan Biella, ITA

Doubles Title Leaders
Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral dominated the doubles circuit in 2021, securing a tour-leading six team titles together. The Portuguese pair made the most of their opportunities on home soil, lifting trophies in Oeiras, Braga and Maia I & II, while also prevailing in Tenerife, Spain and Manama, Bahrain. France’s Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul won the second-most titles of any team, lifting five trophies together.

Orlando Luz won the most doubles titles of any player, prevailing on eight occasions with four different partners. He prevailed alongside Rafael Matos (4), Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves (2), Sergio Galdos (1) and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (1).

Fast Facts

  • A total of 39 different players enjoyed their maiden moments of glory this year. Holger Rune was the youngest of the group at the age of 18 years and 1 month, while 28-year-old Italian Franco Agamenone was the oldest.
  • A total of 30 #NextGenATP stars (born 2000 or later) won titles. Jenson Brooksby became the youngest ever to win three titles in the first four months of a Challenger season. His 19-2 mark through April was the second-best start to a season, behind only Janko Tipsarevic‘s 20-0 record in 2017.
  • Qualifiers claimed 10 titles, with Zizou Bergs going the distance on two occasions, winning seven matches in eight days in both St. Petersburg and Lille.
  • Longest final: The longest final registered at three hours and seven minutes, with Nikola Milojevic beating Dimitar Kuzmanov 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) in Zadar, Croatia.
  • Shortest completed final: At 46 minutes, Mats Moraing downed Hugo Gaston 6-2, 6-1 in Tulln, Austria.
  • Juan Manuel Cerundolo and Flavio Cobolli contested the first all-teenage final since 2017, in Rome.
  • Oldest winners: The ATP Challenger Tour featured two champions aged 35 and older in 2021. A 37-year-old Andreas Seppi won in Biella, Italy, while a 35-year-old Pablo Cuevas prevailed in Lyon, France.
  • This year, four players saved at least one match point in a Challenger final: Emilio Gomez (3) in Salinas, Mats Moraing (2) in Forli, Max Purcell (1) in Nur-Sultan and Lukas Lacko (1) in Mallorca.
  • Liam Broady won his first title in his eighth final appearance. It’s the second-most finals to win a maiden title in Challenger history, with Jan-Lennard Struff and Martin Rodriguez both claiming their first crowns in their ninth finals.
  • Tallon Griekspoor‘s 25-match win streak is the longest in Challenger history, surpassing Juan Ignacio Chela‘s 24 wins in a row in 2001.
  • Francisco Cerundolo and Juan Manuel Cerundolo became the sixth pair of brothers to win titles in the same season.
  • At 15 years and 10 months, Gabriel Debru became the fourth-youngest player to win a Challenger match since 2000, with his first-round victory in Roanne, France. The Frenchman rallied from a set down to defeat Andrea Pellegrino 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, before falling to eventual champion Hugo Grenier.
  • At No. 874, Dominic Stricker became the lowest-ranked champion in Challenger history with his victory in Lugano, Switzerland.
  • At 40 years and 1 month, Feliciano Lopez became the second 40-year-old finalist in Challenger history, joining Ivo Karlovic (Houston 2019) with his runner-up finish in Tenerife.

Challenger Season In Review: 12 Storylines In 2021

Griekspoor The Great
For many players competing on the ATP Challenger Tour, winning one title in a season is an accomplishment.

Eight? Well, that’s just ridiculous.

This year, Tallon Griekspoor did just that, smashing the single-season record for Challenger titles. A perfect 8-0 mark in finals etched his name in the history books and vaulted him to the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, peaking at a career-high No. 64.

The 25-year-old provided glimpses of his potential throughout 2021, pushing Casper Ruud to a deciding tie-break at the ATP 500 event in Acapulco, before qualifying for the Wimbledon main draw from two sets down. And he would hold his own against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open.

But even Griekspoor could not believe what would ensue in the final months of the season. After falling to Djokovic in New York, an inspired Dutchman became an unstoppable force. And that’s no exaggeration. Five straight titles and 25 consecutive match wins shocked the tennis world and put the rest of the tour on notice. Regardless of the surface or the opponent, Griekspoor refused to lose. Clay-court titles in Murcia and Napoli I & II in October would be followed by a record seventh crown on the hard courts of Tenerife, and unprecedented eighth victory on indoor hard in Bratislava.

Inspired by countryman and 2021 Formula One world champion Max Verstappen and armed with newfound confidence and an aggressive mentality, Griekspoor made his mark on a record-breaking season. Next stop: the ATP Tour in 2022.

Brooksby Hits The Big Time
To open a Challenger campaign with three titles from four finals is impressive, but to also do it to launch a professional career is unprecedented.

As fearless a competitor as they come, Jenson Brooksby‘s physicality and mental drive have been on full display since he turned pro in January. He would soon cement his name in the record books with his maiden trophy in Potchefstroom, South Africa, followed by back-to-back crowns on home soil in Orlando and Tallahassee. In doing so, the #NextGenATP star became the youngest player in Challenger history to win three titles in the first four months of a season.

After missing all of 2020 with a significant turf toe injury, the 21-year-old California native’s Newcomer of the Year campaign soon kicked into high gear with a seamless transition to the tour-level. He would immediately reach the final in his ATP Tour debut in Newport and stunned World No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime en route to the Citi Open semi-finals. And Brooksby did not stop there, streaking to the Round of 16 at the US Open, before succumbing to Novak Djokovic in a spirited battle on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

From outside the Top 300 and competing in ITFs to open the season to knocking on the door of the Top 50 and making noise on the ATP Tour by year’s end… Brooksby’s breakthrough was one we won’t soon forget.

Baez’s Breakthrough
For Sebastian Baez, it was the cherry on top of a historic 2021 campaign.

One week after showing off his talents on the global stage of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals, the charismatic 20-year-old from Buenos Aires celebrated his biggest milestone yet. In late November, the pride of Argentina surged into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings after clinching his sixth ATP Challenger Tour title of the year.

Baez showcased his supreme agility and abundance of energy throughout his breakthrough season. One of the more consistent and dominant performers on the Challenger circuit, he was one of just three players with a win percentage of 80 per cent or higher (86.3), along with Brooksby and Griekspoor. And his 44 match wins set the record for most victories by a player aged 20 & under in a single season.

Battling with #NextGenATP countryman Juan Manuel Cerundolo for Argentine supremacy throughout the season, it would be Baez who lifted more trophies by year’s end. The World No. 99 reached a Challenger-leading nine finals in 2021 and became the youngest player in Challenger history with six titles in a single season.

“Now I want to have the greatness that the best players in the world have,” said Baez. “I know I can still improve. My ceiling is high and every day I want to be better than the day before.”

Baez

Bonzi Blast-Off
In the latter months of the season, all the attention was on Griekspoor and Baez as they shattered records and surged to Top 100 debuts. But don’t forget who started the six-title trend in 2021.

Benjamin Bonzi was the first of the trio to join the exclusive club, making a Top 100 debut of his own with three straight crowns on home soil in September, prevailing in Saint-Tropez, Cassis and Rennes. Moreover, his 50 match wins set the standard on the ATP Challenger Tour this year, leading all players.

Peaking at the age of 25, the Frenchman credits his stunning surge, which has seen him rise to a career-high No. 60 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, to the work he and coach Lionel Zimbler have put in, both on and off the court. A ‘more serene’ Bonzi admits that improving his mentality between the lines has made the difference.

“It’s been a long journey to get here and I’ve been through some very tough moments,” said Bonzi. “To be here now and playing good tennis has not been easy, but it’s a great feeling.”

Bonzi

The Rune Revolution
From Brooksby to Baez and Cerundolo, it was an unforgettable season for the #NextGenATP contingent on the ATP Challenger Tour. Holger Rune also played a massive part in that surge for the 21 & under group.

Rune took the Challenger circuit by storm in 2021 and he would also etch his name in the history books. At the age of 18 years and six months, the teen became the second-youngest player to win four titles in a single season with his victory in Bergamo in November. Only a 17-year-old Richard Gasquet was younger when he achieved the feat in 2003.

In addition, Rune joined the exclusive list of players to win four titles before their 19th birthday, along with Gasquet (7), Tomas Berdych (5), Carlos Alcaraz (4), Felix Auger-Aliassime (4), Mario Ancic (4), Guillermo Coria (4) and Hyeon Chung (4). It was yet another statement victory in a season of breakthroughs for the Danish sensation, who capped his campaign with an appearance on the big stage of the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals.

On the precipice of a Top 100 debut, the World No. 103 is already looking forward to a full season on the ATP Tour in 2022. The ambitious Dane is ready for the challenge.

“Maybe I could play a couple more Challengers to get into the Top 100, then I’ll focus on the Grand Slams and ATP Tour tournaments,” said Rune. “I am enthusiastic about the idea.”

Rune

Attack Of The Argentines
For just the fourth time in ATP Challenger Tour history, a country has accounted for 20 titles in a single season. Where Baez and Cerundolo led the #NextGenATP charge for the South American nation, it was Tomas Martin Etcheverry‘s 49-win season, Federico Coria‘s two titles and a slew of other breakout performances that carried the flag.

Etcheverry finished second on the match wins list in 2021, behind only Bonzi, while Coria rose to a career-high No. 61 in the FedEx ATP Rankings with crowns in Prostejov and Brasilia. Seven other Argentines won titles this year, including an emotional Facundo Mena, who returned to the winners’ circle, in Quito, nearly two years after the passing of his father.

Francisco Cerundolo ensured that he and brother Juan Manuel Cerundolo would be just the sixth pair of siblings to win Challenger titles in a single season, with his victory in Cordenons.

Five years after fracturing a vertebrae in his back and fighting to stay healthy, Pedro Cachin lifted a trophy for the first time since 2015, prevailing in Oeiras.

And the trio of Juan Pablo Ficovich, Thiago Agustin Tirante and Camilo Ugo Carabelli all captured their maiden Challenger titles. Tirante joined Baez and Cerundolo as #NextGenATP Argentines to enter the winners’ circle this year.

The American Onslaught
A total of 12 different Americans lifted singles trophies this year, the most by any country on the ATP Challenger Tour. Where Brooksby led the charge in the first half of the season, it was Stefan Kozlov who flew the flag in the latter months of 2021.

After many years fighting for belief and purpose on the court, the 23-year-old is steadily carving his own path up the FedEx ATP Rankings once again. Kozlov, who achieved a career-high No. 115 in 2017, is back inside the Top 200 for the first time in three years. He closed out his Challenger season on a 20-2 run, winning titles in Columbus, Charlottesville and Champaign and securing a main draw wild card into the 2022 Australian Open.

Christopher Eubanks and Mitchell Krueger added a pair of titles apiece, with Brandon Nakashima and Sebastian Korda lifting trophies en route to Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals debuts. Mackenzie McDonald triumphed in Nur-Sultan, on his way to Comeback Player of the Year honours in the 2021 ATP Awards. McDonald, who fell as low as World No. 272 after undergoing right hamstring surgery in 2019, rose to a career-high No. 54 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Bjorn Fratangelo, Jack Sock, Frances Tiafoe, J.J. Wolf and Maxime Cressy also won titles this year. Sock ended a four-year title drought in Little Rock, while Fratangelo halted a three-year absence from the winners’ circle in Cleveland. Wolf won his first title in his return from hernia surgery in Las Vegas, as Cressy capped an impressive late-season surge with a victory of his own in Forli, Italy. Cressy is riding a wave of momentum, having also earned his first Top 20 win (d. Carreno Busta) at the US Open and first ATP Masters 1000 match win in Indian Wells.

Tiafoe

You Always Remember Your First
A total of 39 players celebrated their maiden moments of glory on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2021. At 18 years and 1 month, Holger Rune was the youngest with his first of four Challenger titles in Biella, Italy. At 28 years and 4 months, Franco Agamenone was the oldest with his maiden crown in Prague.

Liam Broady won his long-awaited first title in his eighth final appearance, lifting the trophy in Biel, Switzerland. Seven years after making his Challenger final debut, the Brit finally put it all together on the indoor hard courts of Biel. It’s the second-most finals needed to win a maiden title in Challenger history.

Seven teenagers won their maiden crowns, with 18-year-olds Dominic Stricker and Dalibor Svrcina and 19-year-olds Carlos Gimeno Valero, Jiri Lehecka and Giulio Zeppieri joining Rune and Cerundolo in titletown.

Other notable first-time winners include Daniel Altmaier, as the injury-plagued German won in Braunschweig, Luedenscheid and Puerto Vallarta en route to the year-end Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The World No. 84, who has struggled with shoulder and abdominal ailments, also reached a pair of ATP 250 semi-finals in Umag and Kitzbuhel.

The exuberant and attack-minded Zizou Bergs won a pair of titles as a qualifier, in St. Petersburg and Lille, before claiming his first clay-court crown in Almaty. And a 24-year-old Alex Molcan carried the momentum from a first ATP Tour final appearance, falling to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Belgrade, en route to capturing his first Challenger titles in Liberec and Helsinki. The Slovak would also reach the third round of the US Open, soaring to a career-high of No. 87 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Challenger Stars Shine At US Open
This list would not be complete without a nod to Botic Van De Zandschulp. One of the more consistent performers on the ATP Challenger Tour in 2021, the Dutchman streaked to the US Open quarter-finals in stunning fashion as a qualifier. Wins over Top 15 seeds Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman were followed by a four-seat defeat to eventual champion Daniil Medvedev. In fact, the 26-year-old was the only player to take a set off Medvedev in New York.

With his back against the wall in nearly every match he played, having rallied from a set down in all three qualifying encounters as well as his first three main draw clashes, Van de Zandschulp provided a true fairytale run. Just like Aslan Karatsev did earlier in the year at the Australian Open, the Dutchman showed that Challenger stalwarts are capable of making some serious noise on the Grand Slam stage. All these players at the Challenger level have the talent to go toe-to-toe with the best in the world.

Molcan is another example of exactly that, stepping up with his run to the third round at Flushing Meadows as a qualifier. Germany’s Oscar Otte reached the fourth round, also as a qualifier, where he took a set from sixth seed Matteo Berrettini.

Brooksby took full advantage of his main draw wild card in battling to the Round of 16 and giving Djokovic all he could handle in a four-set defeat. The World No. 1 would face three of the year’s biggest Challenger stars at the US Open, dueling with Rune, Griekspoor and Brooksby under the bright lights.

Botic

Portuguese, French Pairs Dominate Doubles
Nuno Borges and Francisco Cabral led the ATP Challenger Tour with six team titles. The Portuguese duo dominated on home soil, where they lifted four trophies. Frenchmen Sadio Doumbia and Fabien Reboul finished second with five team crowns.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Orlando Luz and Rafael Matos led the charge in the individual doubles title race. Luz claimed eight trophies with four different partners, while Matos captured seven crowns with a pair of partners. Together, they won four titles, in Cordenons, Concepcion, Tallahassee and Rio de Janeiro.

Manama Makes Dazzling Debut In Middle East’s Return To Tour
The ATP Challenger Tour returned to the Persian Gulf, as the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain welcomed players and fans in late November. It marked the nation’s first appearance on the Challenger circuit since 1984, with the capital city of Manama playing host. The Ministry of Interior of Bahrain put on a show from start to finish, organizing a first-rate first-time event. Ramkumar Ramanathan claimed his maiden title in his seventh final, ending one of the longest title droughts in Challenger history.

New French events in Roanne and Saint-Tropez, as well as Spanish tournaments in Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Pozoblanco, also celebrated their debuts on the Challenger circuit. Meanwhile, a total of nine tournaments in Portugal offered new opportunities for players in the region, including fresh events in Oeiras and Porto.

Manama

Dove Men+Care Circuit Shines Spotlight On South American Tennis
It was a banner year for tennis in South America on the ATP Challenger Tour. With fresh faces announcing their arrival and a slew of new tournaments making their debuts, the region is making a serious statement on the global stage.

Spending many months away from home, while traveling the world fighting for their tennis dreams, is draining for even the most promising talents on the ATP Challenger Tour. To those ends, South American tennis took a giant step forward in 2021. As a whole, the continent welcomed players to a combined 19 tournaments across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. Bolivia is also scheduled to host its first ATP Challenger event in 18 years to kick off 2022.

Founded by former World No. 31 Horacio de la Pena, the Circuito Dove Men+Care Legion Sudamericana has contributed seven of those events this year, with many more planned for the 2022 season. To say that South American players took advantage of these newfound opportunities is an understatement. Players from eight different countries reached a combined 68 Challenger singles finals, lifting 32 trophies in total.

ATP Challenger Tour 

The Two Biggest Grand Slam Upsets Of 2021

Rounding off our review of the 2021 season, ATPTour.com looks back at the biggest Grand Slam upsets of the year. Yesterday we focused on three of the top five upsets at Grand Slam level and today we will complete the list, with #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and Hubert Hurkacz pulling off big results.

2) Wimbledon, Second Round, Hubert Hurkacz d. Roger Federer 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0
The Big Three have staked their claim on history, each winning 20 major titles, neatly dividing the tennis turf into three distinct fiefdoms. Rafael Nadal, of course, has hoisted (and bitten) La Coupe des Mousquetaires an astounding 13 times. Novak Djokovic, the Wonder Down Under, is a nine-time Australian Open champion. With eight titles at Wimbledon, Roger Federer is the epitome of elegance and panache, floating regally over the grass at the oldest Grand Slam.

These are all records, underlining the brilliance of these players in their favourite venues. When Federer went through an awkward stage, going nine straight majors without winning one, he ended that streak with a win at Wimbledon in 2012. On the cusp of his 31st birthday, Federer reinforced the idea that he was largely invincible at the All England Club, and it’s an image that had, correctly, persisted.

When he first saw this year’s Wimbledon draw, 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz knew the possibility of facing Federer existed. After he upset World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the fourth round, in a wild, five-set match, it became a reality.

“I don’t know what to say,” Hurkacz told reporters. “It’s super-special for me, to play on this court. Playing against Roger, when you’re a kid, it’s like a dream come true.”

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Cool-Headed Hurkacz Holds Off Federer In Wimbledon Stunner

Could Federer, at the daunting age of 39, possibly add a record ninth Wimbledon title to his resume? Ken Rosewall, the last 39-year-old to reach the final at Wimbledon, in 1974, hoped so. Federer cherished his message of congratulations and support.

It was a career-first major quarter-final for the 24-year-old from Poland – as opposed to Federer’s epic total of 58. And yet, it was Hurkacz who displayed poise under the pressure of the moment on Centre Court.

Standing 6’ 5”, he had powerful groundstrokes and a sizzling serve. Hurkacz won the first set, but soon found himself down 1-4 in the second as Federer, urged on by a supportive crowd, fleetingly returned to vintage form. That advantage, however, disappeared when he was broken in the next game and Hurkacz ultimately prevailed in a tie-break. The effect on Federer was devastating: He lost all six games of the final set.

Hurkacz, who would complete his best-ever major effort with a loss to Matteo Berrettini in the semi-finals, wound up qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals and finishing in the year-end Top 10.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/hurkacz-federer-wimbledon-2021-wednesday-qf.jpg" alt="Hubert Hurkacz, Roger Federer“>
Photo Credit: AELTC/Pool/Getty Images
1) US Open, Third Round, Carlos Alcaraz d. Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5)
There is no easy path to forge when following in the footsteps of countrymen as accomplished on the Grand Slam stages as those from Spain. Under the guidance of Roland Garros champion and former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero and touted as the next great Spanish prospect to eventually succeed Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz is fast learning to juggle the hype.

A maiden tour-level title in Umag in July set off the latest “youngest since Nadal” comparisons, but it was a third-round boilover on Arthur Ashe Stadium against World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas that really sounded his potential. The 18-year-old had already brought down 26th seed Cameron Norrie in straight sets and Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech, but the Greek had reached back-to-back ATP Masters 1000 semi-finals in Toronto and Cincinnati leading in as was considered a strong contender to foil Djokovic’s Grand Slam bid.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/alcaraz-upset.jpg" alt="Carlos Alcaraz“>
Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Alcaraz had never passed the third round at a major and the World No. 55 looked to have met his match when he dropped the fourth set 6-0. But competing with the composure of a player far beyond his years, he shook off the fourth-set blowout and stuck with the third seed on serve throughout the fifth to force a deciding tie-break.

The crowd was baying for the upset and, not to be overawed, Alcaraz jumped to a 6/3 lead. The Spaniard held his nerve to secure his passage on his third match point, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5) and become the youngest player to reach the fourth round at a major since 1992.

“I can’t believe that I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic match. For me it’s a dream come true,” Alcaraz said. “I think without the crowd I couldn’t have the opportunity to play a great fifth set and be able to beat Stefanos. I think the crowd was really amazing. I really loved it.”

Alcaraz, who went on to reach his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in New York, was the youngest player to beat a top three opponent at a major since Michael Chang, 17, defeated World No. 1 Ivan Lendl and World No. 3 Stefan Edberg at Roland Garros in 1989. There was nothing but respect from a vanquished Tsitsipas.

“I’ve never seen someone hit the ball so hard. [It] took time to adjust. [It] took time to kind of develop my game around his game style,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s one of these matches and one of these feelings where you pick up [your level] at some point of the match, you feel like you’re in control, and it doesn’t really go your way at the end.”

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Karatsev's Australian Stunner One Of Biggest Slam Upsets Of 2021

Rounding off our review of the 2021 season, ATPTour.com looks back at the biggest Grand Slam upsets of the season, starting today with three of the top five upsets. We’ll review the top two tomorrow.

5) Roland Garros, First Round, Pablo Andujar d. Dominic Thiem 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
A defeat of Roger Federer in Geneva on clay only two weeks before Roland Garros did not harm Pablo Andujar’s self-belief, even if it was the Swiss star’s first match back from knee surgery.

But while the Spaniard arrived in Paris with a career-best win under his belt, the draw had not been kind. He was scheduled in the first round to face fourth seed and two-time finalist Dominic Thiem, a player whom he had not beaten in three prior ATP Head2Head meetings.

Thiem was the reigning US Open champion but had battled with injuries earlier in the season before his return to clay in May, typically his most successful surface. However, there were worrying signs leading up to the tournament where he had reached the final in 2018 and 2019 and the quarter-finals last year.

Thiem lost three of his seven matches on clay leading in, including a second-round departure in Rome and a first-round defeat in Lyon. Still, there was nothing to suggest he was about to hit a wall against the World No. 68 after he took the opening two sets in just under two hours.

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Andujar Upsets Thiem In Five Sets At Roland Garros

The 35-year-old Andujar had not won a match at Roland Garros since he reached the third round in 2015, but he began to exploit a mounting error count from his opponent as he took the third set on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Thiem had never fallen at the first hurdle in seven previous Roland Garros appearances, and his opponent had never come back to win a match after dropping the opening two sets. After breaks were traded at the start of the deciding set, it was Andujar who carried the momentum from a decisive break at 2-2 to a 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory after four hours and 29 minutes.

“It is very special to win here at Roland Garros,” Andujar said. “[It was] such an emotional win for me, being two-sets-to-love down against an amazing player.”

It was just the second time Thiem had lost from two sets up, following his fourth-round defeat to Juan Martin del Potro at the 2017 US Open. He finished the day with 61 unforced errors and was at a loss to explain his capitulation.

“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it’s very strange to me, and I have to think about what’s wrong at the moment,” Thiem said. “…I’ve never had losses like that, especially here at Roland Garros.”

4) US Open, Second Round, Botic van de Zandschulp d. Casper Ruud 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4

Van de Zandschulp
Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
Playing from behind requires a certain mindset, a selective amnesia when things don’t begin well. At this year’s US Open, Botic van de Zandschulp didn’t just survive a series of self-dug deep holes, he thrived.

The 25-year-old Netherlands athlete, who had qualified at the three previous Grand Slam events, did it again in New York. The three matches had a curious symmetry; playing against Tomas Barrios Vera, Ben Shelton and Enzo Couacaud, van de Zandschulp lost the first set, only to win the next two. In his first-round main-draw match, van de Zandschulp dug deeper, dropping the first two sets against Carlos Taberner before rallying famously for the victory.

This was all well and good – none of the players were ranked among the ATP’s Top 100 – but second-round opponent Casper Ruud was No. 11 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and in the midst of a sensational stretch that included three consecutive titles on clay in July. The 22-year-old from Norway won in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel – and then reached the quarter-finals on the hard courts of Toronto and Cincinnati – and was suddenly in play for a berth at the year-end Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy.

True to recent form, van de Zandschulp began poorly, double faulting on a pair of break points to give Ruud the first set. Of course, now he had the Norwegian right where he wanted him – and proceeded to win the second set.

“I had the feeling I was leading while it was still one set all and we were on serve for a long time in the second set,” van de Zandschulp said afterwards. “This [season] is the first time for me to play best of five. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Across the final three sets, the Dutchman didn’t give him anything – prevailing on each of the 10 break points he faced – riding a dramatically improved service game. He was particularly deft at net, following well-timed, aggressive shots forward and converting 22-for-29. There were an even 50 winners, a plus-15 margin to unforced errors. Surprisingly, fatigue was not a factor, despite the fact van de Zandschulp had been on the US Open courts for nearly 10 hours before encountering Ruud.

“I think I can go further in the tournament if I play like today,” he said after the match.

That approach worked nicely in a win over fellow qualifier Facundo Bagnis in the third round, naturally, after losing the first set. Van de Zandschulp had now won an incredible 16 major matches in 2021, including qualifying.

The Dutchman went on to upset No. 14-ranked Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round in a five-set thriller before falling to Medvedev in the quarter-finals. It was van de Zandschulp’s eighth match of the tournament and those points moved his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 117 up to a dizzying No. 62. He would finish the season at No. 57.

The good news? He probably won’t have to qualify for Grand Slam events in 2022.

3) Australian Open, Third Round,  Aslan Karatsev d. Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4

Karatsev
Photo Credit: Matt King/Getty Images
When Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev swept all before them to guide Russia to the ATP Cup title in February, few could have predicted one half of the team’s doubles envoy was about to embark on an extraordinary run in singles at the ensuing Australian Open. World No. 114 Aslan Karatsev had fallen in all three doubles ties contested but Medvedev hailed him Russia’s “secret weapon”.

Competing all week alongside his Top 10 countrymen had clearly rubbed off. Karatsev made an immediate impact in his maiden Grand Slam main-draw appearance, surging into the third round, where he notched his first Top 10 victory over eighth seed Diego Schwartzman.

Russia’s secret weapon was not so secret anymore. Karatsev was outside the Top 250 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in March last year, but since the resumption of the ATP Tour from a Covid-19 pandemic hiatus, the 27-year-old won 18 of his final 20 ATP Challenger Tour matches in 2020.

In the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, the qualifier was tasked with taking on 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, after the #NextGen ATP Canadian upset his countryman Denis Shapovalov in the third round. The 20-year-old struck form leading in as he reached his seventh tour-level final at the Murray River Open (l. to Evans).

Auger-Aliassime looked in complete control as he took the opening two sets in just 70 minutes before the Russian began to find his range. After he was broken three straight times to concede the second set, Karatsev was never broken again as he swung the contest in his favour with clean, heavy ball-striking off both wings.

His 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory made him the first qualifier to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals since Goran Ivanisevic in 1989 and the first to reach the last eight in their Grand Slam debut since Alex Radulescu at Wimbledon in 1996.

“It was really tough in the beginning to play with him,” Karatsev said on court. “He’s a really good player and he’s playing really fast. It took me two sets to find a way how to play… I’m feeling good. Of course, a bit tired. But what could I do? I put everything in this match. I’m happy.”

Auger-Aliassime was left to rue a missed opportunity to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. Neither player had gone five sets before, but despite the defeat the Canadian felt he learned plenty.

“It’s the first time I played five sets, first time this happens to me, maybe not the last one,” he said. “We’ll see, but I’ll just try to learn from that and be better next time.”

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Karatsev's Australian Stunner One Of Biggest Slam Upsets Of 2021

Rounding off our review of the 2021 season, ATPTour.com looks back at the biggest Grand Slam upsets of the season, starting today with three of the top five upsets. We’ll review the top two tomorrow.

5) Roland Garros, First Round, Pablo Andujar d. Dominic Thiem 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
A defeat of Roger Federer in Geneva on clay only two weeks before Roland Garros did not harm Pablo Andujar’s self-belief, even if it was the Swiss star’s first match back from knee surgery.

But while the Spaniard arrived in Paris with a career-best win under his belt, the draw had not been kind. He was scheduled in the first round to face fourth seed and two-time finalist Dominic Thiem, a player whom he had not beaten in three prior ATP Head2Head meetings.

Thiem was the reigning US Open champion but had battled with injuries earlier in the season before his return to clay in May, typically his most successful surface. However, there were worrying signs leading up to the tournament where he had reached the final in 2018 and 2019 and the quarter-finals last year.

Thiem lost three of his seven matches on clay leading in, including a second-round departure in Rome and a first-round defeat in Lyon. Still, there was nothing to suggest he was about to hit a wall against the World No. 68 after he took the opening two sets in just under two hours.

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Andujar Upsets Thiem In Five Sets At Roland Garros

The 35-year-old Andujar had not won a match at Roland Garros since he reached the third round in 2015, but he began to exploit a mounting error count from his opponent as he took the third set on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Thiem had never fallen at the first hurdle in seven previous Roland Garros appearances, and his opponent had never come back to win a match after dropping the opening two sets. After breaks were traded at the start of the deciding set, it was Andujar who carried the momentum from a decisive break at 2-2 to a 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory after four hours and 29 minutes.

“It is very special to win here at Roland Garros,” Andujar said. “[It was] such an emotional win for me, being two-sets-to-love down against an amazing player.”

It was just the second time Thiem had lost from two sets up, following his fourth-round defeat to Juan Martin del Potro at the 2017 US Open. He finished the day with 61 unforced errors and was at a loss to explain his capitulation.

“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it’s very strange to me, and I have to think about what’s wrong at the moment,” Thiem said. “…I’ve never had losses like that, especially here at Roland Garros.”

4) US Open, Second Round, Botic van de Zandschulp d. Casper Ruud 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4

Van de Zandschulp
Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
Playing from behind requires a certain mindset, a selective amnesia when things don’t begin well. At this year’s US Open, Botic van de Zandschulp didn’t just survive a series of self-dug deep holes, he thrived.

The 25-year-old Netherlands athlete, who had qualified at the three previous Grand Slam events, did it again in New York. The three matches had a curious symmetry; playing against Tomas Barrios Vera, Ben Shelton and Enzo Couacaud, van de Zandschulp lost the first set, only to win the next two. In his first-round main-draw match, van de Zandschulp dug deeper, dropping the first two sets against Carlos Taberner before rallying famously for the victory.

This was all well and good – none of the players were ranked among the ATP’s Top 100 – but second-round opponent Casper Ruud was No. 11 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and in the midst of a sensational stretch that included three consecutive titles on clay in July. The 22-year-old from Norway won in Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbühel – and then reached the quarter-finals on the hard courts of Toronto and Cincinnati – and was suddenly in play for a berth at the year-end Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Italy.

True to recent form, van de Zandschulp began poorly, double faulting on a pair of break points to give Ruud the first set. Of course, now he had the Norwegian right where he wanted him – and proceeded to win the second set.

“I had the feeling I was leading while it was still one set all and we were on serve for a long time in the second set,” van de Zandschulp said afterwards. “This [season] is the first time for me to play best of five. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Across the final three sets, the Dutchman didn’t give him anything – prevailing on each of the 10 break points he faced – riding a dramatically improved service game. He was particularly deft at net, following well-timed, aggressive shots forward and converting 22-for-29. There were an even 50 winners, a plus-15 margin to unforced errors. Surprisingly, fatigue was not a factor, despite the fact van de Zandschulp had been on the US Open courts for nearly 10 hours before encountering Ruud.

“I think I can go further in the tournament if I play like today,” he said after the match.

That approach worked nicely in a win over fellow qualifier Facundo Bagnis in the third round, naturally, after losing the first set. Van de Zandschulp had now won an incredible 16 major matches in 2021, including qualifying.

The Dutchman went on to upset No. 14-ranked Diego Schwartzman in the fourth round in a five-set thriller before falling to Medvedev in the quarter-finals. It was van de Zandschulp’s eighth match of the tournament and those points moved his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 117 up to a dizzying No. 62. He would finish the season at No. 57.

The good news? He probably won’t have to qualify for Grand Slam events in 2022.

3) Australian Open, Third Round,  Aslan Karatsev d. Felix Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4

Karatsev
Photo Credit: Matt King/Getty Images
When Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev swept all before them to guide Russia to the ATP Cup title in February, few could have predicted one half of the team’s doubles envoy was about to embark on an extraordinary run in singles at the ensuing Australian Open. World No. 114 Aslan Karatsev had fallen in all three doubles ties contested but Medvedev hailed him Russia’s “secret weapon”.

Competing all week alongside his Top 10 countrymen had clearly rubbed off. Karatsev made an immediate impact in his maiden Grand Slam main-draw appearance, surging into the third round, where he notched his first Top 10 victory over eighth seed Diego Schwartzman.

Russia’s secret weapon was not so secret anymore. Karatsev was outside the Top 250 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in March last year, but since the resumption of the ATP Tour from a Covid-19 pandemic hiatus, the 27-year-old won 18 of his final 20 ATP Challenger Tour matches in 2020.

In the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, the qualifier was tasked with taking on 20th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, after the #NextGen ATP Canadian upset his countryman Denis Shapovalov in the third round. The 20-year-old struck form leading in as he reached his seventh tour-level final at the Murray River Open (l. to Evans).

Auger-Aliassime looked in complete control as he took the opening two sets in just 70 minutes before the Russian began to find his range. After he was broken three straight times to concede the second set, Karatsev was never broken again as he swung the contest in his favour with clean, heavy ball-striking off both wings.

His 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory made him the first qualifier to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals since Goran Ivanisevic in 1989 and the first to reach the last eight in their Grand Slam debut since Alex Radulescu at Wimbledon in 1996.

“It was really tough in the beginning to play with him,” Karatsev said on court. “He’s a really good player and he’s playing really fast. It took me two sets to find a way how to play… I’m feeling good. Of course, a bit tired. But what could I do? I put everything in this match. I’m happy.”

Auger-Aliassime was left to rue a missed opportunity to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. Neither player had gone five sets before, but despite the defeat the Canadian felt he learned plenty.

“It’s the first time I played five sets, first time this happens to me, maybe not the last one,” he said. “We’ll see, but I’ll just try to learn from that and be better next time.”

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Alcaraz's Ranking Surge Among Best Stats Of 2021

Yesterday, we began to look at the best stats of 2021, including match records by surface and performance under pressure. Today, we will examine the season’s biggest movers, first-time winners and fast facts.

Top Movers For Year-End Top 50 Finishers

*Career-High
Carlos Alcaraz did not just break onto the scene in 2021 — the Spaniard proved he will be a force to be reckoned with on the ATP Tour for years to come. The teen claimed victories against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner, Andy Murray and other stars this season. Those wins helped him climb from World No. 141 to his current spot, a career-high World No. 32 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. Alcaraz completed his dream year by triumphing at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

Top Movers For Year-End Top 100 Finishers

*Career-High
Jenson Brooksby was named Newcomer of the Year in the 2021 ATP Awards after a breakthrough campaign in which he showed he is one of the toughest competitors on the ATP Tour. The American soared 251 spots in the FedEx ATP Rankings to move to the fringe of the Top 50. The Californian advanced to his maiden tour-level final in Newport, reached the semi-finals in Washington and won a set against Novak Djokovic at the US Open. Mackenzie McDonald, the Comeback Player of the Year in the 2021 ATP Awards, surged 138 spots.

2021 Fast Facts
– Four players cracked the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time in 2021: Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik Sinner and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

– Three players who won ATP Tour titles this season saved at least one match point en route to the trophy. Rafael Nadal did it twice. Jannik Sinner saved a match point in his Melbourne-1 semi-final against Karen Khachanov, Nikoloz Basilashvili saved a match point against Roger Federer in the Doha quarter-finals, Nadal saved a match point against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona final and he saved two match points in the third round in Rome against Denis Shapovalov.

– Year-end No. 1 team Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic lifted nine tour-level trophies in their first season as a duo. No other player claimed more than four tour-level doubles trophies in 2021.

– There were nine all tie-break matches this year, including two at ATP Masters 1000 events. In Miami, Ilya Ivashka beat Soonwoo Kwon 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-6(3) in the first round and in Madrid, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina battled past Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in the first round.

– One qualifier claimed an ATP Tour trophy in 2021. Juan Manuel Cerundolo, then World No. 335, triumphed in Cordoba as a qualifier on his Tour debut. Cerundolo became the first player to emerge victorious on his ATP Tour debut in 17 years.

2020 First-Time Winners (10)

There were 10 first-time ATP Tour champions in 2021, ranging from #NextGenATP stars to veterans who finally made their breakthrough. Daniel Evans was 30 when he lifted the trophy in Melbourne. Three players who competed in Milan — Alcaraz, Cerundolo and Sebastian Korda, also became first-time tour-level winners. So did Cameron Norrie, the Los Cabos champion who later earned a Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells. Aslan Karatsev, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals as a qualifier, earned glory for the first time in Dubai.

Titles Won Without Losing A Set

Fourteen of this year’s titlists triumphed without losing a set. Three players who competed in Turin — Hubert Hurkacz (Delray Beach, Metz), Casper Ruud (Bastad, Gstaad) and Jannik Sinner (Sofia, Antwerp), accomplished the feat twice.

Infosys ATP Stats – 2021 Leaders

Break points saved and converted proved key in 2021 for two Nitto ATP Finals competitors. Italian Matteo Berrettini led the ATP Tour by saving 73 per cent of the break points he faced, which helped him earn a spot in Turin in front of his home crowd. Daniil Medvedev was the best at converting his break points, doing so nearly 47 per cent of the time this year.

Rapid Fire
Most Aces in Best-of-3 Match: 36, John Isner (d. Wolf, Atlanta R1) and Sam Querrey (l. to Gojowczyk, Atlanta R1)

Most Aces in Best-of-5 Match: 49, Kevin Anderson (d. Vesely, US Open R1)

Longest Winning Streak: 22, Novak Djokovic

Youngest Final: Casper Ruud (22) def. Hugo Gaston (20) in Gstaad

Oldest Final: Rafael Nadal (34) def. Novak Djokovic (33) in Rome

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– Research contributed by Greg Sharko

Evans' Stunner Against Djokovic Tops ATP Tour Upsets Of 2021

Continuing our review of the 2021 season, today ATPTour.com looks at the top two upsets at ATP Tour events this year. On Friday and Saturday, we’ll look at the biggest upsets at majors in 2021.

2) Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Third Round, Lorenzo Sonego d. Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5)
Defeating Dominic Thiem is a difficult challenge at the best of times. Beating the Austrian on clay though is even harder, given his strong record on the surface, on which the 28-year-old has won seven tour-level titles and reached two Roland Garros finals.

Arriving at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome, Thiem was in a confident mood, having enjoyed a run to the semi-finals in Madrid the week before. After moving past Marton Fucsovics in his opening match, the then-World No. 4 was the heavy favourite to overcome Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego, who entered the match with a 1-6 record against Top 10 opponents.

However, Sonego and Thiem played out a classic in front of a lively Italian crowd at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Despite the magnitude of the occasion, with Sonego aiming to reach the quarter-finals at his home Masters 1000 event for the first time, the 26-year-old flew out of the blocks. He took the game to Thiem with his heavy topspin groundstrokes to clinch the opening set.

Inevitably, 2020 US Open titlist Thiem roared back to win the second set as he produced stunning shotmaking, using his one-handed backhand up the line to dominate the match at times.

While many would have expected Thiem to then race away in the decider, Sonego had other ideas and showed an abundance of flair and grit to see off the Austrian in a third-set tie-break and claim his biggest win of the season, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5).

“It’s amazing, an unbelievably emotional moment for me because I’m in Rome, in my Italy with fans for two sets,” Sonego said in his on-court interview. “I’m so happy for this victory, for this match. Thiem is with Nadal the best player on clay.”

Entering the week, Sonego held just a 2-4 record in Rome. However, he would go on to reach the semi-finals in 2021, upsetting another Top 10 star, Andrey Rublev, in the quarter-finals before losing to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

1) Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Third Round, Daniel Evans d. Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5
Djokovic arrived at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters undefeated in 2021 (9-0). The Serbian had won both his matches at the ATP Cup and triumphed at the Australian Open for the ninth time.

The World No. 1 is a two-time champion in Monte-Carlo and was aiming to add his 37th ATP Masters 1000 crown to his record-breaking haul. The Serbian cruised past Jannik Sinner in straight sets in his opening match to set his first ATP Head2Head meeting against Daniel Evans in the third round.

Entering the week, Evans had not won a tour-level match on clay in nearly four years. The World No. 33 earned victories against Dusan Lajovic and Hubert Hurkacz in the first two rounds, but the prospect of upsetting Djokovic seemed a tall order.

Evans, who won his first tour-level title at the Murray River Open in February, began brightly against the Serbian, with Djokovic competing in just his second match since the Australian Open two months earlier. The Briton won 12 of the first 17 points as he raced to a 3-0 lead, causing the 20-time major champion problems with his backhand slice in the windy conditions.

Although the 34-year-old improved on return and pegged Evans back to 4-4, the 30-year-old dug deep to clinch the 57-minute opener, letting out a roar after Djokovic committed his 23rd unforced error of the first set.

Evans remained focused on his game plan, hitting 69 per cent of his backhand slices into Djokovic’s backhand third of the court, and another 15 per cent down the middle, with a majority of those shots aimed at the Serbian’s backhand, keeping the top seed from dictating points.

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How Evans Stunned Djokovic In Monte-Carlo

Evans was the more solid and consistent of the two as he broke to lead 6-5 in the second set, before holding serve to secure the biggest win of his career, 6-4, 7-5. It was the first time Evans had reached a Masters 1000 quarter-final, and he ended Djokovic’s perfect start to 2021 in the process.

“You can never be confident coming into such a big match like that against Novak,” Evans said. “It is clearly a big win and I am delighted that I got through, especially being a break down and [having had] little difficulties in the first set. It was really pleasing and I am delighted.

“The biggest thing is, you have got to believe you can win. I can walk on saying it, but you have really got to believe it… It will be one to savour for maybe after the tournament, to tell the kids and grandkids that you beat the World No. 1. It is a nice one.”

Evans then downed David Goffin to reach the semi-finals, before Stefanos Tsitsipas stopped him advancing any further.

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Murray Awarded Australian Open Wild Card

Australian Open tournament organisers announced Thursday that they have awarded former World No. 1 Andy Murray a main draw wild card. The Scot will compete at the event for the 14th time.

“I’m really excited to be back playing at the Australian Open and grateful to Craig and the team for the opportunity,” Murray said in a statement. “I’ve had some great times in Australia playing in front of the amazing crowds and I can’t wait to step back out on court at Melbourne Park.”

The 34-year-old owns a 48-13 record at the season’s first major, where he has reached the final five times. The Scot last competed at Melbourne Park in 2019, when he lost against Roberto Bautista Agut in a five-set first-round thriller.

Murray, who was a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year in the 2021 ATP Awards, underwent hip surgery following his 2019 Australian Open appearance. The 46-time tour-level titlist is currently No. 134 in the FedEx ATP Rankings

“Andy is renowned for his fighting spirit, passion and love of the game,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said. “I’m delighted to welcome him back to Melbourne in January.”

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