Federer, Djokovic React To ATP Finals Moving To Turin

The announcement that Turin, Italy, will host the ATP Finals from 2021-2025 has been met with excitement from the biggest names in tennis. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson, Borna Coric and Fabio Fognini all expressed their support for the year-end championships moving to Pala Altipour Stadium, Italy’s biggest sporting arena.

“Exciting new chapter for the ATP Tour,” wrote Federer on Facebook. Djokovic, World No. 1 and President of the ATP Player Council, said in a statement that the ATP Finals is “a tournament that has historically moved around and so I’m very excited to see it move to Turin from 2021. It’s still a few years away but I know that the players will be very excited to compete there, and I also hope to be part of what will be a very special event.”

Fognini, Italy’s top-ranked player, said the country will take advantage of the chance to host another major sporting event and rally behind the ATP Finals.

"This moment for Italian tennis is quite good. We have the most important tournament of the year here in Italy,” said Fognini. “I played at the ATP Finals for doubles [in 2015] and everyone is happy to be there and enjoy it. I’m happy that our country gets a chance to improve what is already the best tournament of the year.”

Anderson, who reached the semi-finals in his ATP Finals debut last year, tweeted that “last year was one of the best moments of my career so far. Congrats to Turin and hopefully I get to play there some (or all) of those years."

The #ATPFinals last year was one of the best moments of my career so far. Congrats to Turin and hopefully I get to play there some (or all 😊) of those years.

— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) April 24, 2019

World No. 15 Borna Coric tweeted “Hope to see you Turin.” The Croatian is No. 16 in the ATP Race to London.

Hope to see you Turin 😎💪🏻🇮🇹#ATPFinals @ATP_Tour

— borna coric (@borna_coric) April 24, 2019

Turin was selected in an extensive international bid process that began last August and included more than 40 cities worldwide.

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Nadal's Rivals Analyse His Clay-Court Prowess

Time was winding down before Rafael Nadal's start to the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. At 1 p.m., Rafael Nadal stepped onto Court 9 of the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona to work on some last-minute adjustments with coaches Carlos Moya and Francisco Roig. After an hour of training, the Spaniard headed back to the locker room to decompress.

On Wednesday, Nadal outlasted Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-2 advance to the third round, where he’ll face fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

Twelve titles is an unprecedented benchmark, but for the 32-year-old from Manacor, it's business as usual. His numbers at other clay-court events are equally impressive: Nadal is an 11-time champion at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and Roland Garros and has emerged victorious eight times at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.

In the 455 matches he’s contested on clay, Nadal has emerged victorious 92 per cent of the time. In all, Nadal has hoisted 57 trophies from tournaments competed on clay. 

So what is it about Nadal that makes him such an unstoppable force on his favourite surface?

Dominic Thiem has an idea. As one of only two players to defeat him once in each of the past two seasons (QF in Rome 2017 and QF in Madrid 2018), the Austrian understands it takes special circumstances and the right conditions to unravel Nadal. Since 2017, they have faced each other seven times in European clay-court events, with Nadal holding a 5-2 edge.

"I think that Barcelona, Monte-Carlo and Roland Garros are the tournaments where it is more complicated to beat him,” said Thiem. “He’s at home and in his zone when the courts are slow and it makes landing a winner that much more difficult.

“He’s also a master when it comes to conserving energy. He launches powerful shots, but he knows how to generate just the right amount of power at exactly the right time. Combine that with his mobility on the surface and you’ve got the perfect formula for success on clay.”

Even Nadal's surprising 6-4, 6-2 loss last week to eventual champion Fabio Fognini at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters did little to convince the Spaniard's peers that he’s anything but invincible. World No. 3 Alexander Zverev is winless against Nadal in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series (0-5), with three of his losses coming on clay.

"He’s a colossus; the best clay-court player in the wo

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Hometown Favourite Balazs Stuns Millman In Budapest

Attila Balazs gave the hometown fans plenty to cheer for at the Hungarian Open in Budapest. The wild card, currently No. 246 in the ATP Rankings, stunned 2018 runner-up and sixth seed John Millman of Australia 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

Balazs, who took out in-form Pole Hubert Hurkacz in the opening round, is through to his first ATP quarter-final in seven years (2012 Bucharest SF, l. to Fognini). The 30-year-old returned to action in March after missing seven months due to a hip injury. Balazs’ injury woes forced him off the tour for two years, but he returned to action in August 2016 and has played primarily on the ATP Challenger Tour since then.

Next up for Balazs is Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, who rallied from 1-5 in the opening set and saved a set point to defeat Matthias Bachinger of Germany 7-5, 6-2. Bachinger moved into the draw as a lucky loser after third seed and defending champion Marco Cecchinato of Italy pulled out due to illness.

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner won the first ATP Tour main draw match of his career by defeating Hungarian wild card Mate Valkusz 6-2, 0-6, 6-4. The 17-year-old snuck into the draw as a lucky loser when Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Dusan Lajovic of Serbia withdrew due to an elbow injury.

Sinner won his first ATP Challenger Tour title this February in Bergamo. He started the year at No. 546 in the ATP Rankings and is guaranteed to move into the Top 300 on Monday. The teenager will now face fifth seed Laslo Djere of Serbia for a place in the quarter-finals.

Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay hung tough to defeat German qualifier Yannick Maden 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Cuevas, who won last week’s ATP Challenger Tour event in Tunis without dropping a set, will take on top seed Marin Cilic of Croatia on Thursday.

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Nadal Battles Past Mayer In Barcelona

Rafael Nadal missed out on three set points in the first set on Wednesday, but battled back against Leonardo Mayer to keep alive his bid for a 12th title at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

Four days on from his shock semi-final loss to Fabio Fognini at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Nadal committed 36 unforced errors (16 in the first set) in the windy conditions at the ATP 500 tournament, but grew in confidence on serve to complete a 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory over Mayer in two hours and 50 minutes.

The 32-year-old, who has an outstanding 59-3 match record in Barcelona, will next challenge fellow Spaniard and former World No. 3 David Ferrer, who he beat in the 2008-09, 2011-12 finals. Nadal has a 25-6 record against Ferrer in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

Top seed Nadal failed to close out the first set when serving at 5-3, and struck a forehand into the net at 5-4, with Mayer serving at 30/40. Two further set point chances for Nadal weren’t converted at 6/5 and 7/6 in the tie-break, before Mayer ripped a forehand winner at 8/7 to complete the 72-minute opener.

Nadal bounced back immediately, breaking in the opening game of the second set, which saw him lose seven of his service points and save one break point at 4-3, 30/40. He made his move in the fifth game of the decider with consecutive passing strokes to cheers of the capacity Pista Rafa Nadal crowd, and broke for a 5-2 lead courtesy of a forehand winner down the line.

Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on clay, on which he has compiled a 419-37 match record (.919) according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. Earlier in the day, Ferrer swept past No. 15 seed Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 6-1 for a place in the third round.

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Felix Sets Nishikori Showdown In Barcelona

Felix Auger-Aliassime will face two-time Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell champion Kei Nishikori for a place in the quarter-finals of the ATP 500 event.

The 16th seed won 77 per cent of his first-serve points and fought off Tunisian Malek Jaziri 6-3, 7-6(7) to make the third round. Auger-Aliassime improved to 2-1 during the European clay-court swing, after making the second round at last week's Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Zverev), the season's first clay-court ATP Masters 1000 event.

The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime, No. 31, is at a career-high in the ATP Rankings. He is the highest-ranked player his age since No. 25 Lleyton Hewitt on 8 November 1999. It will be his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against No. 7 Nishikori, who won the event in 2014-2015.

Monte-Carlo semi-finalist Daniil Medvedev backed up his best Masters 1000 run with a gritty performance against Barcelona native Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who made the Monte-Carlo final in 2017, 6-3, 2-6, 6-1.

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Medvedev, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic last week, saved five of six break points to make the third round and will next meet American Mackenzie McDonald, who knocked out 11th seed Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-2.

Monte-Carlo champion Fabio Fognini withdrew (hamstring) but Spain's Roberto Carballes Baena took advantage of his lucky loser spot, beating Spanish wild card Nicola Kuhn 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2. The 2018 Quito titlist will play ninth seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada or reigning Houston champion Cristian Garin of Chile.

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Anderson To Miss 2019 Clay Season

World No. 6 Kevin Anderson announced Tuesday on Twitter that he will not compete on clay this year in order to further recover an elbow injury.

“I wanted to let you all know that I will unfortunately be missing the clay season this year. After discussing with my doctors and team, we thought the best decision is to rest and rehab my elbow injury for a few more weeks,” wrote Anderson, whose most recent tournament was in Miami, where he advanced to the quarter-finals. “I will keep working hard each day to get healthy again in time for grass.”

Anderson, a first-time qualifier for the Nitto ATP Finals last year, was scheduled to compete in Estoril, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. In 2018, he made the semi-finals in Madrid and the fourth round at Roland Garros.

The grass season proved a key part of last year's season for the South African. After losing in the first round at Queen’s Club, Anderson made his second Grand Slam final at Wimbledon.

“I know this is the right decision for the longterm in the career,” Anderson said of not competing on clay in 2019. “I will also miss seeing the fans there, but I appreciate all of your support and look forward to seeing you again soon.”

— Kevin Anderson (@KAndersonATP) April 23, 2019

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