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Nadal follows Federer in mass exodus of seeds out of Miami Open

Nadal follows Federer in mass exodus of seeds out of Miami Open

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Miami, Ricky Dimon
Round two of the Miami Open was an unmitigated disaster for the tournament. It all started when Roger Federer withdrew on Friday due to illness, after which Juan Martin Del Potro lost to lucky loser Horacio Zeballos. It continued on Saturday, when Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka were ousted–albeit in much different fashions.

On a searingly hot day in Miami, Nadal succumbed to the conditions and retired while trailing Damir Dzumhur 2-6, 6-4, 3-0. The fifth-ranked Spaniard rolled through the opening set but he clearly began to fade in the second.

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“Everything was fine until end of the first set,” Nadal explained. “I start to feel myself not very good. It[was] getting worse, worse, and worse, so finally in the second set I realize that I was not able to keep playing. I tried to resist, but I [got] a little bit scared to be too dizzy. So I [called] the doctor a couple of times, but I felt that I was not safe. I wanted to finish the match, but I seriously could not.”

He wasn’t the only one.

Sergiy Stakhovsky, Thomaz Bellucci, and Aljaz Bedene also retired. Sam Querrey might as well have done the same. Serving at 4-5 in the third set against Adrian Mannarino, Querrey completely shut down–perhaps both mentally and physically. The American received a warning, reportedly for not giving an effort, and then incurred a match-ending point penalty at 0-40.

John Isner looked like he might retire against fellow American Tim Smyczek in their first set, as the world No. 13 struggled with both the heat and a left-knee issue. But he was saved, albeit temporarily, by cloud coverage and the setting sun. Isner battled back to force a third set but ultimately went down 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(5). He double-faulted twice in the final-set tiebreaker, including down match point. Isner’s last four losses have all come in third-set ‘breakers.

In other action on the Grandstand, Andrey Kuznetsov upset an out-of-sorts Stan Wawrinka. The fourth-ranked Swiss served at just 54 percent, won only 65 percent of his first-serve points, and lost way more than half of his second-serve points (18 of 32).

“Today was very tough to play [in] this weather, with these conditions” Kuznetsov assured. “I think it actually helped me a little bit, because I saw that Stan was also struggling with moving.”

Ricky Dimon is a contributor in Miami and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @Dimonator by clicking here.

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Serena Williams Wards Off Diyas for a Spot into the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

Serena Williams Wards Off Diyas for a Spot into the Fourth Round at the Miami Open

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After a brutal three set tussle with fellow American Christina McHale two days ago, Serena Williams was probably looking forward to a routine third round match at the Miami Open against Zarina Diyas ranked 97th. Yet, this encounter was anything, but. The world number had to claw her way to a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

On the heels of Rafael Nadal retiring because of the insufferable heat to Damir Dzumhur world number 94th from Bosnia, the air seemed to have been sucked out of the stadium. However, when Williams broke to open the proceedings, there was a sense that perhaps order would be restored swiftly. Yet, her 22 year old opponent from Kazakhstan would not be docile. A few fist pumps followed a comeback from 15-40 to deuce. Soon after, Diyas leveled the set at 1 game a piece. There was no apparent hangover from their only prior meeting at Indian Wells in 2015, when Williams dismantled her 6-2, 6-0.

As a reminder though, Williams quickly broke at love the third game and consolidated for a 3-1 advantage. Still the young Kazakh refused to fold. After holding serve at love for 4-5, Diyas manufactured a break point by forcing three successive miscues from Williams. By pushing her counterpart into a backhand mistake, Diyas equalized the set at 5 all. Ultimately, Williams shifted gears to regain the control promptly and on her second try closed out the the set.

On a roll with six straight games, it seemed that the eight time Miami Open champion would cruise to victory. Once more, Diyas was not through. As Williams serve deserted her and the errors piled on, Diyas secured three successive games to reduce the deficit to a sole break 3-4.

The eighth game Williams stood fast to guard serve for 5-3. Later, with Diyas dumping a forehand into the net, the American was at double match point. As Diyas’ backhand misfired, relief was evident on Williams’ part as she punched her ticket into the round of 16.

Today’s triumph represents Williams’ 750th career match win. Despite, consecutive finals losses, the Australian Open and Indian Wells, something that Williams has not experienced in over a decade. She will surely surpass Lindsay Davenport’s 753 mark which is seventh best all time.

Williams acknowledged that today she had to problem solve along the way “She’s been on tour a few years. I’ve played her before and I know her game really well . . . I think she played above her level the whole match, and I think that’s actually a good sign for her, to know that she can play like that. . . I had to really raise my level to win today. I think she is doing everything better. More than anything, she had a lot of confidence this time. Obviously she has nothing to lose.”

By the time Williams got on court, the weather conditions had improved compared to the preceding match ” It was definitely humid today. Rafa played like an hour and a half, two hours before me, so that makes a huge difference. . he was in the most intense part of the sun; whereas I was kind of at tail end of it. . . For me the biggest adjustment I had to make is I usually never use a towel. Here I might have to go grab the towel in between points. . . But, I have been living here for over 20 years. I love these conditions actually.”

Up next for Williams is Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian edged out Caroline Garcia in a third set tiebreaker. Although the world number one has a 8-2 record over Kuznetsova, their riveting showdown at the French Open in 2013, it should be another thrilling contest. “It’s a great match-up. She plays well and makes a lot of the great shots. She’s actually been playing well this year. She had a couple big wins and couple good tournaments. I have my work cut out for me. We’ll see what happens.”

Off the court, the two are amicable. Williams cited ” we get along great. That’s no secret. She’s just someone that you respect and you like… Just something about her that I think everyone likes.”

Nothing like being at home, Williams has been dominant at this venue with a 74 wins and 7 losses. Moreover, Williams has not been ousted prior to the round of 16 since 2000 when she tasted defeat at the hand of Jennifer Capriati. Consequently, Monday’s match will be quite compelling as the top ranked player looks to reboot her 2016 season by continuing her quest for a ninth Miami Open title.

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Federer and Del Potro Both Out, Djokovic and Ferrer Advance in Miami

Federer and Del Potro Both Out, Djokovic and Ferrer Advance in Miami

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Miami, Ricky Dimon

There was no rematch of the 2009 U.S. Open final on Friday at the Miami Open. The highly-anticipated showdown between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro did not come to fruition because Federer withdrew early in the afternoon due to illness. Gastroenteritis was the official reason for the former world No. 1’s absence.

Federer took the practice court for a light warmup with coach Ivan Ljubicic around noon, hitting a few balls and working on some serves. He left after 30 minutes without signing any autographs. Speculation ran rampant that something was amiss with the Swiss, who had been set to make his first appearance since the Australian Open. A knee injury had sidelined Federer for all of February and from Indian Wells.

Lucky loser Horacio Zeballos took Federer’s place, resulting in an all-Argentine affair with Del Potro. Despite suddenly staring at a much more favorable draw, Del Potro could not take advantage. Still experiencing pain in his left wrist, the 27-year-old lost 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 21 minutes.

Zeballos completely dominated on serve, surrendering only nine points in 10 service games. One break in each set was enough for the world No. 112, and the second came with Del Potro trying to stay in the match at 4-5 in the second. A shanked overhead by Del Potro brought up match point and he sent a forehand just past the baseline to end it.

“I was suffering a little bit,” he admitted. “It was worse than my first match, but I hope nothing dangerous. I will see what’s going on after today and see if I can practice tomorrow–if I can hit again [a] backhand.

“They said before this is a long road to get better; not to play well or to win matches, just to get better and to play tennis again. I’m looking forward for that. For me it’s like surprise when I win a match in this moment because I’m not 100 percent yet. But I’m here. Of course I’m suffering in moments, but I’m playing tennis–bad or really bad, but I’m playing. That’s good for me.”

What’s not good for the tournament is the early exits of Federer and Del Potro. The third-round matchup in that section of the draw is now Zeballos vs. Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Jeremy Chardy.

Other winners on Friday were Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Steve Johnson, Benoit Paire, Marin Cilic, David Ferrer, Gilles Simon, and David Goffin. Tomas Berdych advanced via a walkover from Rajeev Ram. Djokovic kicked off the night session by defeating 21-year-old Brit Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-3.

Ricky Dimon is a contributor in Miami and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @Dimonator by clicking here.

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Nadal Headlines Day Session at the Miami Open on Saturday

Nadal Headlines Day Session at the Miami Open on Saturday

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Rafael Nadal’s opening singles match at the Miami Open is scheduled for Saturday. Prior to meeting his second round opponent, Damir Dzumhur, the four time finalist sat down with the media to opine on a variety of topics including the state of his game in comparison to a year ago, the pluses and minuses of having one dominant player on tour in reference to Novak Djokovic and reaching soon the age of 30. Here is an excerpt of the what the world number five had to say.

Thus far, Nadal’s career has been one for the record books, including 67 titles, 14 major and an Olympic gold medal. Yet, the desire for to add to his tally is ever present ” I am happy doing what I am doing. I enjoy playing my sport. It’s about love for the game, about passion for what I am doing, and I am going to be here until I am unhappy doing what I am doing.”

Despite being denied Miami’s grand prize several times, Nadal enjoys coming back season after season to compete. “I played well in my career here, Four finals; another semifinals; some more quarterfinals. So a positive tournament for me. the atmosphere here is great. I enjoy being here. The fans here are amazing with me”.

Rumors abound that the tournament may change venue. It’s certainly preoccupying to the Spaniard” I think it’s obvious that Miami is an amazing city and is unbelievable for us to be here in Miami, to play here in Miami. . . for the Latin people, Spanish people, we feel close because very big community of Latinos here. So in my opinion, will be not good if the tournament moves from here. At the same time, it’s obvious that something needs to happen. . . all the tournaments are improving . . .making improvements on facilities and everything, and is true that this tournament didn’t make that happen for a while. . . [With] Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, you see all the things that Indian Wells is improving day by day. Miami it’s obvious that probably for the situation it’s difficult to make something bigger because you are just almost in the middle of the city. So probably of the comparison is not helping this tournament. But still, an amazing event. For sure I love being here. I love this tournament. I would like to keep watching this tournament here.”

With regards to his uncle and coach Toni expressing his concerns that tennis “will become a game of speed and power and not so much skill and tactics”. Nadal cited “the sport in general needs to improve in all aspects, and it’s obvious that the players today are taller than before. The racquet hits the ball harder than four years before. [At] the same time, it is true that nothing changed in our sport in terms of rules. So for the moment, it is obvious that the tennis has had tremendous successful for I think a long time now. The sport is healthy, but at the same time we need to move to predict the future. I’m not talking for my generation, but for the next generation. People, in my opinion, like the drama, the rallies. I don’t remember amazing matches that were only one serve and one shot. The matches that the people remember most, are slow matches with unbelievable points, and the applause of the people or the emotions of the people are not only with one serve and one shot. People get emotional when the points are intense, long. If every time we make that happen less often, it’s obvious that our sport can be in trouble for the future”.

Djokovic has been gobbling every trophy in sight. Nadal was asked whether that’s healthy for the sport or are rivalries better:

“Unfortunately, it’s obvious that now it is better for Novak. I don’t know. Depend for who. I think the real thing is rivalries are good. In my opinion, it is not good if a different player wins a tournament every week. Because if there is 20 players winning tournaments different weeks, the people arrive to the tournament and nobody knows who are the favorites to win. It’s difficult because people need to support one player. So you need the stars. To create the stars you need players who have been there for a long time and players competing for the most important events very often. At the same time, it’s good to have combination of styles; it’s good to have different players who fight for the important things, and one or another can win. So I think happened the last 10, 12 years, and now for last year and a half, two years one is dominating maybe too much. But he deserves.”

Nadal feels much more positive about his form on court n 2016 as opposed to last year where his belief was lacking “The difference is I’m enjoying on court. I’m not feeling that nerves on court. I’m not feeling that strange feeling that I never felt. I am enjoying on the practices, I am enjoying on the tennis court. I feel with the right energy. I can lose, I can win, but I am happy on court. That’s the most important thing.”

In order to get a shot at hoisting his maiden Miami Open trophy, Nadal may need to go through Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals and Andy Murray in the semifinals.

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Spanish Armada: Nadal and Verdasco advance in Miami Open doubles draw

Spanish Armada: Nadal and Verdasco advance in Miami Open doubles draw

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Miami, Ricky Dimon

Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco won their opening match at the Miami Open on Thursday evening, beating Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal and Verdasco needed one hour and nine minutes to set up a showdown against the American duo of John Isner and Nicholas Monroe.

The all-Spanish pairing took control with a service break at 2-2 in the first set when Nadal chose to return on the deuce point and started it nicely with a stellar backhand return. The Spaniards broke again at 5-3 to finish off the opening frame of play in style.

Bolelli and Seppi appeared to be on their way out after donating serve at 0-1 in the second. Out of nowhere, however, Verdasco stumbled through the following service game with a flurry of errors and one double-fault to let the Italians back in the match. Bolelli soon found himself serving to stay in the match at 4-5, at which point another deuce situation ensued. Verdasco got a shot at it this time and sent back a strong return that induced a match-ending error.

Isner and Monroe pulled off an upset in an all-North American showdown against Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil. The former UGA Bulldog and UNC Tar Heel saved 11 of 12 break points on their way to a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory. Sock and Pospisil, who finished runner-up in Indian Wells, won a horrendous 60 percent of the points when they put their first serves in the court.

As the first round of singles action wrapped up, Denis Istomin produced a shocking comeback at the expense of Borna Coric. Istomin had not won a single match all season long and it looked like more of the same would continue when Coric served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. The 19-year-old Croat twice came within two points of victory, at 30-15 and 30-30 at 5-4. But Istomin broke back to stay alive and then broke again to force a third.

It was soon Coric’s turn to battle back from a break deficit, which the world No. 46 did at 1-3. A streak of holds brought the proceedings to a 6-5 Istomin advantage and Coric buckled under the pressure when he served to stay in the match for a second time. Istomin broke at love to clinch a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 triumph after two hours and 45 minutes.

Among those joining the Uzbek in round two were Tim Smyczek, Denis Kudla, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Ricky Dimon is a contributor in Miami and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @Dimonator by clicking here.

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Federer is Back at the Miami Open, Faces Del Potro in Round Two

Federer is Back at the Miami Open, Faces Del Potro in Round Two

IMG_1793_FedererAfter a few months’ hiatus due to knee surgery, Roger Federer is once again holding court. His initial stop is the Miami Open which marks the two time champion’s return to the Magic City since 2014.

In his first match, the 17 time major holder squares off against Juan Martin Del Potro the 2009 U.S. Open winner. The Argentine himself is on the road back from injury after a second wrist surgery sidelined him for almost two years. Del Potro bounced fellow countryman Guido Pella in straight sets last evening in order to book a second round date with the Swiss. Federer leads in their head to head 15-5. However, of late, their matches have been quite close with Del Potro besting Federer at home to take the title in Basel in 2012 and 2013.

At today’s press conference preceding this marquee showdown, Federer discussed a myriad of topics including the upcoming match.

Reflecting back on his injury, Federer cited ” very sad when I did get the news I did have to have an operation because I thought I was going to get through my career without any. It was a big shock. . . I’m excited. Anxious to find out how it’s going to react, is it going to be different day-to-day, how is it going to feel after the match and so forth. I’m just really pleased that I’m here. Couldn’t be more happy how rehab has gone. It’s baby steps. Still at the same time you go from crutches to walking to running to jumping to sprinting. It’s pretty incredible to see the progress I’ve been able to make in a short period of time.”

About his opponent, Federer commented ” I like Juan Martin. We’ve had good matches over the years, Paris, five sets twice, US Open obviously. It’s nice to see him back. I haven’t seen him play at all since he’s been back, so I’m not quite sure what to expect. At the end I’m going to focus on my own game tomorrow, my own mind, managing my problems that I’ve had the last few months. Just also enjoy it out there. We’re both in a similar situation. His injury was much, much greater. That’s why I’m really pleased for him that he was able to find a way back onto the tour.”

Tennis has seen it’s share of controversies in 2016 from match fixing to Maria Sharapova’s revelation of use of a prohibited substance, the season only three months old. The latest involves parity in prize money regardless of gender. Here is Federer’s take on the subject ” we don’t always get the same like the women, as well. I think it depends on what tournaments we are talking about . . . I’m all for equal prize money. When I was fighting for prize money increases, especially at the slam level, I was always very aware of the fact that it was always going to impact the women’s game, which I was very happy about. . . But then you have to look at the history of each and every event. Some tournaments were a men’s tournament, then the women joined or vice versa. It’s sometimes hard to make equal prize money there. It’s up to the tournament director to decide if he wants it to be that way. It’s already happening here, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid as well, all the slams. I’m happy that tennis has produced some of the greatest female athletes in the world. . . It’s a great platform. Equal prize money is a good thing.”

Federer’s campaign for the Miami Open title will be treacherous with world number one Novak Djokovic a likely semifinal rival should he get that far. The Swiss master’s first ball strike is on Friday.

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Del Potro wins all-Argentine affair, will face Federer on Friday in Miami

Del Potro wins all-Argentine affair, will face Federer on Friday in Miami

IMG_9379_DelPotroMiami, Ricky Dimon

It will be Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin Del Potro in round two of the Miami Open on Friday afternoon.

Del Potro assured that the highly-anticipated showdown would become a reality when he got the best of fellow Argentine Guido Pella 6-0, 7-6(3) on the opening day of main-draw action on Wednesday night. The former world No. 4 held all nine of his service games to advance after one hour and 29 minutes.

Contesting his third tournament of 2016, Del Potro got off to an emphatic start at the expense of his countryman. Pella had been in outstanding form following a February swing that included a runner-up finish in Rio de Janeiro, but he had no answer for Del Potro in the first set. The world No. 39 won just 14 points in the opener and failed to convert any of his two break opportunities.

Pella managed to make the second set competitive even though he became even more hopeless against his opponent’s serve. Del Potro surrendered only seven points in his last six service games but was pushed to a tiebreaker soon after missing a match point with Pella serving at 4-5. Pella got a mini-break back late in the ‘breaker with a net-cord winner, but Del Potro won two consecutive return points at 5-4 and 6-4 to seal the deal.

“I made it through and I’m so, so happy for the chance to play against Roger after tomorrow,” Del Potro told the crowd.

Due to the world No. 366’s recent inactivity related to multiple left-wrist surgeries, Federer and Del Potro have not squared off since the 2013 World Tour Finals. Before Del Potro started succumbing to physical problems, this rivalry was shaping up to be one of the sport’s best even though Federer has a comfortable 15-5 lead in the head-to-head series. The two veterans have engaged in several memorable meetings, including in the 2009 U.S. Open final (won by Del Potro) and in the semis of the 2012 London Olympics (won by Federer).

Joining Del Potro in the Miami second round on Wednesday were 18-year-olds Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz, just to name a few. To at least a small degree, Zverev erased the demons of his brutal fourth-round loss in Indian Wells to Rafael Nadal by holding off Michael Mmoh 7-6(3), 7-6(4). Also in the midst of a breakout 2016 campaign, Fritz took care of Simone Bolelli 6-4, 6-2.

Ricky Dimon is a contributor in Miami and writes for tenngrand.com. You can follow him on Twitter under @Dimonator by clicking here.

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Del Potro Begins Comeback at Delray Beach Open

Del Potro Begins Comeback at Delray Beach Open

IMG_4201_DelPotro After an extended hiatus due to wrist surgery in 2011, Juan Martin Del Potro rejoined the ATP tour by making his maiden appearance in Delray. He went on to capture the title. However, a niggling wrist injury has prevented Del Potro from returning to the form which resulted in his triumph at the 2009 US Open.

After another round of surgery Del Potro is ready for a second comeback. The Argentine has again chosen Delray as he reincorporates himself on tour and is hoping to duplicate his past success.

Del Potro will be joining a stacked field at the Delray Open that includes Milos Raonic, Kevin Anderson, Bernard Tomic, Ivo Karlovic and Grigor Dimitrov. The Delray Beach Open will take place February 12 – 21, 2016.

Here is the official press release from the tournament :

FORMER WORLD NO.4 JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO WILL PLAY IN DELRAY BEACH
The 2009 US Open Champion Will Begin His Comeback From Wrist Injury

DELRAY BEACH: 2011 Delray Beach champion Juan Martin del Potro is taking a wild card into the Delray Beach Open, making his second appearance in the ATP World Tour event. The 10-day event is coming up February 12 – 21, with ATP World Tour play scheduled to begin Monday, February 15 at the Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center.

Del Potro will be making a long-awaited comeback from a bothersome wrist injury that has dogged the former world No. 4 and 2009 US Open champion for much of his career.

In 2011, del Potro made his initial appearance in Delray Beach ranked No. 166 with just four tournaments under his belt following his first wrist surgery. He won the title without dropping a set, defeating Janko Tipsarevic for his then-8th career ATP World title.

“We’ve been expecting this call,” said Delray Beach Open tournament director Mark Baron. “Juan Martin has always had Delray Beach in his comeback plans, and we’re happy to know that it’s come to fruition. We are rooting for him to be able to overcome his injury and hope he will have a successful comeback.”

The 27-year-old Argentine has amassed 18 career ATP titles plus his Grand Slam US Open win, and has four Top 10 year-end finishes: 2008 (No. 9), 2009 (No 5), 2012 (No. 7) and 2013 (No. 5). He reached his career-high No 4 on January 11, 2010.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said del Potro via a U-Tube video. “As I had promised that I would make a comeback around January or February, now I can confirm it will happen at Delray Beach. I wanted to share the news and also the happiness that I feel knowing that I will play a tennis tournament after such a long time.”

Del Potro’s appearance in Delray Beach’s 32-player singles draw gives the tournament four former champions, including defending champion Ivo Karlovic, Kevin Anderson (2012) and Tommy Haas (2006). Additionally, the Bryan Brothers are defending doubles champions and will be chasing their third consecutive title.

The 2016 Delray Beach field already features three Top 20 players including 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Milos Raonic (No. 11), Anderson (No. 14) and Bernard Tomic (No. 20). Karlovic (No. 24) and Grigor Dimitrov (No. 28) also figure into the strong draw.

In addition to the ATP World Tour tournament, the first weekend of the Delray Beach Open includes an ATP Champions Tour event featuring six former stars playing in a Team USA vs Team International format.

Tickets are available at yellowtennisball.com/tickets or can be secured from the on-site box office (30 NW 1st Avenue in Delray Beach) or over the phone (561-330-6000 ext.1).

UPDATED 2016 DELRAY BEACH OPEN SINGLES ENTRY LIST: Kevin Anderson (RSA), Benjamin Becker (GER), Ricardas Berankis (LTU), Jeremy Chardy (FRA),Thiemo de Bakker (NED), Juan Martin del Potro (ARG), Grigor Dimitrov (BUL), Damir Dzumhur (BIH), Kyle Edmund (GBR), Marcel Granollers (ESP), Sam Groth (AUS), Tommy Haas (GER/USA), Steve Johnson (USA), Ivo Karlovic (CRO), Denis Kudla (USA), Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ), Adrian Mannarino (FRA), Illya Marchenko (UKR), John Millman (AUS), Sam Querrey (USA), Rajeev Ram (USA),Milos Raonic (CAN), Dudi Sela (ISR), Bernard Tomic (AUS), Donald Young (USA)

For more information: Go to YellowTennisBall.com.

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Fish to Make ATP Champions Tour Debut at Delray Beach Open

Fish to Make ATP Champions Tour Debut at Delray Beach Open

IMG_9290_Fish Marty Fish, the 2009 Delray Beach Open champion, will make his debut on the ATP Champions Tour when the tournament kicks off on February 12, 2016. Fish will be joined by former ATP Tour players that will include James Blake, Mark Philippoussis, Sebastien Grosjean, Greg Rusedski and Aaron Krickstein.

The ATP Champions tour is held the first weekend of the Delray Beach Open which serves as the ATP World Tour’s first North American hard court event.

Here is the official press release from the tournament :

DELRAY BEACH: Former world No. 7 Mardy Fish will make his ATP Champions Tour debut at the 2016 Delray Beach Open, returning to the event where he continues to be the only ATP World Tour champion in tournament history to win as the top-seed – a feat he accomplished in 2009.

Additionally, former Davis Cup teammate and world No. 4 James Blake will join Fish in the ATP Champions Tour field that was announced today by the tournament. Four of the six players who will play in the event have ties to the area, including Fish, a former Vero Beach resident.

The three-day, six-player round-robin tournament is played the first weekend of the 10-day Delray Beach Open and includes an American team competing against an International trio. The action begins Friday, Feb. 12 with a pair of night matches, followed by four matches over Saturday day and night, and three Sunday afternoon matches that could decide the team title.

Joining Blake and Fish on Team USA is current Boca resident Aaron Krickstein while Team International includes former Delray Beach resident Mark Philippoussis (AUS), longtime Boca Raton resident Sebastien Grosjean (FRA), and Greg Rusedski (GBR).

The tournament is also announcing its annual Holiday Promotion, which discounts individual box and reserved tickets for all ATP Champions Tour matches (Sessions 1-4, 50% off) and ATP World Tour matches (Sessions 5-17, 20% off). The promotion begins Nov. 26 and runs through Dec. 31.

Fish, who last played in Delray Beach in 2011, missed most of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 ATP World Tour seasons as he battled a heart ailment and anxiety issues that he has since openly discussed in efforts to help others who battle the disorder. He played in several ATP World Tour events in 2015 before announcing his retirement prior to the US Open, where his career ended in a stirring five-set defeat in the second round. Over his career, Fish won six ATP titles and reached the quarterfinals of three Grand Slam tournaments.

Fish went 19-7 in eight Delray Beach appearances, and in addition to his ’09 title, reached the final in 2003 and semifinals in 2009 and 2001. Blake, a two-time ATP World Tour Delray Beach finalist (2007 & 2008), made his debut on the ATP Champions Tour in Delray Beach a year ago. Like Fish, he reached three Grand Slam quarterfinals during his ATP World Tour career and was runner-up to Roger Federer in the season-ending 2006 ATP World Tour Championships.

Two-time Grand Slam runner-up Philippoussis will be playing in his third ATP Champions Tour event in Delray Beach – he won the 2011 title when the tournament crowned an individual champion. A 1997 US Open finalist, Rusedski was 6-2 in Delray Beach as an ATP pro and reached the event’s 1995 final while four-time Grand Slam semifinalist Grosjean was 5-3 in Delray Beach and played in a 1999 semifinal. Rusedski and Grosjean are making their first Delray Beach ATP Champions Tour appearances.

The Delray Beach Open also announced a new ‘no-ad’ format for all ATP Champions Tour matches – at deuce, the player returning serve picks the side he wants to return from; the winner of that point wins the game. A traditional 7-point tiebreaker will continue to be played at six games apiece and a match tiebreak (10-point) will continue to decide a match when players split the first two sets.

Sunday’s 12:30 pm match on Court 1 will be of local interest because it creates a “country club rivalry” between Krickstein and Grosjean, who never played each other on the ATP World Tour. Krickstein is the longtime head pro at St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton while Grosjean is a resident of Woodfield Country Club, also in Boca. Grosjean currently coaches Top 10 Richard Gasquet.

In addition to their ATP Champions Tour play, Blake and Philippoussis have been given a wild card to partner in doubles in the ATP World Tour event.

Discounted ticket are available at http://www.yellowtennisball.com/tickets/ with prices starting at $14.50. Fans can also visit the on-site box office at 30 NW 1st Avenue in Delray Beach, or call 561-330-6000.

For more information: Go to YellowTennisBall.com.

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Grigor Dimitrov to Play 2016 Delray Beach Open

Grigor Dimitrov to Play 2016 Delray Beach Open

Tennis - 2015 ATP World Tour 1000 - Miami Open - Key Biscayne, USA - Day 6 - Saturday 28 March 2015Former ATP World Tour No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov has been added to the Delray Beach Open that will be played February 12 – 21, 2016. Dimitrov joins fellow ATP players Milos Raonic and Tommy Haas as the ATP kicks off the first North American hard court event of 2016.

Below is the official tournament press release.

DELRAY BEACH: ATP World Tour star Grigor Dimitrov has joined the 32-player field for the 2016 Delray Beach Open, while 2006 champion Tommy Haas has added Delray Beach to his 2016 return tour.

The tournament previously announced that world No. 9 Milos Raonic of Canada and the longtime world top-ranked American doubles duo, the Bryan Brothers, have committed to play in Delray Beach’s ATP World tour event next February.

In its 18th year in the city and 24th overall, the Delray Beach Open will be played February 12-21, 2016 at the Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center.

Dimitrov, 24, reached a No. 8 world ranking in 2014 thanks to a pair of semifinal finishes in Rome and Toronto, and a win over world No. 4 Andy Murray that propelled him to the Wimbledon semifinal. The Bulgarian, who famously dated Maria Sharapova for two years, has already won four ATP titles and has 10 career wins over Top 10 players.

The 37-year-old Haas has returned to the Top 20 from major surgery three times in his career, and is embarking on a fourth run after shoulder surgery last year. Twice Haas has been named the ATP’s “Comeback Player of the Year” and his 15 ATP World Tour titles and more than 550 career wins have him surpassing the $13 million earnings mark for his 20-year career.

Haas reached a career-high No. 2 ranking in 2002 shortly after reaching the Australian Open semifinal, and he won the Delray Beach tournament in his first appearance in 2006. He owns an 11-7 record in eight Delray appearances.

“We are thrilled to continue adding top talent to our 2016 field,” said tournament director Mark Baron. “Grigor is an exciting young player who we have wanted to have in Delray Beach for some time. And having a healthy Tommy competing again will be a treat for our fans. We continue to be amazed at the level of play he has brought to the courts for the last two decades.”

The Delray Beach Open also announced that its ATP World Tour qualifying event will consist of a 16-player field instead of the 32-player draw that has been customary since the event’s inception. All ATP 250-level tournaments are making the adjustment.

The 10-day Delray Beach Open also includes an ATP Champions Tour event, which brings legends of the game into town to play during the opening weekend.

A number of tournament seating packages are on sale, including the Reserved Diamond Series that includes tickets to all 17 sessions of the ATP Champions Tour and ATP World Tour events (Friday, Feb. 12 – Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016) for $500. Reserved seats (sections A – O) are located just behind the box seats and have back support and arm rests. The popular Weekender Series that includes a reserved seat for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals (sessions 13-17) is $200.

Other 17-session ticket packages include the courtside box series packages ($1,500 for two seats or $2,500 for four), the on-court Best Seats in the House package priced at $3,000 for two seats, or $4,500 for four and the covered Veranda seats. The Veranda seats are also available for individual sessions.

The event’s new Sky Suites and Sky Boxes start at $7,000 for all 17 sessions. They accommodate 8 to 24 people and include food and beverage options.

Fans can order tickets online at http://www.yellowtennisball.com/tickets/, visit the on-site box office at 30 NW 1st Avenue in Delray Beach, or call 561-330-6000.

For more information: Go to YellowTennisBall.com.

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