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Ten years ago today, on 18 August 2008, Rafael Nadal first rose to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. The Spaniard had long become accustomed to playing a waiting game, in stark contrast to his on-court dynamism and tenacity. For 160 consecutive weeks, a record, he had sat in second position, denied a place at the summit of men’s professional tennis by Roger Federer, the No. 1 for a record 237 straight weeks.
In the 1,119 days between Nadal first rising to No. 2 on 25 July 2005 and finally becoming the 24th player to rank World No. 1, since the advent of the ATP Rankings in August 1973, the then 22-year-old had compiled a 220-37 match record and lifted 22 titles. He went 20-2, with three titles in 2005; 59-12 and five titles in 2006; 70-15 and six titles in 2007 and from 1 January to 18 August 2018 he compiled a 71-8 record with 8 titles.
“I had three-and-a-half good years – 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008,” said Nadal. “I was winning a lot of points every year, but there was a player that was winning more than me in Roger. That year, Novak [Djokovic] also started playing well, so for me he was another tough rival. I began questioning whether I would ever be No. 1, so it was important for me to achieve it. I believed I deserved it after playing at a high level for many weeks and it means a lot to me.”
To break Federer’s tight hold on No. 1, which had begun when the Swiss first achieved the ranking on 4 February 2004, Nadal had gone on a four-month tear, compiling a 47-2 record (including a 32-match winning streak across three different surfaces – clay, grass and hard courts). In that period between 21 April to 17 August 2005, Nadal won eight titles from 10 tournaments — including two Grand Slam championships at Roland Garros and Wimbledon (d. Federer both times), the Beijing Olympics gold medal (d. Gonzalez), three ATP World Tour Masters 1000s in Monte-Carlo (d. Federer), Hamburg (d. Federer) and Toronto (d. Kiefer), one 500-level at Barcelona (d. Ferrer) and one 250 at Queen’s Club in London (d. Djokovic).
Today, he remains at No. 1, albeit in his seventh different stint (Nadal and Federer have already moved between No. 1 and No. 2 on six occasions this year). With a 40-3 record and five trophies in 2018, Nadal has amassed 80 crowns in an illustrious career — including 17 Grand Slam championships and a record 33 Masters 1000 crowns — and with a 2,495 points gap over second-placed 21-year-old Alexander Zverev and 2,750 points ahead of Federer in the 2018 ATP Race To London, the legendary Spaniard is firmly in contention to finish the year-end No. 1 for a fifth time (2008, 2010, 2013, 2017). "To finish the year as World No. 1 is different, more important," said Nadal. "The first time in 2008 was amazing, but it was more emotional and special to me in 2013 after overcoming problems with my knees."NADAL'S RECORD AT NO. 1 IN ATP RANKINGS
Stint At No. 1WeeksTitles/FinalsWin-Loss Record
1) 17 August 2008-5 July 2009
46
5/2
56-8
2) 7 June 2010-3 July 2011
56
6/6
84-14
3) 7 October 2013-6 July 2014
39
4/4
54-11
4) 21 August 2017-18 February 2018
26
2/1
22-3
5) 2 April-13 May 2018
6
2/0
12-0
6) 21 May-17 June 2018
4
1/0
7-0
7) 25 June 2018-present
8
1/0
10-1
Totals18521/13247-37 (.867)
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What a year it's been for Aussie tennis on the ATP Challenger Tour. Not only does the nation have a tour-leading 11 titles, including nine different winners on the circuit, but Australia has also seen a stunning surge among its #NextGenATP contingent. 
In February, Marc Polmans captured his maiden title on home soil in Launceston. Then, in June, 19-year-old Alex de Minaur notched his first crown on the grass of Nottingham. And on Sunday, the country welcomed its youngest winner since 2013 (Kyrgios) when Alexei Popyrin lifted the trophy in Jinan, China.
Popyrin, who turned 19 less than two weeks ago, was the marathon man all week in the Chinese city. He stormed through qualifying to reach the main draw, where he reeled off four three-set wins in a row to lift the trophy. He would rally past British veteran James Ward 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the championship.
The Sydney native's success does not come out of nowhere, having claimed the junior title at Roland Garros last year. He also qualified for his first ATP World Tour event to kick off the 2018 season at the Sydney International, stunning Nicolas Mahut from a set down to reach the main draw. 
Popyrin, who rockets 99 spots to a career-high No. 211 in the ATP Rankings, is also up 10 positions to 19th in the ATP Race To Milan.
Alexei, congrats on winning your first Challenger title. Talk about how it feels.
It feels great. I finally got over that step. I've been putting in the hard work over the past few months. And to come through qualies and win a few more matches, hopefully it's a sign of better things to come.To come through qualifying and win a title is never easy. How did you stay mentally focused all week?
Just keeping the same routine, playing my matches and then cooling down. I stayed in the hotel and didn't exert too much energy on unnecessary things. I was focused throughout the matches and finished them pretty quickly in qualies.Your last four wins went the distance. How did you stay so clutch in the big moments?
I would just say it was a pretty good week for me. I have a good record in three sets, and it's when I play in the third set that I step my game up and my serve too. I try to physically outlast my opponent and raise my intensity.You have been competing in Challengers for less than a year. Did you expect success to come so quickly?
I was hoping for success to come this quickly and I was expecting it. I know I have the game to compete with all players on the Challenger circuit and hopefully the ATP level too. I am pretty confident I can go the distance here. And I hope next year the ATP World Tour follows.What are the biggest things you've learned so far on the ATP Challenger Tour? 
The competition is really tough. I would say that some of the Challenger players are very underrated. They are very good and anybody can beat anybody on a good day. But I've just learned to play my game, stay confident and stay focused during the match. Hopefully good things come.How inspired are you by the success of Alex de Minaur? You are a similar age. Does his success push you to do better?
I've known Alex since I was a junior, around 12 years old. That was the first time we've met. Since then, we've been pushing each other to do bigger and better things. He's been pushing me and hopefully I'm pushing him. He's been a good friend off the court and we get along really well. Hopefully I can follow in his footsteps next year.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for getting you to this milestone in your career? And which players do you look up to?
I'd like to thank Patrick Mouratoglou and the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy. They've helped me so much over the past two years. They've formed 'Team M' with Stefanos Tsitsipas, Thanasi Kokkinakis and me, and it's been a great addition to my career. 
As for players, I try to base my game around Juan Martin del Potro. Big forehand and big serve. But I try to be special on court and have my own way of playing.From outside the Top 600 to start the year, you are now up to No. 211. Did you set any goals at the start of the year and what are they now?
At the start of the year, my goal was to be in qualies of the US Open. Unfortunately, I was one week too late in winning the Challenger. But, I'd say I've completed my goal for the year and my goal for the rest of the season is to make the Top 150 and push towards the Top 100.
For those of us who don't know much about you, tell us something. What do you enjoy doing off the court? Do you have any passions outside of tennis?
I love any sport in general, but mostly soccer and basketball. Whenever I get the chance, I'll watch the English Premier League. The season just started. And I like to play PlayStation and hang out with friends. Just the normal teenager stuff. 
  

David Goffin already led by a set and a break against Juan Martin del Potro, but the Belgian wasn't ready to hop into celebration mode just yet. At 1-1 in the second set, Goffin broke with a backhand return winner but he didn't let out a shout; instead Goffin, very businessman-like, calmly walked to his chair for the changeover.
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The 11th seed applied that focus all match to beat the World No. 3 7-6(5), 7-6(4) and reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final of the season and fourth of his career.
Goffin extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Del Potro to 3-1 by reaching his fourth semi-final of the year and his first since April (Montpellier, Rotterdam, Barcelona).
Goffin lost his opener in three of his past four tournaments, but he started to turn it around at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., last month, reaching the quarter-finals before losing Greece's #NextGenATP star Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Hard courts have been good to Goffin over the years. He has won almost 63 per cent of his matches on the surface (147/234), his second best surface after clay.
As much as possible, Goffin tried to turn his quarter-final against Del Potro into a baseline sprint, keeping Del Potro moving from side to side and opening up the court well by targetting the Argentine's backhand and then exposing the open forehand side.
Goffin was also keen on attacking the Argentine. He claimed the opener with a stick backhand volley, his ninth successful trip to the net of the set (12/14 for the match).
Del Potro broke back in the second set and had three set points at 5-4 with Goffin serving, but Goffin erased them all and the Belgian came back once more in the tie-break, winning seven of the final eight points to advance. It was the second match of the day for both players. Goffin beat Kevin Anderson in straight sets earlier Friday, but Del Potro needed three sets to beat Aussie Nick Kyrgios.
Goffin will next meet Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka. Goffin beat Federer the last time they played to reach the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals title match, but Federer leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 6-1. Wawrinka has beaten Goffin three of the four times they've played.

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They are the anomalies; the exceptions, not the rules; the stories that stand out. Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau, Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan and Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah have all played doubles together on the ATP World Tour for at least the past five years, and even longer for the Bryans – since 1998 – and Cabal/Farah – since 2011.
Their counterparts have switched partners over the years, seeking new combinations to help them reach the top of the ATP Doubles Rankings. But the trio of teams have chosen the opposite route – one of stability, consistency and knowing the person by your side in Indian Wells in March will also be with you in Paris in November.
“A lot of times teams lose and the grass is always greener. You never point the finger at yourself, and you're always looking for a better player,” Mike Bryan told ATPWorldTour.com. “We're twins. We've been together since day 1, 40 years... We know we're sticking together.”
The Bryans, like the other teams, have also experienced the success that can come with such commitment: At the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April, they won their 38th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
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Commitment like that, though, isn't limited to partners linked by blood. Rojer/Tecau, just like the American twins, have been dedicated since day one.
“Building a team takes time. You don't get it in two, three weeks,” Tecau told ATPWorldTour.com. “For us it took a few months until we got it going and we got some titles, and we started doing well in the big tournaments... We were putting in the work, so we knew that it was going to come.”
He and Rojer agreed to work together towards the end of 2013. Tecau had finished a one-year stint with Max Mirnyi; Rojer was coming off a two-year partnership with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan.
Both were keen on something more long-term. “We didn't want to be one of these teams that come in, and it doesn't work out and bail on the whole thing,” Rojer told ATPWorldTour.com.
But despite their past success, they struggled early. They made the long trip over to Australia, played four matches and won just one.
Little by little, though, they perfected their plays, and the titles – eight to be precise – followed in the first 12 months. In year two, Rojer/Tecau won Rotterdam, Wimbledon and the Nitto ATP Finals.
Rojer, however, is the first to point out that it hasn't been all smiles and hugs since they started hoisting trophies. Their different personalities – Rojer is a talker; Tecau more quiet – have clashed, and they've left the court sulking more than once.Watch Uncovered: Rojer/Tecau Behind The Scenes
Twenty months after their 2015 Nitto ATP Finals title, from January 2016 to August 2017, Rojer/Tecau didn't win a Slam and won only one Masters 1000 title (2016 Madrid). But, at the 2017 US Open, they won their second Grand Slam title together.
“We didn't have the year that we wanted in terms of Slams and Masters [1000s]. But because we stuck together and we kept believing in the team, kept working, that's why we won in New York,” Tecau said.
Injuries, along with different personalities, can also derail teams. One player sits out while the other might be playing – and winning – with someone else. But Cabal/Farah have navigated that – and every other obstacle – together.
Last year, Farah missed two months, and Cabal, with Treat Huey, won the Abierto Mexicano de Tenis Mifel presentado por Cinemex in Los Cabos. But the idea of switching partners has never come up for the Colombians, who met when they were about 5 years old, grew up together and have played on tour together for seven years.Watch Uncovered: Cabal/Farah Behind The Scenes
“It's just not in our mind; we're not wired that way,” Farah told ATPWorldTour.com. “When defeats come, we just work on whatever's going wrong and why we're losing to get better and win again.”
The two reached their maiden Grand Slam final in January at the Australian Open and in May, they won their first Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.
All three teams bemoan the frequent changes in doubles teams. They wish more squads would be like them: Focus on two, three years from now rather than staring at the past few weeks of results. Those new partnerships then might enjoy the success that can come with committing to one team.
“When we started the partnership it was like, 'Let's play together and get really good at this. Let's see how we can get ourselves to be the best team',” Tecau said.
“We didn't give ourselves a month, six months, a year – it was unlimited. And that's what we've been doing since. There's no Plan B. This is the team, and we're working to get better, all the time.”

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Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat Americans Sam Querrey and Rajeev Ram 6-3, 6-3 on Friday to reach the Western & Southern Open quarter-finals for the fifth consecutive year.
The sixth seeds, who advanced to the final at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event two years ago, have not taken long to get back on track after Tecau missed nearly four months due to injury. This is just their second tournament since the Romanian’s return, and they broke Querrey/Ram four times to move on after 56 minutes.
Rojer and Tecau will next face Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez, who beat Wimbledon champions Mike Bryan and Jack Sock in 52 minutes on Wednesday. The Spaniards have won three tour-level titles together, including one in Barcelona earlier this year.
Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya, the fourth-placed team in the ATP Doubles Race To London, upset top seeds Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 7-6(3), 6-2. Marach and Pavic are the only team to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
Mektic and Peya, who became partners this season, have now beaten Marach and Pavic in both of their FedEx ATP Head2Head matches this year, also defeating them in straight sets in Acapulco. The Croatian-Austrian duo next faces seventh seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
In the only other doubles match on Friday, third seeds and Toronto champions Henri Kontinen and John Peers saved one match point to beat Ivan Dodig and Robin Haase 4-6, 7-6(7), 12-10. They advance to a quarter-final clash against Philipp Kohlschreiber and Fernando Verdasco.

They call it a ‘duck shot’. A term that hunters use when referring to the medium-heavy lead shot used for shooting water fowl.  A single shot will not kill you, but absorb a few at once and before you know it you are bleeding out. That is what it is like playing against South Korea’s Duckhee Lee. 
Lee does not possess the heavy artillery to take you down with a single stroke, but don’t let him pull the trigger on both barrels or you will be bending over like an overweight hiker in the Himalayas.  In many ways, the 20-year-old reminds me of a boxer who wins by throwing disciplined combination punches of jabs, body shots and crosses while depending on good footwork to get out of trouble. 
By now, everyone knows Lee is hearing impaired, but what still surprises them is how he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. While one of his five senses might be lacking, Lee compensates with the most extraordinary innate ability to anticipate the direction of an opponent’s shot before it is struck. 
Last year around this time, the Korean held an ATP Ranking of No. 160. It seemed as if he was on the fast track to stardom. But Lee has slipped a bit since then and as every player knows, defending results without the help of a big weapon is very hard. Tennis parents and fans often do not understand why. They tend to look at the rankings as an absolute indicator of the winners and losers. Thankfully, tennis is not played on paper.
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When a player is climbing the ladder and winning matches with delayed pressure, where the ball bounces always seem to be in his favor. Because that is what tennis is, a game of inches. But the next year, said player is a marked man and the pressure to at least maintain their ATP Ranking is turned up to high heat. And like crabs in a pot of boiling water, lower ranked players take aim and try their best to pull him down. Without a big serve or forehand to get out of trouble, long points get tricky. Very soon the losses pile up and before a man realizes it, he has lost his confidence and starts doubting the very strategy that made him so good the year before.    
Here in Gwangju, Korea, locals say it is the hottest summer in 100 years. That might be the reason for all the empty cases of Cass beer bottles and Jinro soju stacked up high in the back alleys. There is hot and there is very hot. And then there is what we have this week; eye squinting, scorched earth, gut-check hot that makes a man question how bad he wants to grind out a long rally. This week, players have shown a tendency to check out down the line or try ill-advised drop shots to shorten the points. Heat is the great equalizer of tennis. This week, they have opened more bags of ice than cans of tennis balls and ATP Supervisor Greg Wojcik had to change the daily start time for each match till the afternoon to avoid the dangerous noon sun. View Draw
There are some fine tennis players here who have good power and fluid strokes, and then there are some great competitors who win more matches with their head, heart and legs than a first serve. Which brings me to the third seed, Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. Last year, the 21-year-old Kazakh held an impressive ATP Ranking of No. 95. Today, he sits at No. 239. Standing at 6’5”, he has a rocket of a serve. 
As we witnessed last week at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Chengdu, he is capable of serving 22 aces in a match. But in the same match, he also served 21 double faults. On Wednesday, Bublik managed to scratch out a second-round win against Benjamin Lock of Zimbabwe. 
Photo Credit: Jean-Philippe Fleurian
This week is special for Lock, as he got his first win in the main draw at an ATP Challenger Tour event against Yunseong Chung of Korea. Watching Lock practice and play, I have no doubt that more wins are soon to follow. At 6’6”, Lock stands ramrod straight and with a shock of blonde hair that will make you do a double take. Big Ben looks you straight in the eyes, says ‘thank you’ and ‘yes, sir’ and he doesn’t fidget with his phone or blow off serious topics. His grandparents played competitive tennis and so did his parents. 
Like Byron Black and Wayne Black, they also had a grass court at their family owned farm outside of Harare. But unlike the Black family, when the government changed and land reform policies took effect, the Lock family lost it all. Two years ago, I was in Harare and visited the Locks at their home in the suburbs. Over beers and barbeque, I listened to Benjamin’s father tell the story. Mr. Lock has lived a life of have and have not, but he does not live in the past. Full credit to Benjamin, his brother Courtney John and the entire Lock family for maintaining a rugged determination to play professional tennis under very tough conditions. Like life, nobody said tennis was fair and you don’t get those precious ATP Ranking points without working hard. You got to earn them the hard way and that is something that the Lock family understands.  

Novak Djokovic overcame trouble throughout his quarter-final to remain perfect against Milos Raonic on Friday and move within a match of his sixth Western & Southern Open final.
The five-time Cincinnati finalist beat Raonic 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in his second match of the day because of rain on Thursday. Earlier, Djokovic finished off his comeback against fifth seed Grigor Dimitrov, advancing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. The third-round match resumed at 2-1 in the third set.
Djokovic improved to 9-0 against Raonic in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, although the Serbian's consecutive sets streak against Raonic was snapped at 17 when the Canadian evened the quarter-final by claiming the second set.
That moment could have easily been the end of the match in favour of Raonic. He served for the first set at 5-4, but landed only one first serve and double faulted twice, including on break point, and Djokovic won the next two games for the set.
The Canadian was more than holding his own from the baseline, troubling Djokovic's net approaches with his backhand slice. As customary, he was delivering 140 mph-bombs with his serve. Djokovic, who last beat Raonic at the 2016 Nitto ATP Finals, was giving the World No. 29 a different look, standing much farther back than usual.
And it appeared that would pay dividends when Raonic broke for a 2-1 lead in the decider. But after saving three break points — with an overhead and two massive serves — in the next game, Djokovic broke back. And with a 4-3 lead, the Serbian delivered a deep backhand return off a second serve, which Raonic returned into the net with an inside-in forehand. Djokovic then overcame a 0/30 deficit to close out the match.
Djokovic has won the other eight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. With two more wins, he can become the first player to win the career 'Golden Masters'.
The 31-year-old will next meet Marin Cilic, who beat Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6(7), 6-4 to win his ninth consecutive match in Cincinnati. Cilic is playing at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event for the first time since winning the event in 2016 for his first Masters 1000 title. Djokovic, the 69-time tour-level titlist, leads Cilic 14-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.Did You Know?Entering the match, Raonic had lost just eight first-serve points combined in three matches. On Friday evening, Djokovic won 15 first-return points against the big-serving Canadian.

Marin Cilic is quietly advancing through the draw at the Western & Southern Open, where he won his lone ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title two years ago.
After beating Toronto semi-finalist Karen Khachanov earlier Friday, Cilic returned to defeat 13th seed Pablo Carreno Busta 7-6(7), 6-4 in one hour, 44 minutes.
This year’s Fever-Tree Championships winner is rounding into some of his best form, which is a scary sign for the field. The 2014 US Open champion has won 14 of his 18 tour-level titles on hard courts, and his aggressive, baseline-hugging game presents an obstacle for any opponent on this surface. The seventh seed will next face five-time finalist Novak Djokovic or Canadian Milos Raonic. Djokovic leads Cilic 14-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, while the Croat owns a 2-1 advantage against Raonic.
It appeared Cilic let slip a golden opportunity to take the first set when he had a 6/3 lead in the tie-break, dropping four consecutive points as he tightened up on the forehand wing. But Carreno Busta missed a crosscourt forehand long on his lone set point, and Cilic took full advantage.
The Monte-Carlo resident did well to stay on top of the baseline in the second set, forcing the Spaniard to beat him from unfavourable positions on the court. And after earning his third break of the match at 3-3, he dominated on serve, holding to 15 in his next two service games to close out the victory.
Carreno Busta was a formidable hard-court opponent for Cilic, reaching the semi-finals at last year's US Open while also advancing to the last four this season at the Miami Open presented by Itau.Did You Know?
Cilic has now won nine consecutive matches in Cincinnati. The 2016 champion missed the event last year due to an abductor injury.

It might be Roger Federer’s first tournament since Wimbledon, but the Swiss certainly isn’t showing it with his tennis.
The seven-time champion advanced to the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-1, 7-6(6) victory against Argentine Leonardo Mayer on Friday afternoon, and he will play compatriot Stan Wawrinka later in the evening. 
"It’s been a while since I’ve played two matches in one day. Apparently it was 2004. I did play a lot of practice twice a day so if I won’t be ready for today, I’ll never be ready," Federer told ESPN on court after the match. "I’m excited. Playing against Stan obviously is a treat. Ten years ago and two days ago we won the Olympic gold together and we’re still playing... I'm very excited to play against him and it’s great for him, I’m happy to see him back again."
Federer, who went just 1-4 in his first four appearances in Cincinnati, has now won 43 of 47 matches here since. He missed the tournament in 2016 (left knee) and 2017 (back), but his victory against the World No. 50 extends his winning streak in Ohio to 12 matches and 15 sets in a row.
The 37-year-old lost just four first-serve points in his triumph, and did not face a break point. Mayer played well in the second set, giving himself an opportunity to force a decider for the second time in three matches against the World No. 2, but Federer extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead in their series to 3-0. He is not concerned about having to play a second match later Friday.
"We’re used to waiting. We came through the juniors where you played two, three matches and it rains and it stops and it rains again, so we’re used to it," Federer said. "I’m happy we got some play in already today and excited that the tournament is up and running again."
Federer will next face compatriot Wawrinka, who is playing his best tennis since undergoing two left knee surgeries last year. The former World No. 3 beat Hungarian Marton Fucsovics 6-4, 6-3 in one hour, 23 minutes.
Wawrinka was just 8-12 in 2018 entering the tournament, but he has shown that he is moving closer to his best form with impressive wins over 12th seed Diego Schwartzman, Japanese star Kei Nishikori and now Fucsovics, who tested him in a marathon three-setter last week in Toronto.
The Swiss is currently No. 151 in the ATP Rankings, but since he did not compete after Wimbledon in 2017, he has no points to defend for the rest of the season. A trip to the quarter-finals guarantees him at least 180 points, which is double the most points he has pocketed at any other tournament this campaign.
Federer leads Wawrinka 20-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, defeating his compatriot in straight sets in the 2012 Cincinnati semi-finals. All three of Wawrinka’s victories in their rivalry have come on outdoor clay.

WATCH—Stories of the Open Era - Tennis in Media:
Flushing Meadows is tennis’ largest stage, and over the last 50 years, it has been the site of some of the sport’s greatest dramas. This week, we counted down the 10 most memorable US Open matches of the Open Era. To see the rest of the countdown, click here.
In August 1990, Jimmy Connors left the grounds of the U.S. Open without having played a match, something that had never happened in the 20 years since he had first entered the tournament. But there was no way around it this time: The five-time champ, who at 37 was well into his sunset years, was suffering from a wrist injury that wouldn’t let up. Jimbo, of course, wasn’t quite ready to sail off into that sunset just yet. According to Connors’ biographer, Joel Drucker, as he rode out of the National Tennis Center in a taxi, Connors turned back to look at Louis Armstrong Stadium and told the crew of cronies that surrounded him, “If I ever get back there, that place is going to rock and roll.”
By August of ’91, “if” had turned to “when.” Connors, despite being one year closer to 40, had reached the third round at the French Open and Wimbledon, and had been serenaded off the court by packed houses in both places. To him, though, those were just warm-up acts before the main event. “I had only one goal in mind: New York,” Connors said. Since winning the inaugural Open at Flushing Meadows in 1978, the Big Apple had been “my stage and the crowd my people.” In ’91, he believed a deep run there was still possible. “If I can win a match or two,” he told himself as he trained and carbo-loaded like a man half his age, “I know the crowd will do the rest for me.”
Two sets into his opening match at the ’91 Open, all of his work seemed to have gone for nought. The truth was out: Even James Scott Connors, tennis’s ultimate warrior, was no match for father time. That night a packed crowd had arrived on time, but Connors’ game hadn’t. Uncharacteristically nervous, he went down two quick sets and a break in the third to Patrick McEnroe. Rather than serenading him off, the fans in the corporate boxes were bolting early; even Jimbo’s old friends Jose Luis Clerc and Ilie Nastase deserted him.
When Nastase arrived home at 1:00 in the morning, he said to his wife, “What a shame it was about Jimmy.”
“About what?” she asked. “Look at the TV. He’s serving for the match right now.”
How did Jimbo turn it around? As he said, this was his house. All it took was one hold of serve, and the crowd, desperate for any kind of positive energy from their man, went berserk.
“Now I can’t miss,” Connors remembered. “The fans are giving me everything they have, and they’re demanding everything I have. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I doubt I ever will again.”
He had been right: The Open audience, his audience, had brought him through. But he was wrong to doubt that he would ever experience anything like that again. Connors was just getting started on the ride of his life. His magical, sentimental, finger-pointing final hurrah wouldn’t end until the semifinals.
It was a run that would be capped by what has since become the all-time piece of rain-delay filler in U.S. Open broadcast history: His five-set, fourth-round win over Aaron Krickstein. The match was played on Jimbo’s 39th birthday, in front of a capacity crowd and millions more on TV over Labor Day weekend. Tennis has never thrown a party quite like it.
There’s a reason that, nearly 30 years later, broadcasters can’t let go of Connors-Krickstein. From start to finish, Jimbo revved up the crowd—“the intensity of noise in the stadium was overwhelming,” he said—while battling tooth and nail with his younger opponent and chair umpire David Littlefield, who didn’t seem to get the memo that this was supposed to be Jimbo’s day.
The five sets seesawed with Connors’s energy levels. After barely hanging on to win a second-set tiebreaker 10-8, he gave away the third 6-1, before roaring back to take the fourth. Again, as in the McEnroe match, it appeared that Connors had come to the end of his road when he went down 2-5 in the fifth. Again, he wasn’t ready to say good-bye.
“They’re demanding more drama,” Connors said, “and I’m going to give it to them.”
Connors was as good as his word. Attacking relentlessly—and taking his sweet time toweling off between points—he forced a final-set tiebreaker. Just before it began, he sat down in the corner of Armstrong Stadium and barked into the CBS camera that was stationed there. He had a message for his old friend Vitas Gerulaitis, who was in the broadcast booth that day.
“This is what they paid for. This is what they want,” an exhausted Connors said. Then, as his crowd rose one more time, he walked slowly toward the baseline, milking the moment for all it was worth.
And that’s one more reason that tennis can’t let go of this match. The crowd that day was rising for Connors, but it was also rising for the now-bygone era that he represented, the wild west days of the 1970s and early 80s, when so many of these fans were drawn to the sport’s larger-than-life personalities. No one had represented that era as thoroughly as Connors, the first full-fledged product of the professional game. He had played it for love and money, and always given the game’s fans full value for their dollar. On this day, as he predicted, he had made the U.S. Open rock and roll again.
Now, his shoulders a little slumped but his spirit unbowed, he would give them what they wanted one more time.

This Week on Tennis Channel PLUS: ATP/WTA Cincinnati
Tennis Channel PLUS is your home for the Western & Southern Open. Watch every match live from 8 courts only on Tennis Channel PLUS.

Rain nor defending champion Grigor Dimitrov were able to stop Novak Djokovic from continuing his pursuit of a first Western & Southern Open title.
The former World No. 1 returned to the court Friday with a break lead in the third set after rain halted play Thursday evening, maintaining that advantage to defeat the Bulgarian 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Djokovic continues his push for the one ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title he has not yet won, despite reaching the final five times in Cincinnati. He now owns 29 victories at the event, passing former World No.1 Lleyton Hewitt for the most at the tournament in the Open Era without lifting the trophy.
The Serbian has been victorious in 24 of his past 28 matches after a 6-6 start to the 2018 campaign. But for a moment on Thursday, it appeared that Djokovic would be leaving Cincinnati early, trailing Dimitrov by a set and a break, with little rhythm from the baseline. The Serbian did not let the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion run away with the match, though, digging in and significantly cutting down his number of unforced errors, using his backhand down the line to great effect.
Dimitrov was trying to build off the momentum of a quarter-final showing at the Rogers Cup, and was also pursuing his third Top 10 victory of the season.
Marin Cilic, who triumphed in Cincinnati two years ago, also survived a rain-delayed three-setter on Friday afternoon. The Croatian battled past Toronto semi-finalist Karen Khachanov 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4 after two hours, 41 minutes over two days. 
The seventh seed has now won eight consecutive matches at this event after missing last year's tournament due to an abductor injury. This will be his third quarter-final in Ohio, also reaching the last eight in 2012 before losing to Djokovic. While he could not convert on his first six break points against Khachanov, Cilic took advantage of his lone opportunity in the decider to advance to a meeting against 13th seed Pablo Carreno Busta. 
The Spaniard was one of only two players (also Raonic) who completed their third-round match on Thursday. Cilic leads the pair's FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-0, dropping just one of their previous eight sets.

WATCH—Stories of the Open Era - Navratilova/Evert rivalry: 
Flushing Meadows is tennis’ largest stage, and over the last 50 years, it has been the site of some of the sport’s greatest dramas. This week, we'll count down the 10 most memorable US Open matches of the Open Era. To follow the countdown, click here.
“Super Saturday” may not sound like a very specific term, but say the words to any tennis fan and he or she will know exactly what (very long) day you’re talking about.
The date was September 8, 1984, the second Saturday of that year’s U.S. Open. The three matches played inside Louis Armstrong Stadium—the women’s final was sandwiched between the two men’s semis—would mark one of the pinnacles of the 1970s-’80s golden era of tennis. Ivan Lendl began the proceedings by fending off 19-year-old Pat Cash in a five-set thriller; nearly 12 hours later, John McEnroe ended them by doing the same to Jimmy Connors in another five-setter.
As memorable as those contests were, though, the day’s peak—and what really made it Super—was the match in between them. Evert and Navratilova were facing off for the 61st time, and they stood at 30 wins apiece. At one stage, Navratilova had trailed in their head to head 5-20, but her victories over Evert in the French Open and Wimbledon finals earlier that summer had been her 11th and 12th straight against her rival, and had left them all even. Martina sounded as if she was happy with a tie.
“Can you imagine, 30 to 30?” Navratilova said at Wimbledon. “I wish we could just quit right now and never play each other again, because it’s not right for one of us to say we’re better.”
“Does that mean she’s retiring?” Evert responded, with a hopeful laugh.
Evert could only dream; Navratilova wasn’t going anywhere. Coming into the US Open final, she had won the last five majors, and was riding a 54-match win streak, which just happened to be one shy of Evert’s Open era record of 55. Yet through the summer, Evert felt a glimmer of hope that she could turn the tables back around on Navratilova. After bottoming out with a 6-3, 6-1 loss in the final at Roland Garros, on her beloved red clay, Evert had jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the Wimbledon final, before losing 7-6 (5), 6-2.
“This is the form I’ve been looking for all year, and it hasn’t been there, but it’s here now,” Evert said as she left London.
By the time Evert reached the final at Flushing Meadows two months later, the New York crowd sensed that a breakthrough was possible. After so many defeats to Navratilova, the 29-year-old Floridian and six-time Open champion was the sentimental favorite. From the start, the audience’s support for Evert was, as she put it, “deafening.”
She responded with an inspired first set, keeping her returns and passes low, and keeping the hard-charging Navratilova from knocking off easy volleys. When Evert won it 6-4, the audience let out a roar that was “louder than anything I had ever experienced in my life,” she said. The Ice Queen was so fired up that she even attempted a fist-pump—or a fist-clench, anyway—on her way to the sideline.
As for Navratilova, she was playing into the biggest headwind of her life. Three years earlier, as a newly naturalized U.S. citizen, she had received a standing ovation after her heartbreaking loss to Tracy Austin in the Open final. Now the New York crowd had done a 180; as the match progressed and Navratilova crept back into it, fans began to cheer her errors and double faults.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” Navratilova said afterward. “All those people wanting me to lose.”
But like the seemingly unbeatable champion she had become, Navratilova would turn her hardest moment into one of her most hard-earned wins. At the same time, Evert, despite all of her surface optimism, would show that she wasn’t ready to beat Martina yet. Late in the second set, Evert had chances to break a struggling Navratilova, but she missed two shots—a backhand pass and a backhand return of a second serve—that she would normally have made in her sleep. Instead, it was Navratilova who broke at love in the third game of the final set, and who closed out two of her own service games down the stretch with aces.
For Evert, a day of soaring hopes ended in crushing bitterness. Trying to win the Open, and at the same time snaps her losing streak to Navratilova, had proved to be too much.
“It inhibited me so badly that when it came to the big points, I was a nervous wreck,” Evert said. “My emotions entered into it. And she didn’t beat me—I lost that match. That’s why I was so devastated.”
Yet what appeared to be a new low for Evert was really a step forward. The following spring she would finally end Navratilova’s reign of domination in the French Open final.
That defeat, in turn, would only be a blip on Navratilova’s radar screen. She would go on to win seven more major titles—the last in 1990—and finish with a 43-37 record against Evert. None of those 43 could have been more satisfying than her win at the 1984 Open.

This Week on Tennis Channel PLUS: ATP/WTA Cincinnati
Tennis Channel PLUS is your home for the Western & Southern Open. Watch every match live from 8 courts only on Tennis Channel PLUS.

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Juan Martin del Potro has proven his prowess on hard courts over the years, from his championship run at the 2009 US Open to his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title earlier this year at the BNP Paribas Open. Could the ‘Tower of Tandil’ add another feather to his cap on the surface in Cincinnati?
The fourth seed certainly looks in form, advancing to the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open for the third time on Friday by beating the talented Nick Kyrgios 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 6-2 in two hours, 16 minutes.
Del Potro has now advanced to the last eight at five consecutive hard-court Masters 1000 events, with his most recent loss that came earlier in Cincinnati a year ago, when he fell to eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov. The Argentine is now 26-6 on the season, reaching the quarter-finals or better at six of his nine events, which includes titles at Acapulco and Indian Wells. 
He will have a chance to move into the semi-finals later Friday evening against reigning Nitto ATP Finals runner-up David Goffin, who made his first Cincinnati quarter-final by beating red-hot sixth seed Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-4 in 76 minutes. 
The Belgian, who did not face break point against the recent Wimbledon finalist and Toronto semi-finalist, now has the same number of wins in Cincinnati this year (3) as he did in his past three appearances at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event combined. Goffin will try to reach the last four here for the first time when he faces Juan Martin del Potro or Nick Kyrgios later Friday evening due to Thursday's rain.
Goffin is into his eighth quarter-final of the season, and he has reached three tour-level semi-finals in 2018. The World No. 11, who lifted titles in Shenzhen and Tokyo one year ago, has yet to make a championship match this campaign.