Shapovalov makes it two in the quarters (video)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Somewhere around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Denis Shapovalov earned a spot in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.

It was about 12 hours after his countryman and friend Félix Auger-Aliassime did the same.

No pressure. But the next goal for the two Canadian teens, on opposite sides of the draw, will be to do what their predecessors did back in 2013.

That’s when Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, then 22 and 23, both reached the Masters 1000 semifinals in Montreal. They ended up playing each other; Raonic won in a third-set tiebreak.

Early Wednesday morning Shapovalov needed a third-set tiebreak to get past No. 9 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The two have played on the pro tour. But this match harkened back to one of the finest junior matches in recent years, when the two met in the 2016 Wimbledon boys’ singles semifinals.

Shapovalov won that one as well. And he went on to beat Alex de Minaur in the final and win the title.

Three years later, both are all grown up, and in the top 25 in the ATP Tour rankings.

Ridiculous level of tennis

The future is now in men’s tennis, and these two obviously are right in the middle of it.

Between Shapovalov’s win over Andrey Rublev in the previous round, and this one in the fourth round, the pace of ball was brutish, the speed and reaction time of the players impressive and the overall level really off the charts.

That was especially impressive Tuesday night, as a couple of rain delays pushed back the schedule. And, indeed, the Roger Federer match against Daniil Medvedev scheduled for the main stadium was cancelled altogether.

From the Qs to the QFs for FAA (video)

It was almost 11:30 pm by the time time Shapovalov and Tsitsipas took the court.

Despite that, there were an impressive number of fans on hand on the Grandstand to watch them. They knew what potential this match had.

It did not disappoint.

At nearly 2 a.m., here’s Shapovalov afterwards talking about the present, the past with Tsitsipas and the future (by the delivery of the questions, you can tell the interviewer was more tired than Shapovalov was! Being 19 is fabulous).

Auger-Aliassime through to face Tsitsipas

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – It was only a blip in time ago that Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime beating a player in an ATP Tour event was a big deal, an impressive win.

Fast forward a few months, and the 18-year-old made his 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 48 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain look almost routine.

“During matches, and tournaments, you get used to the level. I’ve raised my ranking and my level, too. You have to expect the best. But I think I was able to impose myself from the first rallies, and maintain it through the whole match. It wasn’t a routine win, but it was a very good match on my part,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I was able to stay calm. Even when he had break points. I was able to take my time, serve well, manage it well.”

Auger-Aliassime served at 80 per cent, and won 80 per cent of his first serve points.

He also won 6-of-10 on second serve – a stat that can fluctuate for him. But when it’s that good, it’s hard for an opponent to see a way through it.

Auger-Aliassime blasted one serve at 131 mph.

Serve the focus in transition to hard court

Coach Frédéric Fontang said that one of the first things they did upon arrival in the desert from the South American clay-court season was to stabilize the serve.

There had been some ups and downs with it on the clay. But on the hard courts, it’s even more of a weapon for him even if he felt he had used it to good effect on the clay.

“Norrie is a dangerous player because he hangs tough. He’s a counter-puncher, and he’s able to find angles as a left-hander. He’s someone who’s difficult to overpower. And he waits for the error, with a flat backhand and a lot of spin on the forehand,” Fontang said. “For Felix, the plan was to create space, and then move forward. He forced Norrie into trying to do too much, and he was the one making the errors.”

Tsitsipas is next for Auger-Aliassime

The next match for Auger-Aliassime is one that will gain a lot of attention.

He will face Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has moved into the top 10 just as Auger-Aliassime has moved into the top 60.

The two are almost exactly two years apart. Tsitsipas’ Aug. 12 birthday (when he turns 21) comes just four days after Auger-Aliassime turns 19.

This will be the first time they meet in the pros. But back in the juniors, it was the Canadian who dominated their rivalry.

Canadian dominates junior rivalry

They squared off three times: in the Canadian Open junior championships just before the 2015 US Open, at the Eddie Herr in Florida that December, and in the semis of the 2016 junior US Open boys’ singles.

All three were won by the younger Auger-Aliassime. He went on to beat Miomir Kecmanovic in that US Open boys’ final.

In those three matches, Tsitsipas only managed one set.

But if Auger-Aliassime was precocious in the juniors, it has been Tsitsipas who has been precocious in the pros.

His appearance in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto last summer was the clarion bell. And his win over Roger Federer during a run to the Australian Open semifinals in January was further confirmation.

“He’s really playing well right now. He’s put together lots of tournaments, lots of matches, and he’s confident. But I’ve done that, too,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“The fact that I knew him in juniors – even though we’re very different players now – it definitely adds something to have already have played against him. It’s better to have beaten him than to have lost to him – even in the juniors. And I know he’s not crazy about playing opponents younger than he is.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas back on track, in Marseille final

Life has gotten a little complicated for Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas since his breakout Australian Open.

Beating Roger Federer in Melbourne might not have had the same kind of stick as what happened two rounds later, when he was schooled by Rafael Nadal.

And since then, it’s been a bit of a struggle on court.

But the 21-year-old has kept playing. And a far more serene version of Tsitsipas appeared in Marseille this week.

He defeated No. 3 seed David Goffin 7-6 (1), 6-2 to reach the final, where he will face unseeded but dangerous Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.

Tsitsipas has faced, and beaten Kukushkin once. It was on clay in Rome last spring, in the first round of qualifying. And he had to come back from a set down and prevail in a third-set tiebreak to do it.

Perhaps his self-imposed moratarium from social media and vlogging might have had a positive effect. It was taking up a lot of oxygen.

Here’s what he said after the victory. (Video courtesy of Open 13 Provence).

 

 

2019 Indian Wells doubles lineup … singular

Top singles stars often play doubles at the BNP Paribas Open, a popular choice in the first event of a series, with a climate or surface change to adjust to.

There’s a full 32-team doubles field at Indian Wells. And with 32 seeds with first-round byes, most of the singles players don’t start until later in the week – some as late as the first weekend. 

Andy Murray played the desert doubles 11 straight times between 2007 and 2017.

The 2019 lineup is no different. In fact, it might be one of the more interesting lineups already – if all the players who’ve committed follow through.

The entry deadline isn’t until Monday. And there are two wild cards to be distributed. So there will be more additions.

But already, you know the team of Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini will pack Stadium 2, where many of the high-profile doubles teams ply their trade.

Still not on board is Rafael Nadal, who has played it 11 times – four of those with Marc Lopez, with titles in 2010 and 2012. 

If he plays, it won’t be with Lopez, who already is entered with Feliciano Lopez.

Roger Federer? He also has played it 11 times, going back to 2000. Most recently, he did countryman Michel Lammer a solid and paired up with him for a first-round loss in 2015. That was actually the last time Federer played doubles in an ATP Tour event.

The Swiss (who reached the singles final in 2018) reached the final in 2002 with Max Mirnyi. He also reached final in 2011 and the semis in 2014 with Stan Wawrinka.

Let’s call that possibility … remote. The last time Federer played any (non Hopman Cup mixed) doubles was a loss in a Davis Cup relegation tie against the Netherlands in Sept. 2015,  with Marco Chiudinelli.

(Add Gaël Monfils and Adrian Mannarino to this list, as the deadline is now past. But note that the Zverevs, Ryan Harrison-Kei Nishikori and Tiafoe-Paes are not yet in, with only 21 teams claiming direct entry).

Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini

Fognini is an accomplished doubles player, in the top 10 just a few years ago.

Djokovic has played just once this year, reaching the Doha semifinals with brother Marko and losing a 15-13 match tiebreak to eventual champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and David Goffin.

He has played doubles at Indian Wells five times before – most recently in 2017, when he and countryman Viktor Troicki upset top seeds Herbert and Nicolas Mahut before losing in the quarterfinals

Juan Martin del Potro and Maximo Gonzalez

Del Potro, who plans to finally start his 2019 season next week in Delray Beach, is teaming up with a countryman who is a top-40 doubles player (and at a career-high ranking). 

He’s also defending his singles title – and 1,000 ranking points.

The two have played together occasionally – notably at the Rio Olympics, where they lost in three sets to gold-medalists Nadal and Lopez.

Like Djokovic, del Potro also has played the doubles at Indian Wells five previous times – with several partners: David Nalbandian, Marin Cilic, Leonardo Mayer, Leander Paes and in 2018, Grigor Dimitrov.

The match with Cilic in 2014 was a notable one, because del Potro was pretty much hitting all one-handed backhands. He was testing out his wrist to see if it could hold up in singles. But he ended up withdrawing from the singles and was out the rest of the season.

Milos Raonic – Jérémy Chardy

Raonic played doubles in a similar situation in Brisbane – to open the new season. He and Robert Lindstedt beat the Bryan brothers in their first match back together before losing in the quarterfinals.

The Canadian played the Indian Wells doubles six straight years from 2011 to 2016 (with Feliciano Lopez, Kevin Anderson, Lopez again, Ernests Gulbis – they defeated Djokovic and Krajinovic before losing to Federer and Wawrinka), Aisam Qureshi and John Isner).

He and Chardy have never played together.

Mischa and Alexander Zverev

This one is up in the air, given both Zverevs seem not to be 100 per cent. Zverev has played just two Davis Cup matches against Hungary since the Australian Open. And Mischa has played just one match this year – a first-round loss to young Aussie Alexei Popyrin in Melbourne.

Both are entered in singles – and together in doubles – in 10 days at the Acapulco tournament.

This would be the third straight year the brother team up in the desert. They also have entered Miami.

Frances Tiafoe / Leander Paes

Tiafoe plays doubles somewhat regularly (10 tournaments in 2018), without any notable success although he and Denis Kudla reached the semifinals in D.C. last summer.

This will be the 20th appearance at this event for Paes, going all the way back to 1996.

Dominic Thiem / Steve Johnson

Thiem was held back a bit by illness and was late getting down to South America for his fave Golden Swing. 

But it seems he’s getting right back to his double-time schedule.

The Austrian is in the doubles semi in Buenos Aires this week with his friend Diego Schwartzman. It’s his first doubles event of the season; he played eight in 2018 and lost in the first round of Indian Wells with Philipp Petzschner.

The pair played twice last year, in Rome on Clay and in Halle on grass. They won a tight one to the Zverev brothers in Rome before going down to Pavic and Marach, 16-14 in the match tiebreak. They’re also signed on for Miami.

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Wesley Koolhof

Tsitsipas

Seems an odd pairing, but perhaps the two have some history together.

At a career-best No. 40 this week, Koolhof played the Australian swing with regular partner Marcus Daniell, and had a wild card into Rotterdam with Jürgen Melzer this week.

Tsitsipas played some mixed doubles with countrywoman Maria Sakkari at Hopman Cup, but nothing else so far this season.

He played just about every week though 2017, when he was on the Challenger circuit and in 12 events (11 at the ATP level) in 2018, winning just four matches.

2018 doubles teams

Roberto Bautista-Agut/David Ferrer
John Isner / Jack Sock
Juan Martin del Potro / Grigor Dimitrov
Gilles Muller / Sam Querrey
Dominic Thiem / Philipp Petzschner (WC)
Alexander Zverev / Mischa Zverev
Philipp Kohlschreiber / Lucas Pouille

Plus Diego Schwartzman … Pablo Carreño Busta … Ryan Harrison … Fabio Fognini … Steve Johnson … Fernando Verdasco and Albert Ramos-Viñolas ….

2017 doubles teams

John Isner / Jack Sock
Novak Djokovic / Viktor Troicki
Rafael Nadal / Bernard Tomic (that was an … epic meetup)
Kohlschreiber /Thiem
Zverev / Zverev
Muller / Querrey
Andy Murray / Dan Evans
del Potro / Paes (WC)
Dimitrov / Stan Wawrinka
Marin Cilic / Nikola Mektic
Steve Johnson / Vasek Pospisil
Roberto Bautista Agut / Fernando Verdasco
Tomas Berdych / Philipp Petzschner
Nick Kyrgios / Nenad Zimonjic (WC)

No fans allowed for Tsitsipas practice

MELBOURNE, Australia – Fans at the Australian Open flock to the practice courts between Rod Laver Arena and Melbourne Arena – the “star courts” closest to the player areas – to see the big guns practice.

Sometimes, if there’s rain or a change of schedule, you can see hordes of Federer or Serena Williams fans, who got there hours earlier to stake out a spot next to the fence, trudge away disappointed.

The players scheduled for a night session might move into Rod Laver Arena, if the day schedule finishes early. And the fans can’t get in there. So the Serbian and Spanish-bearing fans trudge off, the chance at a a selfie gone.

On Wednesday, new favorite Stefanos Tsitsipas had planned to practice on one of those courts. But, unannounced, he ended up moving to the 1573 Court (the former Show Court 2) at the other end of the site.

That court is right next to Margaret Court Arena. It’s generally open to the public. And Tsitsipas’s fans quickly caught on to the fact that he (and an ever-increasing support team)were in there.

Third straight top-10 win for Tsitsipas

Unfortunately, there was a large band of burly security guys making sure they couldn’t go in and sit in the stands.

(Even a media credential wouldn’t get you in).

There was a cleaning crew in there, as play on that court had concluded for the day. But there were fans at every one of the more than a dozen entrances. And they were crammed at each one trying to get a look.

As well, there’s a handy exit for the players directly to the underground walkways under Rod Laver. So no chance for an autograph.

Not always the players’ fault

From what some of the fans were saying as tennis.life observed the proceedings, some of them felt Tsitsipas was big-leaguing them – that it was at his insistence the practice was “closed” to the public.

Most often, though, the players aren’t the instigators of this sort of thing, as the Australian Open is the most rigid event when it comes to … everything. The tournament often pre-emptively makes calls like this, assuming the player will appreciate it.

Novak Djokovic had to clarify a similar situation during his press conference following the win over Kei Nishikori Wednesday night.

A year ago, Tsitsipas wins his first

The fact that Djokovic had gone into Margaret Court Arena to practice, rather than on one of the No. 16 – No. 18 practice courts, was taken by some as a sign that he wanted to hide some sort of injury.

Djokovic hastened to clarify that was not the case.

“Regarding the closed practice, I saw that, too, that they’ve published that I insisted on having a closed practice. It’s absolutely not true. I don’t know. I’ve never said anything about closed practice. I just went in to practice on the Margaret Court Arena,” Djokovic said. “There was nobody there. … Maybe somebody from tournament, I don’t know.”

A big crew

Tsitsipas

On another note, it’s always eye-opening to see how the group around a player gets bigger and bigger, the deeper he (it’s usually a bigger thing with the “he’s) goes into the draw.

The ever-present Patrick Mouratoglou wasn’t spotted at this particular practice. But he had a previous commitment as the practice took place a couple of hours after Mouratoglou’s charge, Serena Williams, lost her shocker of a match against Karolina Pliskova.

Still, there were a LOT of fellas.

(Mouratoglou was back front row for the actual match Thursday night.

A first meeting between Federer and Tsitsipas

MELBOURNE, Australia – Stefanos Tsitsipas has played Rafael Nadal – twice in 2018 – and lost to him twice.

He has played Novak Djokovic – once, at the Rogers Cup in Toronto – and defeated him.

But he had never faced Roger Federer, the player he most resembles stylistically. At least not officially, since the Hopman Cup is an exhibition event.

Until Sunday night at the Australian Open.

This will be the premiere for the 20-year-old rising Greek star, and the 37-year-old legend.

“I’m happy I played against him at the Hopman Cup. I think he played really well there. I actually did too. I thought it was really high quality tennis. This is obviously a different type of match, it being best of five, it being a fourth round of a slam, you know, where we know now how we feel on this court,” Federer said.

“I’m happy for him. He’s playing so well, and I’m looking forward to the matchup with him. I think it’s going to be a good one. I like how he mixes up his game and also comes to the net. So will I. I think we will see some athletic attacking tennis being played.”

Third straight top-10 win for Tsitsipas

Two tiebreaks in Perth

When the two met at the Hopman Cup in Perth a few weeks ago, Federer defeated Tsitsipas in two tiebreaks.

But this is a completely different deal. This will be only the second time Tsitsipas has played in the second week of a major. And it is only the second time he has passed the second round. As well, this is the first time Tsitsipas has even won a main-draw match in Australia.

“I learned a lot since my last match with him. I know the patterns that he’s using a bit better now. He’s serving really well, so I’m going to have to utilize his, and take advantage of my returns as much as possible. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be serving well, so, yeah, return games need to be aggressive and pressing a lot,” Tsisipas said.

“Yeah, he’s a legend of our sport. It will be a great day facing him in one of the best arenas, Rod Laver. I’m really excited for that match.”

Tsitsipas dropped a set in each of his first three matches, all against quality opponents: Matteo Berrettini, the veteran Viktor Trocki, and the high-regarded Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Here’s what he looked like on the practice court Saturday, one court over from where Federer arrived to hit – but before a far less reverent crowd.

For Federer, the crowd gathered well ahead of time just to get a glimpse of him walking to the court.

They were watching from up above, in the fan walkway – even from further away, outside Rod Laver Arena. They climbed trees. They stood on garbage cans.

It’s a familiar sight at tournaments.

Maybe someday, Tsitsipas will practice before those kinds of crowds. In Australia, he has gotten a taste of it, with the large and enthusiastic Greek contingent supporting both him and Maria Sakkari.

For now, he’s the aspirant to the throne.

Milan missing stars, but the show’s the thing

For the Next-Gen Finals to truly be what they were designed to be, they ideally would feature all of the best 21-and-under players in the world.

But two of the marquee players are not there.

For the second straight season, the best of the bunch has understandably opted for the ATP Tour Finals next week. 

Alexander Zverev came to Milan last year, for the inaugural edition, and played an exhibition to give the new exhibition a boost. But that seems to not have been in the plans this year. 

And arguably the most entertaining and popular of the rest, Canadian Denis Shapovalov, begged off after a fall season during which he essentially played every single week.

That the 19-year-old was on fumes was fairly evident in those final weeks.

Shapovalov, incredibly, still has two years of eligibility left. But you know he’s hoping to be in the same boat as Zverev is sooner, rather than later.

Next-Gen
Stefanos Tsitsipas, who didn’t even make the cut a year ago, is the No. 1 seed – and the No. 15-ranked player of any age. (Peter Staples/ATP)

Tsitsipas the biggest star

One player who had a monster season on the ATP Tour is in Milan. But as with Shapovalov, you could sense over the last few weeks – after he won his first career ATP Tour title in Stockholm, that Stefanos Tsitsipas also is a little wrung out.

Hopefully he will be able to muster a final reserve of energy and quickly adjust to the radically different match experience and scoring system.

On the plus side, there was no sign of the “models” who joined the young fellows on stage for last year’s draw ceremony. That didn’t go over too well, and the ATP later apologized.

Rather, they gave us … this!

Milan

Hurkacz, Munar and .. Caruana

Next-Gen
The Americans were thoroughly jovial during the draw ceremony. (Peter Staples/ATP)

The final group of eight features some appealing talent – notably Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe.

Tiafoe’s irrepressible personality is already evident in the leadup to the event. His smile is contagious, and his game style is a crowd-pleaser.

The rest are not nearly as well-known. So the fans in Milan and watching at home will get to discover them, much the way they did a year ago.

Next-Gen

Spain’s Jaume Munar has the full sport of the Rafael Nadal Academy behind him. And even though he arrived on the ATP Tour with everyone assuming he would be a clay-court player, he has proven more than adept on the other surfaces.

When we watched him play another Next-Gen player, Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime, in the French Open qualifying, he was even serve-volleying on clay.

Munar struggled in the heat in New York this summer, but Milan is mercifully indoors. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

As for Hubert Hurkacz, he’s tall – 6-foot-5 – and reached his career best ranking of No. 79 last week before dropping six spots with the new rankings Monday.

He qualified for the last three Slams this season, losing to Marin Cilic in the second round both in Paris and at the US Open. In New York, he got just two games in three sets against the Croat.

Hurkacz retired due to “fatigue”, down in the first set of his second-round match at the Eckental Challenger last week.

He has faced the other three players in his pool group a total of once – a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Tiafoe in Washington, D.C. this summer. He has two losses on clay to Munar in the juniors.

The draws

Group A:  Stefanos Tsitsipas, Jaume Munar, Frances Tiafoe, Hubert Kurkacz

Group B: Alex de Minaur, Andrey Rublev, Taylor Fritz, Liam Caruana

Next-Gen

It’s hard to pick the stronger one. But you’d have to go with the superior top-level experience of Tsitsipas and Tiafoe in Group A.

Caruana, 20, is ranked No. 622 on the ATP Tour (down from a career high of No. 375 back in February). He won three matches in an all-Italian playoff for the local wild card – the final in five (short-version) sets.

If the experience of Quinzi a year ago is any indicator, he’ll arrive game, but a little short on legs after the hard work involved getting here.

 

Caruana peaked at No. 22 in the junior rankings, fully 18 years old with a January birthday (and therefore one of the oldest kids playing at the ITF level). He never did particularly well at the junior majors, but he did play most of the other players once each. He suffered a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Tsitsipas in the third round of the 2016 Australian Open juniors. a 6-1, 6-3 loss to de Minaur on clay in 2015, a three-set loss to Rublev on clay in 2014 and losses in doubles to both Fritz and Tiafoe on separate occasions.

In other words, he doesn’t come in with the same credentials as Quinzi did. So he’ll have to play above his level to surprise.

NOTE: Southern California native Tracy Austin notes that Caruana, while Italian, is very much a SoCal kid. She writes that he and Fritz grew up 20 minutes apart (Fritz in Rancho Santa Fe and Caruana in La Jolla, outside San Diego) and played many times in the juniors. She adds that Caruana moved to Texas as a young teenager.

Opening-day schedule

The day session on Tuesday features Tsitsipas vs. Munar, then Fritz vs Rublev.

The night session kicks off with Tiafoe vs. Hurkacz, followed by de Minaur vs. Caruana.

The rules

The ATP has put out a couple of videos explaining the unique rules attached to this event.

One features the players.

The other features the neat graphics they’ve come up with for this year’s edition.

As well, the automatic Hawkeye line-calling system used last year will be expanded to adjudicate a host of other on-court situations.

Next-Gen Finals will review … EVERYTHING!

Next-Gen 2017: where are they now?

Last year’s final featured Hyeon Chung vs. Andrey Rublev

Group A:

Hyeon Chung
’17 ranking: 54
Current ranking: 25

Denis Shapovalov
’17 ranking: 51
Current ranking: 27

Andrey Rublev
’17 ranking: 37
Current ranking: 68

Gianluigi Quinzi
’17 ranking: 306
Current ranking: 149

Group B:

Borna Coric
’17 ranking: 48
Current ranking: 12

Karen Khachanov
’17 ranking: 45
Current ranking: 11

Daniil Medvedev
’17 ranking: 65
Current ranking: 16

Jared Donaldson
’17 ranking: 55
Current ranking: 109

Notable that three of the Group B players (none of whom made the 2017 final), are now in the top 16. Shapovalov and Chung have improved their rankings as well (Chung, even with much time missed due to injury).

Jared Donaldson hasn’t played since the Rogers Cup in Toronto due to knee tendonitis, which affected him long before that. Rublev missed three months, after Monte Carlo and through Wimbledon, with back issues.

(Photos from Peter Staples/ATP – full draw gallery here)

Next-Gen Finals will review … EVERYTHING!

And you thought the towel rack was innovative?

The Next-Gen Finals are going full-out on the video review this year.

The ATP announced on Friday that the exhibition event for 21-and-under players will use expanded video review for this year’s second annual event in Milan.

We’re not talking about line calls. We’re talking about not-ups, racket touches and reaching over the net to hit a ball. All those little borderline nuances that are in the rule book and tough for the chair umpire to call are covered.

You just hope that they happen, so we can see the technology at work.

“Controversy with these types of decisions are rare but when they do occur they can be particularly unsettling for players. We do not expect a lot of challenges, but should any instances arise, this technology will ensure the correct decision is reached,” was the statement from Gayle Bradshaw, ATP executive vice-president of rules and competition.

The video review operator off the court will search the footage from all the cameras to find the best angles. It’s somewhat like the video review officials in the National Hockey League searching for decisive footage when a goal is reviewed.

They’ll send it to the chair umpire’s tablet (not his fancy watch?) to review. the umpire will make a determination on whatever the infraction was. The fans in the arena and watching at home also will be able to see that footage.

Hawkeye watches coming to Milan

No more INVASIONS!

Did you know? If a player’s racket, or clothing “touches the other side of the court” while the ball is in play, it’s called an “invasion”.

That notably occurs when a player’s racket crosses the plane of the net, trying to handle a ball with backspin, unable to stop on the dead run or trying to put away a very slow ball on the volley.

(Djokovic conceded later that he thought his racket might have crossed over the net. He also conveyed that to Murray at the time. Djokovic also said he was unsure if the rules prohibited it (!). But he added he would have conceded the point had that been made clear to him. It was definitely not on Djokovic to do that; the umpire, having to make the decision in real time, blew the call).

The technology also will reportedly be able to call “foul shots”.

Those include “deliberate” double hits, or carrying the ball rather than striking it. You have to think the chair umpire will remain in charge of deciding whether it was deliberate or inadvertent.

No more touches

If the ball hits a permanent fixture before it bounces, they’ll know. If the racket is no longer in the player’s hand when it makes contact with the ball, they can see it. And if the ball skims the racquet, or a player’s clothing – or even their hair, they’ll be busted.

Finally, if any part of the player’s body or equipment touches the net, net posts or singles sticks while the ball is in play, they’ll see it.

Given they don’t expect too many, there’s no limit on the number of challenges of this type that a player can make.

You just hope the players don’t figure out how to use it as a tactic to catch their breath, or slow up the play. Because there’s no mention of any penalty against the inquiring player, if he’s wrong.

On the plus side, fans won’t get on their non-favorite player to “‘fess up” or give away a point on the “honor system” – even though it’s not their responsibility.

Other possibilities

One capability of the technology would be to be able to determine whether the point should be given, or replayed on a line call overrule.

You see this happen – although not that often – because it’s a judgment call by the umpire as to whether the player was impacted on the timing of the call, and might have put the ball over the net otherwise.

Sometimes it’s pretty contentious, too. And often it puts pressure on the player who benefits from an umpire’s judgment to call something against themselves of their own volition (which you’re *supposed* to do in unofficiated matches, but which is not in the least your responsibility when there are officials).

(That won’t happen at the Next-Gen Finals, because Hawk-Eye live makes all the calls, and they’re not subject to appeal).

Other changes will be to lop yet another minute off the player warmup. It will be down to … four minutes. (No idea why tennis is so focused on this issue – it’s far and away not a major time vampire).

Final field determined

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As of Thursday, the eight players who have qualified for the Next-Gen finals were determined.

Well, actually seven players, as the eighth is an Italian wild card that will be determined by a playoff. Gianluigi Quinzi won it last year. He aged out of the competition this year.

Spain’s Jaume Munar was the last to qualify.

So the field will be as follows, as the No. 1 Next Gen contender, Alexander Zverev, will take a pass for the second straight year as he qualified for the “big boys” final in London.

*Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
*Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
*Alex de Minaur (AUS)
*Frances Tiafoe (USA)
*Taylor Fritz (USA)
*Andrey Rublev (RUS)
*Jaume Munar (ESP)

Shapovalov and Rublev are the only holdovers from a year ago. Shapovalov remains the youngest; he doesn’t turn 20 until April.

Here are the top young Italian players, most of whom will play off the week before the event.

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A Next-Generation Sunday on the ATP Tour

One comes from a land where reading a poem by Pushkin can move a man to tears.

The second already is positioned as the sensitive, soulful heart of the new generation.

So who, upon winning his first career ATP Tour title Sunday, was the one who couldn’t stop the tears?

The most outwardly stoic and phlegmatic of them all, of course.

Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund earned his maiden title Sunday in Antwerp, Belgium, with a 3-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) victory over France’s Gaël Monfils.

It was the first time in his career the South African-born Brit had been the top seed at the ATP level.

That’s an added bit of pressure, no doubt.

“Emo Edmund” was a surprise, but a heartwarming one, as he did an on-court interview after his victory in Antwerp.

And when he did it, all the emotion few have seen on court – everything he himself may not have known he was holding back – came flooding out.

“Very obviously happy, and a lot of hard work goes into this. It’s just … emotion,” Edmund said, needing a few more moments to gather himself.

“I’m just too happy. It’s not just me that put in the work. There’s so many guys behind the scenes. It’s just really nice when something you’ve been working for comes together.”

TsiTsi in TitleTown

About a thousand miles  west and north in Stockholm, Sweden, 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas was feeling some of the same emotions.

He, too, won his first Tour title Sunday, with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over qualifier Ernest Gulbis of Latvia.

For him, the reaction was laughter, mixed with a little disbelief, combined with evident pride that he was able to get the job done.

Tsitsipas was playing his third final, his second of the season after going all the way to Sunday at the Masters 1000 in Toronto in August, only to lose to Rafael Nadal.

“It’s not easy knowing that I’ve lost in two finals before. I really wanted this title badly. And I would like to thank Ernests for giving it to me today,” Tsitsipas joked. 

Tsitsipas even got a congratulatory Tweet from the prime minister. He is the first Greek man ever to win a title on the ATP Tour.

Khachanov is Чемпион Москвы

For Khachanov, who won in Marseille early this year as well as Chengdu in 2016, the thrill wasn’t the novelty of it all. It wasn’t that first one that you will never forget.

Tsitsipas hugs father/coach Apostolos and mother Julia, a former pro, after his victory.

He is now 3-for-3 in finals after dispatching Adrian Mannarino of France 6-2, 6-2 in Moscow Sunday.

Mannarino, 30, was playing in his sixth Tour final, and was looking for his own “first time”

But for Khachanov, in his hometown, it was an especially sweet victory.

In the first 20 incarnations of the Kremlin Cup, a Russian won 14 times. But Khachanov is the first to take the title since 2009, when the recently-retired Mikhail Youzhny raised the trophy. 

“It was one of the dreams I had when I was a kid. Coming here I was asking top Russian players for autographs and dreaming one day to become a champion here,” Khachanov said, per the ATP Tour’s website. “Today is the day and I am really happy. These are memories I will always keep in my head.”

Edmund, Tsitsipas and Khachanov came into their respective weeks ranked No. 15, No. 16 and No. 26.

The first two won’t move much; Edmund jumps one spot, Tsitsipas stays the same.

But Khachanov will move inside the top 20 for the first time, up seven places to No. 19.

So all three have rankings that are less than their respective ages. And all are in the top 20.

The landscape is changing, if slowly. But knocking off titles at the 250 level is a great first step for the next generation.

And now that Edmund and Tsitsipas have – as Edmund put it about himself – gotten the “monkey” off their backs, it’s onwards and upwards.

“It’s just great that I’ve been able to have this experience and come through it, and it just gives you so much belief and confidence for the next time that happens,” he said.

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.