A year ago, Tsitsipas wins his first

Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Gaël Monfils 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 to survive a tough first-round draw in Shanghai Monday.

It was his 34th win of the season.

Notably, exactly a year ago on Monday in Shanghai, Tsitsipas won the first ATP main-draw match of his career, after getting through qualifying.

It was his 11th Tour event, and seventh main-draw match.

Ranked No. 131, he defeated No. 40 Karen Khachanov of Russia 7-5, 6-3.

In a full circle move, Tsitsipas’s second-round match in Shanghai is against … Khachanov. It’s the first time they’ll meet since then.

Khachanov is No. 27. Tsitsipas is No. 15, and the No. 10 seed.

After five years, del Potro is London bound

The second-round match in Beijing with Karen Khachanov was definitely Colossus vs. Colossus.

But once Juan Martin del Potro was through, the reward was a trip to the ATP Tour Finals in London next month.

He joins Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic among those qualified so far.

It will be del Potro’s first trip to the Tour finals in five years – and 10 years since his first appearance in 2008. He made the final in the event’s debut in London in 2009.

“It will be an amazing moment for me,” del Potro said.

Colonel Youzhny calls it a career

One more victory, and 36-year-old Russian Mikhail Youzhny could have retired with exactly 500.

But it wasn’t to be. He lost in the second round of the St. Petersburg Open, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3 to No. 5 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

Youzhny’s win over Mirza Basic in the first round was his 499th ATP Tour win. With 609, Yevgeny Kafelnikov is the only Russian to break the 500-win barrier.

“It’s just statistics,” he told ATPTour.com. “I never made the final of a Grand Slam. I never made the semi-finals of an (Masters] 1000 event. Many, many things I didn’t do in tennis.”

Tsitsipas says Russian discipline key to success

Stefanos Tsitsipas has penned an essay that chronicles his experiences, and those of friend Alex Caldwell, with wildfires in Greece.

“Maybe we got along so well because we’re different from so many other Greeks. We have discipline,” Tsitsipas wrote of Caldwell, who plays at Radford University. “I have many cases of friends and people who I know could have played tennis at a high level, but they weren’t committed. They missed home too much or couldn’t stand the travel.”

Tsitsipas says the discipline it takes is “a trait that I have thanks to my mixed background.”

Amazing win streak by Kontinen-Peers

Henri Kontinen and John Peers have not had a standout season.

But it might all turn around, now that they’ve taken the Masters 1000 title in Toronto.

It’s their third  at that level, after Shanghai last year and Paris in 2016.

What’s notable about it is that it’s the 10th straight time the pair has reached the final – and won. They are 13-1 in finals together overall, including the ATP Tour Finals the last two years.

Their only finals loss came in 2016 in Shanghai.

They move from 13th to eighth in the race to London.

Frances Tiafoe’s Canadian Courtship

There was an extra cheering section for American Frances Tiafoe at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week.

The 20-year-old, who jumped into the top 40 for the first time Monday, has Toronto native Ayan Broomfield as his longtime girlfriend.

When asked in press, Tiafoe told a fully self-deprecating tale of how he made this happen, after being introduced by fellow player Victoria Duval.

Broomfield, who turns 21 Monday, had a good junior career and turned it into a scholarship with Clemson University, before transferring to UCLA for the 2017-18 season.

Broomfield seemed to take it well.

Nadal, Halep first in for Tour Finals

After Rafael Nadal got through a tough Rogers Cup quarterfinal against Marin Cilic Friday, the ATP Tour announced he was the first player to qualify for the Tour Finals in London in November.

But Nadal – the master rankings mathematician – already was on top of it.

He knew that with the win over Stan Wawrinka the previous night, he was in.

It will be Nadal’s 14th straight qualification.

The other Rogers Cup champ, Simona Halep, also is officially in, for the final WTA Tour Finals appearance in Singapore before it moves to Shenzhen, China.

Players test out wood rackets in Newport

You know that most of today’s generation of pro tennis players might not have even held a wooden racket in their hands – let alone played with one.

But within the historic confines of Newport last week, it seemed rather appropriate to pull out the classics and see what the players thought.

You can tell that some of them at least watched some old footage, because they had the John McEnroe bunt backhand technique down pat.

And what’s that thing in host Blair Henley’s hand?

Yup, that’s a WHITE tennis ball. 

Steve Johnson looks back on tough year

Steve Johnson lost his father Steve Sr. in May, 2017.

A year on, the American won the clay-court event in Houston. Opponent Tennys Sandgren knew how he felt.

“I know our dads are watching in the crowd,” said Sandgren, who lost his own father some years ago.

On the ATP Tour website, Johnson writes about the year.

“I’ve panicked. There have been times when my anxiety spiralled out of control. Some weeks it is easier and I can’t explain why,” said Johnson, who was in and out of the hospital for a week after Wimbledon.

Bryan brothers hit the big 4-0

The ATP Tour put together a nice reel of people in tennis – and out – wishing the legendary Bryan brothers a happy 40th birthday.

The pair hit the milestone Sunday (countryman Andre Agassi hit 48 the same day) at opposite ends of the earth. They withdrew from Barcelona this week after winning in Monte Carlo.

Bob spent his day with his wife and three kids at home in Florida. Mike, freshly divorced, hit Morocco with his new girlfriend Nadia Murgasova and even gave her a tennis lesson.

They currently stand at No. 2 in the race to London.