ATP Rankings Report – April 29, 2019

Remember that fabulous match in Rio de Janeiro a little over two months ago, between surprise first-time finalists Laslo Djere of Serbia and Félix Auger-Aliassime of Canada?

It portended the start of good things for both.

And on this Monday, both are in the top 30 and both at career highs.

A few things can still happen. But the rise that began on that humid night in Brazil will culminate in Paris, where both could well be seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time.

Auger-Aliassime has 30 points left to defend before Roland Garros. And it’s a very tight little area of the rankings. Dangerous names like Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios lurk just behind the Canadian.

But the 18-year-old has points opportunities himself in Madrid and Rome.

Kevin Anderson is already out of Paris – and Juan Martin del Potro still has not even returned to the court. There’s a little wiggle room.

A year ago, Auger-Aliassime lost in the second round of the qualifying to Jaume Munar of Spain. This will be the first time he’s straight into the main draw of a major in his young career.

For Djere, 23, there’s a 2018 semifinal in Istanbul as well as a final at a Challenger in Rome to defend before Paris  – 145 points.

As with Auger-Aliassime, he will be making his first-ever appearance in both Madrid and Rome – and straight into the main draw.

Djere has played the French Open four times. He was straight into the main draw last year (barely). And he qualified in 2016. But he has yet to win a main-draw match there. 

Two stories unfolding during the heart of the clay-court tuneup season, and into the 16th arrondissement.

ON THE UPSWING

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG): No. 9 ============> No. 8

Laslo Djere (SRB): No. 33 ============> No. 29 (A career high for Djere) 

Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN): No. 31 ============> No. 30 (It didn’t go his way against Kei Nishikori in Barcelona. But he has a week to rest and reload for the Madrid-Rome double).

Matteo Berrettini (ITA): No. 55 ============> No. 37 (The 23-year-old Italian, who has been steadily rising in 2019, becomes yet another first-time winner on the ATP tour with his victory over Filip Krajinovic in the Budapest final).

Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA): No. 49 ============> No. 43 (As doubles partner Nicolas Mahut begins a new adventure with Jürgen Melzer in Munich, Herbert pursues his singles quest after a semifinal in Budapest).

Mackenzie McDonald (USA): No. 61 ============> No. 57 (The 24-year-old American reaches another career high).

Nicolas Jarry (CHI): No. 81 ============> No. 70 (The  lucky loser took full advantage in Barcelona)

Filip Krajinovic (SRB): No. 105 ============> No. 77 (The Budapest finalist remains a long way from his career high of No. 26 exactly a year ago. But he’s headed in the right direction. He’s 15-6 on the season. His problem is that the jump came too late for direct entry into Paris. But he’s two out; he’ll make it).

Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP): No. 104 ============> No. 86  (The little-known Spaniard also was a lucky loser in Barcelona. But he got the first-round bye and rode it all the way to the quarterfinals. He’s right ahead of Krajinovic on the alternates list – i.e., next one in).

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Sandgren’s first big tour of the European clay didn’t go well a year ago. This year, he’s staying at home on the Har-Tru and bumping his ranking up.

Tennys Sandgren (USA): No. 103 ============> No. 93 (It’s been up and down for Sandgren, who backed up his Australian Open effort last year with a final in Houston. He then headed for his first big tour of the European clay, playing six straight weeks. On the negative side, he only one had decent week – the week before Paris, in Geneva. That was actually the only tournament in which he won a patch. We say it’s a plus because this year, as he drops down a notch back to the American Har-Tru Challenger swing, he has little to defend and can work on getting back to the top 100. After losing to Tommy Paul in the Sarasota final last week, he lost to him again in the semis of Tallahassee this week.  The effort has been worth 18 spots in the rankings).

Tommy Paul (USA): No.158 ============> No. 143 (Paul, still just 21, reaches a career best with his title in Sarasota, and his final in Tallahassee. He’s moved up from No. 204 in two weeks, more than 60 spots.

David Ferrer (ESP): No. 155 ============> No. 144 (With Ferrer, we know when the end is. It felt like an appropriate ending when he played Rafael Nadal on Pista Rafa Nadal in Barcelona, playing very well in a straight-set loss. But he’s got one more to go before it’s really over, in Madrid).

Ward, shown here at the 2015 Rogers Cup during his best rankings period, is on the way back after knee surgery. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

James Ward (GBR): No. 188 ============> No. 177 (At 32, the Brit faded from view for awhile. The wild card who reached the third round at Wimbledon in 2015, he had knee surgery in Aug. 2017, and it’s been a long road back. A year ago, he was No. 772. Ward lost in the first round seven straight times this year before reaching the semifinals in Leon, Mexico last week. He came close to more; he lost to Blaz Rola 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (7) ).

Emilio Gomez (ECU): No. 251 ============> No. 197 (At 27, the son of French Open champion Andres Gomez finally breaks into the top 200. Gomez was at No. 369 when he began the season at a $25,000 ITF in California. He lost in the final – and earned ONE ATP Tour ranking point (don’t get us started). Gomez was at No. 309 when he arrived at the Monterrey Challenger in April. A final there got him to No. 258. And the title in Tallahassee (his first Challenger title) finally broke him into the top 200. He has won six of his 10 career Futures titles – the first one all the way back in 2009 – in Ecuador).

Alejandro Tabilo (CHI): No. 497 ============> No. 459 (We mention this 21-year-old from Chile, who reached the third round of the Tallahassee Challenger last week and is at a career high, because when he was a junior, he was a Canadian. His ITF ranking of No. 37 has allowed him to get into some Challengers. And he took advantage of this one. As a junior, he wasn’t one of Tennis Canada’s “chosen ones”. But despite that he was good enough to get into the main draws of junior Grand Slams. 

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Tabilo, then 17, was carrying some extra weight at the 2015 junior French Open. But he also was at his career-high ranking. The transformation in the last couple of years has been both impressive and remarkable. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)
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Tabilo’s mugshot on his ATP Tour page bears witness to the incredible amount of work he’s done since turning pro).

He peaked at No. 29 in the junior rankings after the 2015 French Open. Once he turned pro, he decided to play for Chile, from where his family hails (Tabilo himself was born in Toronto).

The lefty played current top-10 member Stefanos Tsitsipas twice in the juniors and took him to three sets both times.

But the biggest shock was seeing his new mugshot. He was a pretty pudgy kid when he was a junior – tall, but heavy. Now, he’s barely recognizable and listed at 6-foot-4 and 176 pounds. He’s been on the Davis Cup team for Chile already. But he’ll have to wait his turn. There are couple of kids named Cristian Garin and Nicolas Jarry ahead of him).

ON THE DOWNSWING

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE): No. 8 ============> No. 10 (It’s been sort of a nondescript season so far for Tsitsipas – at least since he lost to Roger Federer in the finals of Dubai. But he’s still hanging in the top 10).

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A semifinalist at the French Open last year, these next few weeks will be a stern test for Cecchinato.

Marco Cecchinato (ITA): No. 17 ============> No. 19 (The 26-year-old has done well to hang inside the top 20, especially as there hasn’t been much clay-court tennis to be played until now. He won Buenos Aires on the dirt back in February. Cecchinato made the third round in Monte Carlo, recovering from a 0-6 first set to shock Stan Wawrinka in three in the second round. He survived not defending his 2018 Budapest title (he went from the qualifying to the trophy, and didn’t play this year). 

But the big one is coming up. Then ranked No. 72, Cecchinato was a shock semifinalist at the French Open last year. He defeated Pablo Carreño Busta, David Goffin and Novak Djokovic before to Dominic Thiem. Without those 720 points, he’s just inside the top 40. Which isn’t too bad. And he has some to gain in Madrid and Monte Carlo – assuming he’s healthy).

David Goffin (BEL): No. 22 ============> No. 25 (It’s official, Goffin is struggling. He’s 7-9 on the season. And this is the lowest his ranking has been since Oct. 2014. He even played a Challenger the second week of Indian Wells, after losing his opener to Filip Krajinovic in the desert. Goffin is the No. 4 seed in Estoril this week).

Pablo Carreño Busta (ARG): No. 29 ============> No. 38 (The 27-year-old Spaniard, who sneaked into the top after the 2017 US Open, is finally back from a back injury. He was out from the beginning of February until he returned last week in Barcelona, where he lost his opener to Benoit Paire, 6-1 in the third. Carreño Busta was a semifinalist in Estoril last year, and a quarterfinalist in Rome. So he needs to get back at it as he may already have put himself out of contention for a seed in Paris. A late entry into Estoril, a wild card and No. 7 seed, Carreño Busta has a tough first round in Jérémy Chardy).

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Dimitrov is scuffling a little bit, not helped by a shoulder injury early in the season. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL): No. 43 ============> No. 49 (The Bulgarian is 9-5 on the season. But his ranking is going in the wrong direction. He started the year at No. 19 and right now, he’s the lowest he’s been since Oct. 2012. Dimitrov had brutal draws in Madrid and Rome a year ago. After first-round byes, he drew a pair of returning players who both were ranked No. 24 at the time: Roanic in Madrid and Nishikori in Rome. Unseeded himself now, he’ll have to hope for better luck).

John Millman (AUS): No. 39 ============> No. 50 (The 29-year-old Aussie made the Budapest final a year ago, so that’s where the rankings fall comes from).

Ivo Karlovic (CRO): No. 95 ============> No. 103 (We haven’t seen the big guy since he lost in the first round in Houston to Ryan Harrison. Last year, with his ranking only slightly better, he played Barcelona, Munich and Geneva before the French, with not much to show for it. Karlovic has entered the Rome qualies, but he’s unlikely to get in. And we don’t see anything else at first glance. So perhaps he plans a little drive by to pick up his cheque in Auteuil).

Feliciano Lopez (ESP): No. 93 ============> No. 105 (We don’t know when the end will be for the 37-year-old, who drops out of the top 100 for the first time since …  (hold on a sec, we’re scrolling). Okay, since he first entered the top 100 in June, 2002. He might want to play this week, but he’s got another gig. It’s his first year as the tournament director in Madrid, after interning last year. Too bad he’s not likely to he able to sneak a wild card for himself past the rules police. Tommy Haas (the Indian Wells TD) already tried it).

Tennis (Life) Birthdays – April 2, 2019

David Ferrer (ESP), 37

He’s close to retirement, planning to end things at the Masters 1000 tournament in Madrid in a few weeks’ time.

But you wouldn’t know it by the way he’s still playing.

Granted a wild card into the Miami Open, Ferrer defeated Sam Querrey. Then he shocked No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev with a three-set, comeback win.

Then he gave Frances Tiafoe everything he could handle before going down, 6-3 in the third set, in the third round.

The crowd was right behind him, as well. And, better yet, he looked like he was having the time of his life – soaking up the precious moments.

The problem , even if he wanted to play more, is that his ranking stands at No. 152. So he’d really have to be chasing wild cards. 

Ferrer played Auckland to open the season, after teaming up with Garbiñe Muguruza at the Hopman Cup exhibition. But he didn’t play the Australian Open.

Miami was his fourth official event of the season.

When the Spaniard got as high as No. 4 back in 2008, and you figured he probably peaked.

The tongue is ... a trademark.
The tongue is … a trademark. (Stepanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

But then, he kept it up.

For a long, long, LONG time. Ferrer was in the top 10. with no weeks off, from Oct. 2010 to March, 2016, when he was about to turn 34.

He spent seemingly an eternity at No. 5, with the unbreakable top four ahead of him at a different level. Then he squeezed into No. 4, and even to No. 3 at the end of the 2013 season.

One thing about Ferrer, he has been underestimated his entire career. It seems few but his opponents understand how good he is, and why.

Ferrer is one of those perpetual motion guys, never, ever, ever stopping for a second except when he has to sit down during changeovers. He drives photographers mad – always stalking around. Definitely one of the guys you have to give credit to for squeezing the absolute maximum out of his game, and he’s a highly-underrated hardcourt player.

The thing about Ferrer? He always looks relieved, and a little incredulous, after he wins.
The thing about Ferrer? He always looks relieved, even incredulous, after he wins. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

It seems observers always think he just wins because he runs and runs and outlasts his opponents.

But in speaking to some of those opponents, we’ve come away with a different impression: they say that when Ferrer is firing on all cylinders, the opponent is the one putting in all the hard yards.

He doesn’t outlast his opponents; he makes them wear themselves out.

Admittedly, that’s a difficult skill to really get a handle on. But it is a true skill.

Ferrer also is one of those guys who didn’t really buy into the new racquet technology, trusting the same Prince Vendetta for eons (our educated guess on when that one came out was about 2002-2003), before trying out the “new” O3 technology about nine years ago.

He’s also a reformed smoker – which, given his effort level in every single match his entire career, is a definite plus.

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Ferrer says hi to Victoria Azarenka on the US Open practice courts (after picking up a stray ball and getting it back to her – of course! (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Ferrer has 27 career titles (five in 2015 alone, four of those on hard courts) and more than $31 million in career prize money.

In another era, he might well have pulled off a French Open title. But this is the Rafa era.

Ferrer is married to Marta. And their son, Leo, will turn one next month.

Todd Woodbridge (AUS), 48

woodbridge dwts1 Tennis birthdays April 2, 2011 The former No. 1 doubles player had a long, fruitful career on tour, reaching No. 19 in singles in 1997.

But he made his mark as a doubles player, mostly with fellow Aussie Mark Woodforde and later, with Jonas Bjorkman.

He won two singles titles and reached seven other finals.

But Woodbridge owns 83 doubles titles – at least one every year from 1990 to 2005.

Of those, 16 were Grand Slams (three in Oz, one French Open, nine Wimbledons, and three U.S. Opens) He also has the Grand Slam in mixed doubles (five in all).

Woodbridge has appeared on the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars. He has been a Davis Cup coach and a national men’s coach and the head of professional tennis for Tennis Australia.

Woodbridge has a lot of duties at Laver Cup, which allows him to rub shoulders with a couple of legends of the game (Todd Woodbridge Twitter)

But though he was in the running for the big job, as director of high performance a few years ago, Woodbridge ended up in a new media/ambassador/spokesman’s position, according to this story.

He’s everywhere during the Australian Open. And at Laver Cup, too.

Woodbridge and Woodforde went into the Aussie Tennis Hall of Fame at the 2010 Oz Open.

They got their bronze head statues out in the central oval with the rest of the legends.

We were disappointed that it wasn’t a two-headed statue, to be honest. That would have been cool.

They were inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. in 2010.

Woodbridge also has a son, Beau, who is a budding star in musical theatre.

Wife Natasha is the sister of Nicole Provis Bradtke, a longtime player and Fed Cup captain. Tennis is all in the family!

Jillian Alexander-Brower (CAN)
Born April 2, 1968, died Oct. 25, 2004

The popular Brower, Jamaican-born and Toronto-raised,  was a top Canadian junior back in her day – and a standout college player following in the footsteps Jillian Alexanderof countrywoman Jill Hetherington at the University of Florida.

She won the NCAA doubles with Nicole Arendt in 1991, and left the program that year as she married Randy Brower, a member of the 1990 American national bobsled team.

he was a physical therapist with the tennis team in Florida when she met him as a freshman.

Alexander-Brower remained an amateur for awhile, and played pro events.

She reached No. 303 in 1987 in singles at age 19, before her college career, and No. 243 in doubles in 1992.

The Canadian played in the Rogers Cup four straight years in singles and doubles from 1986-89, once (1987) with a wild card into the main draw, the others in qualifying.

After her pro career ended, she then taught kids at clubs in Gainesville, Fla.

Tragically, she died after a short bout with ovarian cancer that spread, aged just 36. (Pic from the Lakeland, Fla. Ledger)

 Matthias Bachinger (GER), 31

Bachinger, currently ranked No. 128, reached a career high of No. 85 back in 2011.

He was down at No. 574 at the end of 2016, after missing seven months due to injury. But he managed to rise some 450 spots by grinding it out on the Challenger circuit.

His career record on the Challenger circuit is 231-190, with four titles.

At the ATP Tour level, it’s 30-52 with his best results coming on fast indoor hard courts.

His best Slam efforts were a pair of second rounds out of the qualifying, at the 2014 US Open and the 2015 Australian Open.

Paul Capdeville (CHI), 36

Capdeville is a slightly baleful-looking fellow who got to No. 76 in the world just before the 2009 French Open. 4657.capdeville Tennis birthdays April 2, 2011

He played until April 2014, mostly on the South American Challenger circuit.

But Capdeville did have a great moment in 2011 – in Davis Cup against the Americans.

He defeated John Isner in five sets, after losing the first two sets in tiebreakers, in Santiago.

Capdeville also gave Andy Roddick a pretty good fight, losing in four sets.

He has actually played a fair amount of Davis Cup (every year from 2004 to 2014), and often on a team with a couple of high-profile players in Nicolas Massu (now coaching Dominic Thiem) and Fernando Gonzalez.

He also went five sets in defeat against Fabio Fognini in a 2012 World Group playoff.

 His last Davis Cup rubber was a doubles win against Paraguay in early April, 2014. Capdeville is 15-16 overall, 4-4 in doubles in Davis Cup.

Serena vs. Roger highlights Hopman Cup

We’re still nearly three months away.

But the launch of the 2019 Hopman Cup already has targeted the big day: New Year’s Day 2019.

That’s when Team Switzerland takes on Team USA.

And that means that two of the best of all time, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, will square off on court in mixed doubles.

Those are two pretty big gets for the exhibition event, which could well be in its final edition if the new ATP team event starts up, as planned, in 2020.

So if this is the finale, that’s quite a way to go.

Federer will again team up with Belinda Bencic to defend their 2018 title. Williams will pair with young countryman Frances Tiafoe, making his first appearance.

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Young, attractive field

If the field appears, at first glance, to lack a little star power (having those two legends is already enough), tournament director Paul Kilderry did point out that it includes four Grand Slam singles champions (Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza are the others), three top-10 players (Federer, Zverev, Kerber) and eight top-20 players.

Already announced was the new “it” tennis couple from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari.

From Great Britain, no Andy Murray or Johanna Konta. Instead, they’ll have the duo of Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulte – an impossibly good-looking combo.

With Muguruza will be … David Ferrer. And you thought the 36-year-old, currently ranked No. 147 and playing a Challenger in Monterrey, was done? Apparently not.

You’d have to think, if he’s going all the way Down Under, that Ferrer plans to play one more Australian Open as well. Perhaps that’s why he’s still out there on the Challenger circuit this week, trying to squeeze into the Melbourne main draw.

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The 2017 finalists, Switzerland and Germany, return intact this year.

Barty and Ebden for Australia

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The teaming of brother-sister combo Marat Safin and Dinara Safina was long-awaited in 2009. But big brother celebrated the pairing a little early in a Moscow bar, before heading down to Perth. LEGEND.

Our thinking was that the most glam matchup for the home team would have been the off-field couple, Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic.

It’s always an extra bit of fun when real-life couples play mixed doubles together.

Absent that, they’ve come up with top Aussie woman Ashleigh Barty and 30-year-old Matthew Ebden, who’s ranked fourth in the country behind Kyrgios, young Alex de Minaur and John Millman.

The French team of Lucas Pouille and Alizé Cornet, who won the event in 2014 with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are in the field.

Kerber and Zverev, last year’s finalists, also team up again and have by far the best combined ranking in the field.

Draws already done

To be able to start promoting Serena vs. the Fed, you had to have the round-robin draw done.

And so it is. Looks like Group B is the tougher group. But only one of those tandems can make the final.

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Dec. 29 kickoff with the Greeks

The schedule is here. The proceedings kick off with Great Britain vs. Greece on Saturday, Dec. 29 (coming up before you know it).

There is no session on New Year’s Eve evening or on New Year’s Day. The event always has a pretty fantastic New Year’s Eve party – and they definitely have the field to gussy it up.  (Remember when Marat Safin showed up after a rough night back home in Moscow, his face all bruised up?)

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The Maui Jim pair will team up in Perth, a farewell tour for the 36-year-old Ferrer. (Photo: Madrid Open)

The USA vs. Switzerland tussle will be New Year’s night.

New this year at the event, it’s free kids’ ticket day for all day sessions.

You hope this isn’t really, truly the last-ever Hopman Cup. The event has been around since 1989, when Czechoslovakia’s (!!!) Helena Sukova and Miloslav Mecir defeated Australia’s (!!) … Hana Mandlikova and Pat Cash in the final.

(Mandlikova’s Aussie citizenship didn’t last nearly as long as the event).

Here’s their history roll, with some classic pics.

It’s built up a lovely tradition. And the players seem to have a blast playing it. No doubt this year they’ll have a lovely tribute to Lucy Hopman, the wife of the legendary Aussie coach for whom the event is named. Hopman passed away during the US Open, at the age of 98.

A Florida resident, she made it to Perth every year until 2018, when she was 94.

Progress …

Haggerty-approved

If you wanted to hear from ITF president David Haggerty – the Hopman Cup is under the ITF umbrella – here is his requisite press release quote.

“We are delighted once again to see such a strong entry for the 2019 Mastercard Hopman Cup, the ITF’s mixed team competition, at the start of the new tennis season. The ITF team competitions, which also include Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, give players a special opportunity to represent their countries, one that they value long after their playing days are over,” Haggerty said.

“Hopman Cup also offers fans a unique chance to see some of the game’s biggest names team up to play mixed doubles, which remain some of the most popular matches of the week. I would like to recognize our title sponsor Mastercard, and all the other sponsors and partners who continue to support the Hopman Cup.”

Looks like he got ALL the sponsors covered there. As one does.

Greek dynamic duo heats up Hopman Cup

Already, the season-opening Hopman Cup could count on the return of both Team Switzerland and Team Germany.

And in a timely bit of news, the exhibition event held in Perth, Australia the first week of January (it officially begins Dec. 29, 2018) confirmed a new – and very hot – team.

Rogers Cup finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas will team up with countrywoman Maria Sakkari for the first time Down Under.

Tsitsipas was all over the tennis news last week as he defeated four consecutive top-10 players in Toronto, before losing in the final to No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

His ranking leaped up to No. 15.

Sakkari, a few years older than Tsitsipas as 23, stands at a career-best No. 31 in the rankings this week.

The appealing duo should prove to be a huge crowd favorite in Perth.

Also announced Wednesday is the return of Team Spain, with Garbiñe Muguruza and a fellow we weren’t sure we’d be seeing in 2019 – David Ferrer.

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(They didn’t make him any younger with the work on that promotional banner).

They join two teams already confirmed back in June.

Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic will return, as will Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber of Germany, this year’s runners-up.

Rogers Cup pics: Friday, Aug. 3, 2018

TORONTO – Some of the players were preparing for the qualifying. But most of the players practicing in the late afternoon on Friday were still a few days away from their first-round matches in the main draw.

Diego Schwartzman (The No. 11 seed, who plays unseeded Kyle Edmund) and David Ferrer (who plays a qualifier or special exempt) took the court together.

Dominic Thiem (Bye, then Tsitsipas or Dzumhur) was on the stadium court. While Pierre-Hugues Herbert (the No. 7 seed in the qualifying, vs. Hubert Hurkacz) practiced with doubles partner Nicolas Mahut (No. 12 Tim Smyczek).

Félix Auger-Aliassime had a hit with Grigor Dimitrov, then stayed behind to hit some more serves.

Also on court was Marco Cecchinato, who will face Frances Tiafoe in the first round of the main draw.

Vasek Pospisil practiced with coach Rainer Schuettler. The Canadian wild card drew Borna Coric in the first round. Not an easy task under any circumstances. But Coric has already been here so long, he practically has stock in the place.

Here are a few pics.

Spain to Davis Cup semis in dramatic finale

The best thing about Davis Cup is that its rich history is so full of career-making moments.

It can be a relatively obscure bench player who does something spectacular, as Germany’s Tim Puetz did Saturday in the doubles tie against Spain.

Or it can be a player who’s had a fine career , but never ever quite had that moment to shine.

For David Ferrer, in his Valencia home, charged with winning a fifth and decisive rubber for the first time in his career, this was such a moment.

Ferrer, who turned 36 last week, was playing in his 24th career Davis Cup tie. And as sterling as his 27-5 record was, he had never carried the entire tennis nation on his shoulders.

Magic moment, at home, when it counts

But on Sunday, before a faithful home-city crowd, after the return of Rafael Nadal to the competition put the first two points up on the board but the French Open-champion pairing of Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez were shocked the day before, Ferrer seized the day.

Overmatched in his first match Friday against world No. 4 Alexander Zverev, Ferrer finally put away a valiant Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5 Sunday in four hours and 51 minutes.

The victory puts Spain in the September World Group semifinals against France.

The moment put Ferrer in the pantheon of his country’s sporting heroes.

“Very emotional, this competition. I have my best emotions in my career. So I’m really happy,” Ferrer said during an on-court interview after the match. “It’s really difficult to describe the feeling in this moment. Difference was in the final set. I played better than him. I was very focused, and the first set (which Ferrer won) was the key. In the first set maybe he was better than me, and after that it was very very close.

“For me its a dream, playing at home, here in Valencia, have the support of al the people, my family, my team. We’re in the semifinals, so it’s one of the best days in my career, for sure,” he added.

The day began with Ferrer’s teammate Rafael Nadal taking world No. 4 Alexander Zverev to school in a clinical 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win. It evened the tie at 2-2 in the wake of Saturday’s doubles defeat, and gave Ferrer his opportunity to shine.

Tough conditions in the bullring

And it was a day that had everything. Rain. Cool temperatures. Blustery winds that blew the red clay into the eyeballs of players and fans alike. But as the big crowd approached its seventh hour in the Valencia bullring, not many had left.

Kohlschreiber was up 3-0 in the fourth set tiebreak. But he lost it. Ferrer was up a break in the fifth set. But Kohschreiber won three straight games to go ahead again. 

Germany had two break points at 3-4 to have an opportunity to serve for the tie. But two Kohlschreiber backhands – one topspin, one careful slice – flew over Ferrer’s baseline as the wind carried them a little too far.

At 5-5, 30-all, Kohlschreiber got an awkward bounce on the clay-deprived court, missed a forehand, and gave Ferrer an opportunity to break. 

And then, on an epic point that sums up Ferrer’s career and heart, he ran down at least three near-winners, one after another. After more than 4 1/2 hours on court, he made Kohlschreiber hit just one more ball.

It was a backhand volley, near the net. And Kohschreiber couldn’t make it.

After that, with Nadal still frantically cheering from the sidelines, Ferrer was able to close it out. He fell to the court in exhausted ecstasy.

Ultimate sportsmanship

dramatic
Before even celebrating with his teammates, Ferrer was over on the German side consoling opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber and his teammates.

And then, to no one’s surprise, after shaking the chair umpire’s hand and hugging his captain briefly, he immediately headed over to his vanquished opponent, as Kohlschreiber sat disconsolate on the German bench.

A consoling moment with him, hugs and handshakes for the German squad. And only then did he head over to get mobbed by his teammates.

“I feel so emotional because … the match the both played was unbelievable. Also very special for David, that we love, one of the greatest person on the circuit. I think he deserves a match like this one, Davis Cup, in front of this crowd,” captain Sergi Bruguera said in an on-court interview.

“Philipp, he played an unbelievable match, one of the best matches I ever saw him play. … All the match was an incredible level of tennis, incredible intensity, for five hours.”

Ferrer didn’t even want to think about France, about September, about anything but the moment.

For me it’s one of the best days of my life, and I want to enjoy it,” he said. “Maybe one glass of red wine.”

Federer prevails over Ferrer in fast Montreal conditions

The general consensus about the centre court at the Rogers Cup in Montreal is that it’s slow. Very slow. Slower than either Cincinnati next week or the US Open.

It might partially explain that while Roger Federer has won Cincinnati seven times, he has won the Rogers Cup only twice – and never in Montreal. He hasn’t even played in Montreal since 2011.

But on Thursday, conditions were fast.

Perhaps that’s one reason why the newly 36-year-old struggled to find his timing against the dogged David Ferrer Thursday. he finally came through with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory that puts him into the quarterfinals against another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.

He might not have noticed the faster conditions during his first match against Peter Polansky, because the opposition wasn’t as fierce and he wasn’t tested.

“He was tough as nails today, I’m happy I got back into the match, I needed a bit of help from David because it wasn’t my best performance,” Federer said on court after the match. “It’s fast conditions today, and it’s tough to control the ball, I must say. And I’m not quite used to the balls yet.

“The hard-court season has been a bit of a struggle for me, in practice as well. This is going to give me some rhythm, and I’m very happy about it.”

Federer
Ferrer is now 0-17 against Federer, something the Swiss maestro has a hard time wrapping his head around because of his immense respect for the Spaniard.

Perfect conditions, an imperfect match

Federer said the speed of the court was a surprise not because he expected something else, because he had not been in Montreal for awhile. It was more a matter of just adjusting to the hard courts in general.

Federer
Federer took a pass on the razor, showing off a little scruff.

But he definitely was out of sorts. You won’t often see him fire a ball into the crowd in annoyance. Perhaps that’s why the chair umpire didn’t dock him a code violation; he was too surprised to open his mouth. Federer followed the loss of that point with a double-fault to hand Ferrer back the break the Swiss star had just earned, early in the second set.

Federer found the solutions. Being a career 16-0 against Ferrer, who is just eight months younger, had to help.

“It was strange. Conditions are actually playing fast. That should help my serve. There was no wind. So it was actually perfect conditions to actually play a good and clean match. That’s not the way it is,” Federer said later in his press conference. “From the baseline, I didn’t have enough rhythm. The court is fast here. Of course, because of the surface, that it’s fast, you can’t just decide to put the ball in because physically David is very strong. You can’t do that. So you have to go into the battle. You have to accept you’re going to make mistakes. But you have to keep moving forward.

“I tried with my intensity and focus to change the match, and this is what I was able to do. I was able also to change the angles, and that helped me win the match,” he added.

No wife, no kids, no problem

Federer is flying solo in Montreal; for the first time in a long time, his wife and four children are not on hand. Perhaps that’s why he was able to sneak out to the Coldplay concert earlier this week.

Federer
No kids, no wife – bachelor week for Federer.

It might also be why he has allowed himself to look a little scruffy. No need to worry about the kids complaining about daddy’s whiskers hurting when he cuddles them.

The temporary bachelor thought it would be nice and quiet. It hasn’t turned out that way.

“Of course, I miss ’em, number one. That’s what I feel the most. Secondly, I know I’ll see them very soon, so I’m fine there. It’s not, like, the first week of my life where I’m by myself. I’m used to it, as well. But, you know, I still somehow am very busy. Trying to sleep as much as I can, preparing,” he said.

“Now that I’m playing every day, you know, there’s not that much time. Came here this morning at 11:00 and I’m leaving late. Then I got treatment, press, everything. So it’s full days, you know. I’ll try to relax tonight. But, yeah, I thought it was going to be more quiet this week, but it wasn’t, so…”

Federer also has a perfect record against Bautista-Agut (6-0), whom he considers to pose a challenge similar to the one Ferrer offers. Their last tussle was tight, though; Federer defeated Bautista-Agut in two tiebreakers in the third round of the Miami event in late March.

Spanish Armada sailing into sunset

ROLAND GARROS – There was a time, not that long ago, that one of the 18 meetings between Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer match would have been in the latter stages of a tournament.

At this year’s French Open, it came in the second round. And it was a heartbreaker for Ferrer, who was a finalist here just four years ago.

Lopez’s 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory took three hours and 52 minutes and eemed to bring him little joy, even if it was the first time he’d beaten Ferrer on clay since 2008.

No doubt that was partly out of exhaustion. But these moments are bittersweet, now. The huge gang of amigos that peppered the top of the rankings for the last decade are getting old. Injuries are catching up to many of them.

It’s just about the end for the Spanish Armada.

Here’s what Ferrer vs. Lopez looked like.

Ferrer, whose career high ranking was No. 3, was seeded No. 30 at this French Open. Barely seeded. And he likely won’t be seeded at Wimbledon. 

Remember the years when, if Rafael Nadal couldn’t play a Davis Cup tie, Spain would have an embarrassment of top-30 riches that included Ferrer, Lopez, Verdasco, Robredo and many more to fill in? 

There still are eight Spaniards in the top-75 in the ATP Tour rankings this week. Take away Pablo Carreño-Busta (who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final Sunday after a five-set win over Milos Raonic), who is an outlier at age 25. The average age of the other seven is 31 1/2.

Ferrer, Lopez and Tommy Robredo are 35. Fernando Verdasco is 33.

Here’s a list of the Spanish players with their career-best rankings, and their current rankings.

armada

It’s a declining asset. And let’s face it, we won’t ever see the likes of this kind of volume from any one country again. 

France in the same boat

France is in a similar fix at the moment. The French currently have nine players in the top 75. But save for 23-year-old Lucas Pouille, who is on the rise, their stock also is aging.

The country had an embarrassment of riches for so long. Four players from the same generation reached the top 10 : Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gaël Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon. That, too, isn’t likely to happen again.

The game has become so global. There is so much money available to the very best; players from countries that didn’t even exist a generation ago are developing players and hitting the top of the ATP charts.

For Spain, though, there isn’t much in the pipeline. The country has two top-20 players beyond Nadal in Roberto Bautista-Agut and Albert Ramos-Viñolas (Carreño-Busta will join them next week). But both are 29, late bloomers. They likely have maximized.

Neither was much of a match for his all-world opponent Sunday in Paris as Bautista-Agut was quickly eliminated by Nadal. Ramos-Viñolas, after a good start, lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.

Not much on the horizon

Spain has just two entries in the boys’ singles this week: No. 11 seed Nicola Kuhn and No. 14 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

If those names don’t sound particularly Spanish, that’s because it’s a different world in Spanish tennis these days. Kuhn, born in Austria but a resident of Spain since he was a kid, represented Germany in international competition until just a year ago. He finally made the switch despite the German tennis federation offering him plenty of incentive$ to stay.

Fokina is Malaga-born, to a Swedish father and a Russian mother. He turns 18 on Monday, 

He’s quite the expressive fellow.

In the Spanish Armada generation, a lot of players exited the junior track pretty early and honed their craft on the Spanish Futures circuit. But only one other Spanish teenager beyond Kuhn and Fokina is even ranked in the top 900 in the ATP Tour rankings right now.

So if the next Spanish Armada – even a tiny flotilla – is on the horizon, no one can see it yet.

But it was pretty great while it lasted.

No wonder Ferrer had a rare moment of disgust as he left his Babolat stick in the dust after his loss to Lopez.

Sort of summed it up.