Tennis

Tennis is a racquet sport that can be played individually against a single opponent (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player uses a racquet that is strung with cord to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over or around a net and into the opponent's court.

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This week, Gael Monfils is back on the ATP Challenger Tour for the first time since 2013, competing at the $150,000 event in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It looks like he's brought his trademark flair for the dramatic with him.
Nearly 2,000 fans were on their feet at the Kaohsiung OEC Open as Monfils faked out Akira Santillan en route to a first-round victory. The Frenchman put on a show deep in the second set. With a set point to force a decider, he turned his back to Santillan and covered his face with his left hand, before prompty firing a forehand pass on the dead run.
Monfils is kicking off his Asian swing early in his return from a wrist injury suffered at the US Open. The World No. 42, who is scheduled to compete at ATP World Tour stops in Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai in the coming weeks, leads a strong field in Kaohsiung.  
"I'm happy to be here," said Monfils. "The wrist injury from the US Open is fine, but I just have to get on the court and try my best to win more matches. I'm in the right position right now to finish the year strong.
"There were many people watching today and the atmosphere is quite good. It’s also a great venue. I need a little time to adapt, but overall it’s been great. It's just great to be in Taiwan. I also love the food here. We don't have good Asian food in France, so it is nice to try some authentic food here."
In search of match play and confidence after struggling for consistency thus far in 2018, Monfils will face 2012 champ Go Soeda in the second round. Fellow former Top 10 player Ernests Gulbis and #NextGenATP stars Duckhee Lee, Jurij Rodionov and Soon-woo Kwon are other top contenders.
Monfils is bidding to become the fifth player to win ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour crowns this year, having opened his campaign with a title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha. The 32-year-old is making his first Challenger appearance since 2013, when he prevailed on home soil in Bordeaux. 

Boris Sobkin does not mince his words. The professor, a doctor of science, has always taken a systematic approach to his coaching, centred on discipline and hard work in productive practice sessions. It’s that intensity that first attracted the no-nonsense Muscovite to Mikhail Youzhny, who, as a 10-year-old, would play tennis each day with his brother, Andrei Youzhny, for six hours per day, with few breaks and no distractions.
“His technique was a disaster,” recalled Sobkin to ATPWorldTour.com, upon first setting his eyes on Youzhny at the Sparta Club, where he was the head coach. “But he was a hard worker.”
Three coaches had already come and gone by May 1993, writing off Youzhny as crazy, a player who could never make it. But Sobkin was intrigued by the 10-year-old.
“Could you imagine a 10-year-old kid playing, not shouting or running around, but just playing points?" said Sobkin. "I was really surprised. Because normally kids play for 1-2 hours, then they get distracted and play other games. He was absolutely different.”
So he reconstructed Youzhny's game stroke-by-stroke.
“He struck his forehand with a backhand grip and did not quite have the right coordination to serve,” said Sobkin, who began working with Youzhny in 1993. “It was terrible. I told him, he couldn’t play professionally if he did that. I had to teach him the forehand grip. I started to learn about his character, what he liked and didn’t like. It took some time, then we began to work on his technique and serve. He had no clue. I started to think about building a game for his character.”
But Youzhny, always a strong character, was a natural winner. “When he is playing, he could not imagine he could lose – even if he is 0-6, 5-5, 0/40,” admitted Sobkin. “He not only wanted to succeed, but he pulled out all of the stops to get better. He would practice 24 hours a day if needed, but I have always attempted to balance his own motivation.”
Youzhny confirmed to ATPWorldTour.com, “When I was a kid, I never wanted to lose the last point. I kept fighting – and have done so throughout my career – as anything could happen.”
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It was the kind of drive that led him to arguably his career-defining moment, the fifth-rubber comeback from two-sets-to-love down to beat France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in the 2002 Davis Cup final in Paris. Youzhny’s father, also Mikhail, would sadly miss the triumph as he passed away in September 2002, just two months prior to Russia’s first trophy in the competition.
Reflecting on his remarkable fifth-rubber comeback in November 2002, Youzhny learned to comprehend the enormity of his accomplishment for Russia’s historic moment. “I was 20 years old,” Youzhny told ATPWorldTour.com. “I understand now how big it was, but it was tough to explain the emotions at that age. It was a tough year as my father passed away two months before. I did not feel 100 per cent happy.
“I am asked about that match every day of my life. People remember the match, my emotions and what it meant for Russian people. Russia had a good tennis tradition, but had never won. People watched tennis for the first time, perhaps that’s why it’s remembered.
“Yet I lost to Roger Federer 17 times and I never beat him. There was a lot of good and great players – [Pete] Sampras, [Andre] Agassi, [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic – I played throughout my career. I know I played at a great time for the sport. I feel very lucky.”
When Youzhny was a teenager, Sobkin had told his father that he was preparing the youngster for the future, over any success as a junior.
Sobkin told ATPWorldTour.com, “I have followed all my life that I must prepare for the best, but fear for the worst. At the beginning I just saw the kid, a hard worker, a fanatic of tennis – like me. For me it was really good to do something together. I tried to prepare him for a professional career, not worry about junior results. I told his father I didn’t think he would have great results as a junior, but the work we’re doing is for years to come. He didn’t play too badly, he was in the Russian national teams, but his best result came when he was 16 1/2, when he reached the [1999] Australian junior final [l. to Kristian Pless].”
Sobkin paid attention to the details, taking one small step forward to improve. There was no time to be patient. He imagined for himself, Youzhny aged 14 or 15, calculating how he may play and beat some of the leading players of the 1990s – Sampras, Agassi, Jim Courier and others. It’s a philosophy Sobkin adhered to the whole of Youzhny’s 20-season professional career.
“I always prepared for every practice, writing things down on paper,” said Sobkin. “I had a system of using computers, so the practice and tournament schedule were organised – three months, a year, etc. Every practice we did something I thought was important. We didn’t practice just to hit balls. We always did something. This week, for example in his final tournament in St. Petersburg, we undertook how to finish points. I always had a main goal, then 1-2-3 smaller goals."
The 36-year-old Youzhny, who calls time on his career this week, won 10 ATP World Tour titles and was a member of the Top 10 in the ATP Rankings (peaking at No. 8 on 28 January 2008). He remained loyal to Sobkin throughout his career and their relationship changed from coach, father figure, partner and to it's finale stage of long-lasting friends.
Youzhny told ATPWorldTour.com, “Boris has been the person with me almost all my life, from 11 years old – the good, bad or disaster. He has been a terrific supporter, who always told me the way it was. He helped me the whole of my career – on and off the court.”
“Our relationship could not be the same all the time,” said Sobkin. “When I took him on aged 10, to being now the father of two children, I told him what to do, and he did as the teacher told, but he became a solider and me a general.
“After some years, I told him not to be a soldier, ‘You win or lose. You’re a general now’. We became like partners, he told me more and more – what he liked and didn’t like. We discussed everything as partners. I did my part of the job, he did his part of the job. If he prepared poorly, he would play badly. In the past few years, we became friends as well as partners. We will go together in the future."
Today, Youzhny and Sobkin, who also coaches Evgeny Donskoy, will move forward to the next phase of their lives. “We won’t finish our work or relationship,” Youzhny told ATPWorldTour.com. “We are one family. We will still go forward together with some projects. I hope the next chapter will be really interesting as well.
“I have begun working with a tennis school in Siberia, which had been opened in 2010. At the end of each season, I’ve attended 5-6 days to hit with the kids. There’s now a few players who are looking to turn professional. It’s interesting. I also work with a tennis academy in Australia.”
Having overcome injuries (back, elbow, thigh) during his 1,260-match career, Youzhny never used a protected ranking. It is the attention to training and looking after his body, that both Youzhny and Sobkin will next begin to focus on. “We have a project launching next month about junior injuries in sport, explaining to parents and coaches about how to be ready for professional sport, a healthy life,” said Youzhny.
The tour will miss the steely, intelligent Russian.

Having won seven matches from qualifying to lift his maiden tour-level title at the Moselle Open in 2017, defending champion Peter Gojowczyk needed every ounce of his talent to notch another victory at the French event on Tuesday.
The German recovered from a set down, landing 17 aces, to overcome three-time champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, making his return from knee injury, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes. Competing for the first time since the Open Sud de France in February, Tsonga delighted the home fans with strong serving to take a one-set lead, before Gojowczyk battled his way back into the match to secure victory.
The 29-year-old, who reached his third tour-level final in Geneva four months ago, saved all three break points he faced and withstood an equal 17 aces from his opponent to book his spot in the second round. Gojowczyk's route to a second title in Metz gets no easier, with top seed Kei Nishikori standing in the German's way of a place in the last eight. This will be the first tour-level meeting between Gojowczyk and Nishikori.
Fifth seed Nikoloz Basilashvili notched his fifth victory in seven matches at the French event, defeating qualifier Kenny De Schepper 6-2, 7-6(0). The Hamburg titlist, who reached the semi-finals in Metz last year, dropped only eight points on serve throughout the 64-minute encounter, cruising to victory with a dominant second-set tie-break performance.
Basilashvili will, once again, face French opposition in the second round after #NextGenATP star Ugo Humbert rallied from a set down to beat Bernard Tomic 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Humbert fired 17 aces and converted both break points he manufactured to progress after just over two hours.
German qualifier Matthias Bachinger set a second-round meeting with 2016 champion Lucas Pouille, following a 6-4, 6-4 win over #NextGenATP Spaniard Jaume Munar. Fellow qualifier Constant Lestienne also advanced, beating Jurgen Zopp 6-3, 7-5. Lestienne will face Richard Gasquet for a place in the quarter-finals.Did You Know?Seven of the past nine editions of the Moselle Open have been won by French players. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (3), Gilles Simon (2), Lucas Pouille and Gael Monfils have all lifted the trophy in front of their home crowd since 2009.

Damir Dzumhur made a winning return to the St. Petersburg Open on Tuesday, recovering from a slow start to defeat Lucas Miedler of Austria 7-5, 6-3.
Having captured his first tour-level title at the event in 2017, the sixth seed struggled in the opening stages of his title defence. Dzumhur trailed Miedler by a double break in the first set, but rallied well to extend his unbeaten streak in the Russian city to six matches.
The defending champion converted five of nine break-point opportunities and won 70 per cent of first-serve points to advance after 84 minutes. St. Petersburg debutant Miedler was seeking his first ATP World Tour victory after straight-sets wins over Viktor Troicki and Uladzimir Ignatik in qualifying.
Dzumhur, who achieved a career-high No. 23 ATP Ranking on 2 July, will meet Ilya Ivashka or Guido Pella for a spot in the quarter-finals. The 26-year-old is yet to meet either potential opponent at tour-level.
Jan-Lennard Struff also enjoyed further success in St. Petersburg, beating #NextGenATP Russian Andrey Rublev 6-4, 7-6(6). The 2017 semi-finalist notched his fourth win in six matches at the event after 68 minutes, landing 18 aces in a strong serving performance.
Struff did not face a single break point throughout the first-round encounter, winning 88 per cent of points behind his first serve. The World No. 50 will face top seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.
Gstaad champion Matteo Berrettini needed just under two hours to overcome 2013 finalist Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-3. The 22-year-old converted his only break point of the match in the decider to progress, improving to 17-15 at tour-level this season. The Italian awaits #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov or Adrian Menendez-Maceiras in the second round.

Former and current ATP World Tour players helped NBA star Dirk Nowitzki raise money for his self-named foundation over the weekend. Nowitzki, who plays for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, hosted the third edition of the Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic on Saturday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Former greats Andy Roddick, Tommy Haas, Taylor Dent and Mark Knowles, along with current player Mitchell Krueger, who recently qualified for the US Open, helped Nowitzki, along with teammates Devin Harris and Dwight Powell and former Maverick Monta Ellis, raise money for the Nowitzki foundation's children charities. Former ATP pros David Martin and Andrew Painter along with pro wakeboarder Steel Lafferty also participated in the event.
Former World No. 1 Roddick, who lives about 315 kilometres south in Austin, played in the event for the third time and was happy to help Nowitzki, who played tennis as a boy growing up in Germany but eventually focused on basketball and is set to begin his 21st season with the Mavericks.
“He’s been so generous with my foundation down in Austin in giving an auction item and making people feel really special being his guest at a Mavs game,” Roddick said. “This is a way that I can try to repay his generosity in what he’s doing in leading the way here in Dallas.
“I really hope Dallas realises what they have with him. Culture gets set from the top, and he’s one of the icons of Dallas sports.”
Rumour has it that Nowitzki and fellow German Haas, who announced his retirement in March in Indian Wells, played each other back in the day, during a 12-and-under or 14-and-under competition.
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“I don’t remember that, unfortunately, but it’ll be great if somebody can find actually a picture if it exists somewhere of both of us being out there on the court,” Haas said. “We’re both the same age, we both turned 40 this year. He’s still doing it, I just recently retired on tour, so there’s a lot of similarities here and there. But all respect goes to him on and off the court.”
Haas, the BNP Paribas Open tournament director, said it's a privilege to assist his countryman.
“Obviously it’s great to see what Dirk has done on and off the court, and obviously I love following his career,” Haas said. “One of the greatest players of all-time coming from Germany, it’s pretty incredible.
“So I’m very happy and honoured to know him as a friend and to be invited back here and seeing all the great work he’s doing also off the court helping families, helping kids. It’s fun to see some familiar faces here playing a little tennis for a good cause. How can you say ‘no’ to that?”
Dent, who reached No. 21 in the ATP Rankings, recently moved to nearby Keller and was also honoured to participate in the event.
“It’s always fun to get out here and compete and have a good time for such a great cause,” he said. “Dirk and [wife] Jessica [Olsson], I got to see their video last night and just a glimpse of what they do.
“They’re really pouring their hearts and souls back into the communities, so it’s an honour for me to be a part of it. You can tell with his personality he takes a lot of grief from everybody, but takes it so well. He really seems like a very humble and a very genuine person.”
Knowles and partner Camelia Georgiana Marta beat Krueger and Olsson 10-5 in the doubles finals. Marta was named the No. 1 amateur player and Krueger the top celebrity player.
“The turnout was great,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “Everybody is having fun, a lot of celebs flew in town again to support, so we’re excited.”