Nishikori Escapes Early Elimination In Barcelona

Two-time former champion Kei Nishikori survived a major scare on Monday to reach the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell second round.

The former World No. 4 recovered from 4-6, 2-4 down and was forced to break serve to stay in the match at 5-6 in the second set, before he charged to a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory against Guido Pella after two hours and 39 minutes. The 2014 and 2015 champion claimed three service breaks in the decider to improve to 23-6 in Barcelona.

Nishikori will face 13th seed Cristian Garin for a spot in the third round. Garin won the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head meeting at last year’s Hamburg European Open 6-0, 6-3.

Egor Gerasimov made a successful debut in Barcelona with a 7-5, 6-1 win against former Top 5 star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Belarusian converted four of his five break points to eliminate the 2010 quarter-finalist in 80 minutes. Gerasimov will meet #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner in the second round.

In the opening match on Pista Rafa Nadal, 2015 runner-up Pablo Andujar battled past Gilles Simon 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Andujar broke serve on six occasions to confirm a second-round clash against fifth seed and countryman Roberto Bautista Agut.

Andujar was not the only home player to reach the second round on Monday. Qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles rallied from a set down to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1.

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Davidovich Fokina Jumps Into Top 50, Mover Of Week

© ATP Tour

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has risen to a career-high No. 48 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

ATPTour.com looks at the top Movers of the Week in the FedEx ATP Rankings, as of Monday, 19 April 2021

No. 48 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, +10 (Career High)
The Spaniard has broken into the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time, rising to a career-high No. 48 after he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Tsitsipas). The 21-year-old beat Alex de Minaur, recorded his first Top 10 win over No. 10-ranked Matteo Berrettini and then overcame Lucas Pouille, who rose 14 places today.

View Latest FedEx ATP Rankings

No. 19 Jannik Sinner, +3 (Career High)
#NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner has risen to a career-high No. 19 and is the second youngest player in the Top 100, after fellow 19-year-old and compatriot Lorenzo Musetti (No. 87). Sinner captured his second ATP Tour trophy at the Great Ocean Road Open (d. Travaglia) in February and earlier this month advanced to his first Masters 1000 final at the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Hurkacz).

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Sinner Breaks Into Top 20 For First Time

No. 26 Daniel Evans, +7 (Joint Career High)
The Briton came into the second Masters 1000 tournament of the year on the back of a 10-match losing streak on clay, but he changed his mindset with victories over Dusan Lajovic, Hubert Hurkacz, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and David Goffin en route to the Monte-Carlo semi-finals. The 30-year-old, who captured his first ATP Tour title in February at the Murray River Open (d. Auger-Aliassime), fell to Tsitsipas in the Principality, but rises seven spots to his joint career high of No. 26, which he first attained on 8 February 2021.

Other Notable Top 100 Movers
No. 7 Andrey Rublev, +1 (Career High)
No. 12 David Goffin, +3
No. 33 Filip Krajinovic, +4 (Career High)
No. 59 Jordan Thompson, +4
No. 72 Lucas Pouille, +14
No. 79 Alexei Popyrin, +4 (Career High)
No. 81 Salvatore Caruso, +8
No. 91 Roberto Carballes Baena, +14

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Sinner Breaks Into Top 20 For First Time

#NextGenATP Jannik Sinner has broken into the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time today at No. 19.

The Italian has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past few years, going from an unranked pro in February 2018 to his Top 100 breakthrough on 28 October 2019, shortly before he drew the attention of the tennis world with his dazzling performances to capture the Next Gen ATP Finals title.

Under the guidance of the vastly experienced Riccardo Piatti since the age of 13, and his second coach, Andrea Volpini, Sinner has been able to absorb the very best information and has long shown a maturity that belies his 19 years of age.

“Things are happening quite fast at the moment,” said Sinner, ahead of this week’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. “I have a very good team behind me, and each member knows what they have to do, so that gives me confidence. Everyone has a lot of experience working with many players. I try to improve every day, which is my main goal, and the results will come. I am happy with what I am doing.

“Being a champion is a long, long road. It’s still a long way away… [I’ve made] a good start being 19 years old and playing at the highest level, but I don’t think about being a champion at the moment.”

Last year, Sinner reached his first Grand Slam championship quarter-final at Roland Garros and went on to claim his first ATP Tour title at the Sofia Open (d. Pospisil). He impressed Rafael Nadal so much that the Spanish superstar asked Sinner to be his quarantine training partner in Australia earlier this year.

The Monte-Carlo resident got first-hand knowledge of Nadal’s work ethic and went on to capture his second crown at the Great Ocean Road Open (d. Travaglia) in February. He recently advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Hurkacz).

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How Sinner Is Storming Down His ‘Long Road’

Novak Djokovic, who was coached by Piatti at a similar age to Sinner, offered the 62-year-old coach a few tips on Wednesday after the World No. 1 had beaten the teenager at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. “Jannik realises that the process is long,” said Piatti, who also coached former World No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic from the age of 17 in 1997 until the Croatian’s retirement in 2012. “His potential is very good, but he must continue to develop all areas of his game, learn by watching the best players, and develop his consistency each week.”

Last week, Djokovic praised Sinner, saying: “I think he’s very talented player. He has already established himself at [a] high level in the men’s game, playing [a] Masters [1000] final [and] winning a couple of tournaments already.

“What impresses me the most is his professionalism, his dedication to the everyday routines that he has to endure in order to play at such high level… He really has a good mindset. He seems more mature for his age than the rest of the guys with the way he’s playing and training. He’s got a good tempo. From the baseline, he makes the other guy feel he’s got to run a lot.

“I like his game. I think he has an all-around game. He can play equally well on all the surfaces, which he has proven. Obviously, there’s always things to improve. But he’s in good hands… I’m sure a bright future is ahead of him.”

Following his loss to Djokovic, Sinner joined Piatti the next day on the practice courts at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, trying to improve. Today, Sinner is the Italian No. 2, behind No. 10-ranked Matteo Berrettini, and the youngest player in the Top 80. 

What Is 17-Year-Old Alcaraz 'Really Hungry' For?

Carlos Alcaraz has stepped into the spotlight in 2021, checking off plenty of firsts — competing in his first Grand Slam and ATP Masters 1000 events among them. But the 17-year-old, who is the youngest player in the Top 500 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, is not getting overwhelmed. Instead, he’s acting like a sponge and soaking it all in.

“I’m motivated now to play here in Barcelona at this ATP 500, and then Madrid is an ATP Masters 1000, so for me it’s amazing to play against the great players and to play these kind of tournaments,” Alcaraz said. “I’m getting a lot of experience and I’m looking for that. I’m really happy and really hungry for that.”

The #NextGenATP Spaniard, who is World No. 119, has shown it is a matter of when, not if he will crack the Top 100. The players he has beaten this year include David Goffin, Casper Ruud and Feliciano Lopez.

The protege of former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero is a tough competitor, and Alcaraz is making sure that even when he loses, he is taking lessons from those defeats.

“I learned a lot from the last tournaments, the last matches. It has been [my] greatest matches against the greatest players,” Alcaraz said. “But the biggest thing that I learned is how to manage the pressure in the tough moments, the nerves, what game I have to play in the tough moments, to be aggressive all the time.”

How To Watch

Despite his tender age, Alcaraz strikes the ball like a fully developed ATP Tour pro. The teen, who first made his mark last year as a 16-year-old in Rio de Janeiro by beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a three-hour, 37-minute marathon, has not been infallible. In his first tour-level semi-final last week in Marbella, Alcaraz struggled to consistently find his best level against Jaume Munar.

Although the 6’1” righty was disappointed, he realised there were things he could take away from the match to improve.

“I’m learning to play always the same, not to play in a different way in the tough moments and the beginning of the match,” Alcaraz said. “I’m learning and I’m really happy to learn that.”

Earlier that week, Alcaraz upset Ruud 6-2, 6-4. At the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Norwegian reached the semi-finals, showing the form the Spaniard is capable of. Ruud was impressed.

“I played pretty well in Marbella, but I lost to a good young player. I got a tough beating there,” Ruud said in Monte-Carlo. “He was playing very well. [It] surprised me a bit how well Alcaraz was playing back in Marbella. He showed me that the young guys are coming.”

Two years ago, Alcaraz lost in the first round of qualifying in Barcelona as the World No. 505. Now knocking on the door of the Top 100, the 17-year-old will try to prove Ruud and plenty of others who believe in his potential right, starting with his first-round match against Frances Tiafoe.

Did You Know?
Alcaraz turns 18 on 5 May. Another 17-year-old in the Barcelona field, Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune, will be 18 on 29 April.

Tsitsipas Takes Lead Of Razor-Thin Race

Stefanos Tsitsipas has taken the lead in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin after claiming his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The 22-year-old strengthened his claim to one of eight spots to the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at the Pala Alpitour in Turin from 14-21 November 2021.

The first four players — Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev — are separated by only 410 points in the closest Race after three-and-a-half months of a season since 2010.

View Latest FedEx ATP Race To Turin Standings

The Greek star (2,540 points), who clinched the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals crown, leads second-placed Russian Rublev (2,400), the player he beat in Sunday’s final at the Monte-Carlo Country Club, by 140 points. Five-time former season finale champion Djokovic is in third place on 2,230 points, just 100 points ahead of Russia’s Daniil Medvedev (2,130).

“That is great,” said Tsitsipas, when told he leads the 2021 FedEx ATP Race To Turin. “It’s just the beginning. We still have plenty of tennis to be played this year. [It’s] great to be in the lead. I’m not trying to think of it too much because [there are] many tournaments ahead of me. I’m going to try to recalibrate, refocus. My body is feeling good, which is a good sign. I’m really pumped to go for some more points in the next couple of weeks.”

Eleven years ago, on 19 April 2010, American Andy Roddick (2,450) held a 220-point advantage over Rafael Nadal (2,230), who had just captured the sixth of his 11 Monte-Carlo crowns, with Roger Federer (2,225) in third position. Djokovic, then aged 22, was in fourth place with 1,580 points in the quest for a 2010 Nitto ATP Finals spot, when the event was played at The O2 in London.

Tsitsipas, who beat Rublev 6-3, 6-3 in the Monte-Carlo final, has risen three spots after capturing his sixth ATP Tour crown and his biggest title since lifting the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals trophy. Rublev, who has won more matches this season (24) than any other player, has jumped above Djokovic into second place after his performance in the Principality, which included a quarter-final victory over Nadal.

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz (1,440), this month’s Miami Open titlist, Russian Aslan Karatsev (1,355), Italian Jannik Sinner (1,040), who won the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan, Alexander Zverev of Germany (1025) and Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut (855) remain in spots five to nine, but they will all be keeping track of fast-rising contenders after the second Masters 1000 tournament of the year.

Norway’s Casper Ruud (675) jumped 28 places to 10th place in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin after he reached the Monte-Carlo semi-finals, while Briton Daniel Evans (650), who beat Djokovic en route to the last four, is up 29 places to 11th position.

Rublev: ‘He Was Just Better Than Me’

After a memorable week at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Andrey Rublev gave a simple review of his 6-3, 6-3 loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the championship match.

“He was just better than me,” said Rublev.

The World No. 8 entered his maiden ATP Masters 1000 final in peak form, having claimed three-set wins against ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal earlier in the week. Despite his best efforts, Rublev was simply unable to bring his best level to the court in the championship match as Tsitsipas dominated on serve and converted all three of his break points.

“I feel happy with the week, and I feel super sad with the final, that I couldn’t show the game [I have]. I couldn’t show fight,” said Rublev. “I didn’t win, but of course I’m happy with the week because I beat so many great players. I beat one of the best players in history. It’s a special week.”

Rublev and Tsitsipas’ battle was their fourth meeting since the resumption of the ATP Tour last August (2-2). The pair has already contested seven ATP Head2Head battles (Tsitsipas leads 4-3) and they also met on multiple occasions at junior level.

With Rublev, 23, and Tsitsipas, 22, both still in the early stages of their careers, the Monte-Carlo finalists are well aware that this could be the start of an epic rivalry. The pair has already met in two ATP Tour finals, two Grand Slams, the Nitto ATP Finals and the Next Gen ATP Finals.

“He’s the one from the top players that I [have been] playing the most,” said Rublev. “We played already [a] couple of finals, [and a] couple of important matches… I have more stories of matches [against] him compared [to] other players. I hope it’s the beginning of something. I hope I will also be able to win some of them.”

Rublev will now turn his attention to the remainder of the European clay swing. After one event on the red dirt this season, he has already reached a significant milestone with his first Masters 1000 final appearance. The eight-time ATP Tour titlist will now turn his attention to next week’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, where he compete as the third seed.

“It’s my first tournament on clay and I already [reached a] final, my first final [at a] Masters 1000,” said Rublev. “It’s a great beginning. I hope I can show great game every week.”

Scouting Report: Djokovic & Nadal Lead The Way In Belgrade & Barcelona

It will be a star-studded week as the European clay-court season continues in Barcelona and Belgrade, with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic leading the way in their respective home country.

Nadal is the top seed at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, an ATP 500 tournament. Djokovic highlights the field at the Serbia Open, which is back on the calendar for the first time since 2012. The event is being held at the Novak Tennis Center.

ATPTour.com looks at what you need to know for the week ahead:

Draws: Barcelona | Belgrade

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN BARCELONA
1) Rafa Going For No. 12:
Nadal is an 11-time titlist in Barcelona, and he will try to lift his 12th trophy at the ATP 500 this week. The legendary lefty owns a staggering 61-4 record at the tournament, where he first competed in 2003 as a 16-year-old. Nadal will begin his run against Ilya Ilya Ivashka or Tallon Griekspoor and the first seeded opponent he could face is 13th seed Cristian Garin, who has won all five of his ATP Tour titles on clay. In his last appearance in Barcelona, Nadal lost in the semi-finals in 2019 against Dominic Thiem.

2) Stefanos Soaring: Stefanos Tsitsipas is the second seed, and he is flying higher than ever after winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. The Greek will feel at home in Barcelona, where he reached his first ATP Tour final in 2018. Then only 19, he defeated a host of strong clay-court players, including Diego Schwartzman, Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta. Only Nadal was able to stop him in the championship match. Tsitsipas will play Jaume Munar or Thiago Monteiro in his opener.

3) Rublev Roaring On Clay: Andrey Rublev, who lost against Tsitsipas in the Monte-Carlo final, will take plenty of confidence into this ATP 500 after his run in the Principality. He also leads the ATP Tour with 24 wins this season. The Russian has played in the Barcelona main draw just once, at the age of 17 in 2015, and he fell in his three attempts to qualify for the event since. Rublev is a two-time tour-level titlist on clay, and he will play Benoit Paire or a qualifier in the second round.

4) #NextGenATP Stars In Action: Some of the biggest #NextGenATP stars will compete in Barcelona. Tenth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime will attempt to continue his ascent. Jannik Sinner just made his first Masters 1000 final in Miami, and he will try to make an impact in Spain as the 11th seed. The Italian will begin his campaign against former Top 10 star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Belarusian Egor Gerasimov. Italian prospect, 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, will play someone more than twice his age in 39-year-old Feliciano Lopez, and 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz will battle Next Gen ATP Finals alumnus Frances Tiafoe.

5) Dangers In Doubles Draw: Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah lead a stacked doubles draw as the top seeds, but there are plenty of dangerous unseeded teams to watch for. The Colombians will open against Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who have won all four Grand Slam championships as a pair. Monte-Carlo finalists Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski, who also finished runners-up in Miami, are also unseeded.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN BELGRADE
1) Djokovic Leads The Way:
Djokovic will attempt to win his third title in Belgrade. The Serbian went 8-1 in his three previous appearances in this tournament, and that defeat came due to a retirement in the 2010 quarter-finals. The home hero lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2011. One week after being upset in the third round in Monte-Carlo, Djokovic will try to bounce back against South Korean Soonwoo Kwon or a qualifier. The 33-year-old got off to a strong start to his 2021 season by winning his two matches at the ATP Cup and lifting a record-extending ninth Australian Open trophy.

2) Serbian Standouts: Djokovic is not the only Serbian in the field. Five of the eight seeded players are home favourites: top seed Djokovic, fourth seed Dusan Lajovic, fifth seed Filip Krajinovic, eighth seed Miomir Kecmanovic and ninth seed Laslo Djere. There are eight Serbians in the main draw, with Nikola Milojevic, Danilo Petrovic and Viktor Troicki receiving wild cards.

3) Matteo On The Move: Second seed Matteo Berrettini is looking for form in Belgrade as he recovers from an injury that kept him out after the Australian Open until Monte-Carlo, where the Italian lost his opening match. Berrettini will try to build momentum, starting with his second-round clash against Troicki or countryman Marco Cecchinato.

4) Karatsev Climbing: Few players have received more attention this year than Aslan Karatsev, who made a dream run to the Australian Open semi-finals as a qualifier and then claimed his maiden tour-level crown in Dubai. The Russian earned a solid win in Monte-Carlo against Lorenzo Musetti before bowing out against eventual champion Stefanos Tsitsipas. Karatsev will face a stiff challenge in his Belgrade opener against #NextGenATP American Sebastian Korda or Slovenian Aljaz Bedene. Korda defeated the Russian in qualifying at Roland Garros last year as well as in Miami this season.

5) Marach/Krajicek Lead The Way: The highest seeds in the doubles draw are Austin Krajicek and Oliver Marach, the second seeds, following Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic‘s withdrawal. Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar, who have won their first two ATP Tour titles this year, are also in the field. Single star Matteo Berrettini is competing with fellow Italian Andrea Vavassori.

The Family Connection That Pushed Tsitsipas To Monte-Carlo Glory

Stefanos Tsitsipas was born into a family with a great sporting heritage. His grandfather, Sergei Salnikov, was a gold medallist in football at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, but it was another sporting family member who acted as the inspiration for one of his greatest triumphs on the ATP Tour.

This week, Tsitsipas had the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his mother and former tennis professional, Julia Salnikova. It was an opportunity he grabbed with both hands.

Thirty years after Salnikova claimed a junior title at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in 1981, Tsitsipas joined his mother on the Monte-Carlo honour roll with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph against Andrey Rublev on Sunday.

“[To share] this is incredible. [The] first time I walked in that club, the Monte-Carlo Country Cub, with my mom, I think that was when I was six years old. She showed me her name up there. I remember seeing it for the first time. I was stunned. I was like, ‘Wow. That is really cool.’ How cool is that?”

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Tsitsipas Wins Maiden Masters 1000 Crown In Monte-Carlo

Tsitsipas didn’t give his opportunity to add to his family’s Monte-Carlo success story much thought until it came within touching distance this weekend. From the semi-finals, the Greek dropped just nine games across four sets to charge past Daniel Evans and Rublev and add his name to the Monte-Carlo history books.

“I didn’t think about it in the beginning of the tournament, but it came to my mind when I was playing the semi-finals,” said Tsitsipas. “I was thinking that [it] would be really cool to be in this together, like mother like son. That’s where the whole purpose came from. I feel like there was an enormous amount of willingness to want to do more in order to be there with my mom.”

“[There are] two people I would like to dedicate this [title to]. My coach back in Greece, who I mentioned [in the trophy ceremony], and also my mom, because she pushed me to aim for that.”

Despite the pressure of family connections and the opportunity to win his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown, Tsitsipas was able to maintain his focus and become only the third active player to win his first Masters 1000 title without dropping a set (also Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov). The World No. 5 was dominant on serve in the championship match against Rublev, but Tsitsipas highlighted another interesting key to his victory in his post-match press conference.

“Breathing is something I’ve been working on [in] the past couple of months with my psychologist,” said Tsitsipas. “I find breathing very important, especially when I’m performing or playing. Breathing helps me control myself and have full control of what I’m doing out there.

“It is definitely something that I’ve been putting a lot of work [into] in the past couple of weeks with him. Actually, this week more than the other weeks, doing it daily after every single match that I played… When you breathe well, I feel like your game is capable of reaching the top.”

Tsitsipas’ final win earned him a 4-3 ATP Head2Head advantage against Rublev in one of the most exciting young rivalries on the ATP Tour. Tsitsipas had lost his previous match against Rublev in last month’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament semi-finals in Rotterdam, but his victory in the Principality marked his second consecutive win against the Russian on clay. Tsitsipas also defeated Rublev in straight sets in last year’s Roland Garros quarter-finals.

“The rivalry that I had shared with Andrey is quite significant. We grew up playing together in juniors… We have developed together,” said Tsitsipas. “It’s nice that we’re able to be in the same environment now on the ATP Tour together after so many years… It’s been a long journey to be here, to be able to play against each other in a big final like this. I’m pretty sure we’re going to play each other many more times. I tell you it won’t be easy. It only gets more difficult and more painful.”

Earlier this month at the Miami Open presented by Itau, Tsitsipas held points for a 6-2, 3-0 lead against eventual champion Hubert Hurkacz. After that encounter, Tsitsipas described how he had missed an opportunity to ‘show something greater’. When he earned another opportunity in the Principality this week, he made sure he took his chance.

“I didn’t see [a] reason for me to leave from here without the trophy. I felt like I deserved it,” said Tsitsipas. “I’ve put so much effort and so much concentration into it. [It is] definitely something that I deserve.

“More opportunities like this [are] going to show up and come up in the future, so I need to be ready to show my consistency.”

Federer To Play At Geneva & Roland Garros

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Roger Federer will compete in Geneva and at Roland Garros this clay-court season.

The Swiss last played on clay at Roland Garros in 2019

Roger Federer announced on social media Sunday that this clay-court season he will compete in the Gonet Geneva Open and Roland Garros.

“Hi everyone! Happy to let you know that I will play Geneva and Paris,” Federer tweeted. “Until then, I will use the time to train. Can’t wait to play in Switzerland again.”

In March, 39-year-old Federer competed at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, marking his first tournament since the 2020 Australian Open. Last year, he underwent two arthroscopic right knee surgeries. Federer last played on clay at 2019 Roland Garros.

Federer last played in his home country in Basel in 2019, when he claimed his 10th title at that tournament. The Laver Cup was in held in Geneva in 2019, when Federer defeated Nick Kyrgios and John Isner to help lead Team Europe to victory.

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Come To Papa: How A Father's Sacrifice Spurred Tsitsipas' Success

Editor’s note: This story was first published on 18 February 2018

After winning the championship match of the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals, Stefanos Tsitsipas returned to the players’ area and celebrated with his team. Front and centre was Apostolos Tsitsipas, the Greek’s father and coach. Their smiles spoke louder than words.

During that event, the younger Tsitsipas often avoided putting on his headset to talk to his father, sometimes leaving Apostolos, who was keen to give his son advice, cracking up. But after the Greek star clinched the trophy and the fans had departed, Stefanos rubbed his father’s cheeks as his way of saying, “we did it”. Apostolos brought his son closer and gave him a kiss.

“I’m learning every day,” Apostolos told ATPTour.com in 2018. “Hopefully one day I will be a good enough coach for my son for his future demands and his future dreams.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/tsitsipas-father-son-milan-2018.jpg" alt="Stefanos Tsitsipas, Apostolos Tsitsipas“>

Apostolos has long sacrificed whatever he could to allow his son to pursue those dreams. The 53-year-old did not play his first tennis tournament until the age of 23, and he would spend time as a teaching professional in Athens. Stefanos’ mom, Julia Salnikova, cracked the WTA’s Top 200 in singles and doubles. When Stefanos was 12, someone needed to travel with him to tournaments. Apostolos quit his job and became his son’s full-time coach, while Salnikova stayed home with the rest of the family.

“I don’t know if he had a choice, but he just risked it. He just quit himself and started travelling with me,” Stefanos said at 2018 Wimbledon. “I do appreciate what he did for me, because it’s amazing. Not many fathers would do this for their son.”

Tsitsipas’ success has validated his father’s sacrifice. When Stefanos won the Next Gen ATP Finals, he was already the No. 15 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings. One month earlier, he had won his first ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open. It wasn’t a matter of whether Tsitsipas could reach the upper echelons of the sport — the Greek was already there.

There was only one question: How high could Tsitsipas could climb? Then 20, he admitted that he learned something that week at the Fiera Milano.

“I’ve learned that I’m a fighter,” Tsitsipas said. “That I have a big heart.”

Two months later, Tsitsipas made his biggest Grand Slam breakthrough, reaching the semi-finals of the 2019 Australian Open. During that run, he stunned Roger Federer in four sets. But Rafael Nadal showed the Greek wasn’t quite ready to go all the way, delivering a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 beatdown that left the Greek struggling for answers.

“It kind of felt like in a way it wasn’t tennis so much like the other matches that I played,” Tsitsipas said. “It felt like a different dimension of tennis completely.”

But that was just the beginning. Tsitsipas beat Nadal for the first time that year in Madrid, and he cracked the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings. Later that year, the Greek star made the jump from #NextGenATP to “Now Gen”, lifting the trophy at the Nitto ATP Finals. The Greek was an established star, and his attacking game was clearly a threat to anyone at any time.

It wasn’t always easy for Tsitsipas, though. The Greek has faced setbacks. In the third round of last year’s US Open, he let slip six match points against Borna Coric and could only watch a week later when Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, both of whom he beat en route to the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals title, competed for the trophy.

Tsitsipas has never been one to wallow in his sorrows, though. The 6’4” right-hander has always managed to learn from his losses. One month later, he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros, where Djokovic needed five sets to advance.

“Losing kind of keeps you in the same place, in the same spot, which is why I hate losing. Of course, I think everyone hates losing. It’s weird if you don’t hate losing,” Tsitsipas said. “But I guess a loss is a very good lesson where life puts a stop [to] what you’re doing. You can reflect on that. You can grow. You can get better.”

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Tsitsipas Completes Epic Comeback, Stuns Nadal In Melbourne

In Wednesday’s Australian Open quarter-finals, Tsitsipas once again lost the first two sets against Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park. The Spanish legend was pursuing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. But Tsitsipas did not give up. He fought back, and triumphed 3-6, 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 7-5 after four hours and five minutes.

“Moments like this haven’t happened a lot in my career, and the fact that I was able to come back the way I did and the way I fought against such a top, respected player like Rafa was something extra, something I have never felt before,” Tsitsipas said. “It was a first-timer.”

Tsitsipas had already accomplished a lot during his young career when he recovered against Nadal inside Rod Laver Arena. It wasn’t the first time he reached a Grand Slam semi-final, and it wasn’t the Greek’s maiden victory against Nadal. Instead, it felt like Tsitsipas had come full circle. He had won the Next Gen ATP Finals trophy 830 days earlier and said, “I’m a fighter… I have a big heart.”

Stefanos showed it against Rafa, taking it to one of the most battle-tested icons in tennis history. It was only fitting that after the match, Tsitsipas walked over to his father in a moment straight out of a movie script. A decade ago, Apostolos quit his job to give his son anything he needed to pursue his dreams. Stefanos continues to make them come true, and he will try to take another step on his journey Friday when he plays Daniil Medvedev for a spot in his first Grand Slam final.

“To be able to just walk up to my team and hug them and share that little moment of appreciation and solidarity, it was epic,” Tsitsipas said. “It was everything I ever dreamed of, and I’m glad that I am where I am today. There is obviously light ahead at the end of the tunnel, and there is plenty more to go.”