Rafael Nadal has turned down a wildcard invitation to compete in next week's Dubai Tennis Championships as he does not feel ready to return to action.

The world number two has been struggling with a lower back injury sustained prior to the Australian Open, which he exited in the quarter-finals at the hands of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Nadal has not competed since, having subsequently pulled out of the ATP Cup and Rotterdam Open after being advised to give his back time to heal.

And the 20-time grand slam winner will delay his return for a little while longer after deciding to skip the upcoming ATP 500 event in Dubai.

"I would like to thank the @DDFTennis for the wild card invitation sent to me," Nadal posted on his Twitter page on Thursday. 

"We seriously thought about coming to play, but I don't think I am ready to play yet. Once again thanks to the tournament's kind invitation and best of luck with the tournament."

The Spaniard added in a later tweet: "And special thanks to Tournament Director Salah Talak since I am aware of his efforts to ensure a smooth arrival to play Dubai during this unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic and difficult times for all."

Nadal won his only Dubai Tennis Championships title in 2006 with victory over Roger Federer – the competition's record eight-time winner – in the final.

Federer is scheduled to take part in this year's tournament after making his long-awaiting return from a 14-month injury lay-off at the Qatar Open this week.

A "tired" Roger Federer was "incredibly happy" to mark his long-awaited return with a battling victory over Dan Evans in the second round of the Qatar Open.

Swiss legend Federer had been out of action for 14 months after undergoing knee surgery, but he was back in business with a 7-6 (10-8) 3-6 7-5 win over Briton Evans.

The 20-time grand slam champion had spent a lot of time practicing with Evans in recent weeks before making his comeback and they spent another two hours and 24 minutes on court in a tight tussle on Wednesday.

Federer was delighted to be back after such a lengthy absence and the 39-year-old's next test will come against Nikoloz Basilashvili in the quarter-finals in Doha.

He said: "I was tired, I was more focused on being tired than winning the points. If I was going to go out, I was going to go out swinging. Dan had more energy left at the end but I was serving well and I thought I played a really good match. I'm incredibly happy about my performance.

"It was a pleasure to share the court with Dan and always nice to finish off with a backhand down the line on match point. The important think is how I feel tomorrow and the next day and so forth for the next six months.

"It's been a long and tough road for me. I enjoyed it though, it's been a huge challenge in my tennis career."

Top seed Dominic Thiem earlier needed three sets to defeat wildcard Aslan Karatsev 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-2, while the in-form Andrey Rublev was given a walkover after Richard Gasquet withdrew due to a leg injury.

Denis Shapovalov beat Vasek Pospisil in an all-Canadian encounter, while Roberto Bautista Agut was among the other winners.

Karen Khachanov reached the quarter-finals of the Open 13 Provence with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win over Mackenzie McDonald, while Jannik Sinner ousted Hugo Gaston in straight sets.

Cameron Norrie, Matthew Ebden and Egor Gerasimov were also victorious in Marseille.

Roger Federer displayed flashes of his sparkling best as the returned to action with superb 7-6 (10-8) 3-6 7-5 victory over Dan Evans at the Qatar Open

The 39-year-old was playing his first competitive match in 14 months, having undergone knee surgery since his last appearance at the 2020 Australian Open.

Evans and Federer have practiced together over recent weeks and combined to produce a high-quality affair in Doha, with the veteran showing phenomenal staying power after so long away to book a quarter-final meeting with Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The only break point of the opening set came in the ninth game, with Federer holding and coming through two deuces.

World number 28 Evans boomed down a pair of aces and held to love after that minor setback and reeled off four consecutive points to lead 4-2 in the breaker.

Federer saved one set point and converted his third with a wonderful backhand passing shot.

A battle that eventually lasted two hours and 26 minutes appeared unlikely as Federer sought to press home his superiority, Evans coming into the net to repel a break point in the opening game of set two.

But the Briton was the first man to make a dent on the other's serve, with Federer unusually ragged as he pulled a forehand then a backhand wide from deuce to go 1-3 behind.

The Swiss could not capitalise on a break-back point in the next game and, having been taken to deuce in all previous games in the set, Evans produced back-to-back aces and held to love to square the match.

Federer's first-serve percentage fell from an imperious 83 to 58 between sets one and two and he looked tired when slipping to 0-30 at 2-2 in the decider before recovering to hold.

Evans, who also went the distance against Jeremy Chardy on Sunday, was similarly robust under pressure – a serve-volley and his formidable backhand slice seeing him through a match-point game at 4-5 – but he could not keep the insatiable Federer at bay as a majestic backhand down the line settled the argument.

Dominic Thiem is relishing Roger Federer's return to action, with the duo taking part in this week's Qatar Open.

Federer has spent the last 13 months out, having elected to take 2020 off – following last year's Australian Open – to undergo two knee operations.

The 40-year-old will compete in Doha this week, returning to play in an event where he has enjoyed plenty of success down the years, winning the tournament three times.

Last year's US Open champion Thiem, who has moved above Federer in the world rankings during the Swiss' absence, will also be in action in Qatar, and is thrilled to see the 20-time grand slam winner make his comeback.

"We are rivals, and of course we want to beat each other in the tournament, [but] I still really love to watch him play tennis," said top seed Thiem, who was speaking to Laureus Sport after his nomination for Breakthrough of the Year.

"[He] looks so nice, the way he plays, the way he approaches the game of tennis.

"On the one hand, I'm also a big fan of his still, and that's why I really love that he's back and that I can watch him again. That's what pretty much everybody is thinking, and I hope that he's coming back strong, as well."

Federer and Thiem have met seven times, with the Austrian holding the advantage, with five wins to his name against the former world number one.

Thiem, a semi-finalist in Doha in 2018, has not played since he lost to Grigor Dimitrov at the Australian Open in mid-February, and the world number four is hoping to make a fast start when he takes on Aslan Karatsev in round two.

"The [Doha] draw is unbelievably strong, so [you] never know what's [going to] happen, but I just try to have a good start and to be there on a good level from the very first point," said Thiem.

"It's going to be my first tournament and [my] first match [in almost] a month, since [a] pretty devastating loss at the Australian Open.

"I needed some time to digest everything, to analyse everything [and] to settle down a little bit. Now it's time to focus on new things. The tournament in Doha is the first chance to play better again, to get good results, to get confidence and to forget a pretty tough start of the season."

Former world number one Roger Federer said he has no real expectations for his comeback event at the Qatar Open.

Federer has not played competitively since his semi-final exit at the 2020 Australian Open – the 20-time grand slam champion having undergone knee surgery last year.

The 39-year-old Swiss superstar opted not to travel to Melbourne for this year's Australian Open, but he is set to make his comeback in Doha.

Federer, who holds the record for most Qatar Open titles with three – will start his campaign against either Jeremy Chardy or Daniel Evans at the ATP 250 tournament.

"It's been a long year in some ways, especially rehabbing, being on crutches once and then for a second time, and finally I'm back on a tennis court again, working out, playing sets, playing points," Federer said.

"It's a true pleasure, it's a privilege actually after all this time. I didn't expect it to go as long as it did, we are where we are, I'm so excited to be back on a match court, you know, in a few days here.

"I'm really curious to find out how it's going to go, obviously there's an amazing amount of questions marks surrounding my comeback for me personally.

"I don't know what to expect, I know that expectations from myself are extremely low, and I'm just very happy that I'm playing a tournament again, regardless of the outcome of this event."

On whether he had doubts over returning, Federer added: "You always do have doubts, you know, when you have surgery, there are always days when you feel better and worse. But I think overall I am a very positive person, I have a great team around myself, my family, I am also very distracted, and you know, the idea was to be fully fit again, one day. For life or for tennis.

"So equally important to me, actually life is a little bit more important to me, I wanna go skiing and play basketball, I wanna go playing ice hockey, play tennis in the future, with my children or exhibition matches, you name it, so it's definitely worth it to go through all that pain you know. But the goal was, this is not I'm going to go out, I'm not happy with my knee, we're going to fix it, and then I'm going to come back.

"For me there was no other story to it, and rehab wasn't as hard as maybe people make it seem, even though people around me are very impressed how I go about it, but for me it's only but normal to be really, really professional about it."

Novak Djokovic made history after breaking Roger Federer's record for most weeks as world number one on the ATP Tour.

Djokovic surpassed Federer after beginning his 311th week as the number one player in the men's rankings on Monday.

Serbian star Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking from fellow superstar Rafael Nadal in February 2020 and finished as year-ending number one for the sixth time – tying the mark set by Pete Sampras.

Djokovic, who first topped the men's rankings in July 2011, went on to celebrate a record-extending ninth Australian Open title at Melbourne Park in February.

With Federer turning 40 in August and Nadal a year older, the 33-year-old Djokovic has time on his side in pursuit of more history.

Djokovic has won 18 grand slams, two adrift of Federer – who is set to make his long-awaited ATP comeback in Qatar this week – and Nadal.

"I think it's an ultimate challenge to be honest, of course, winning a slam and being in history, the longest-ever number one," Djokovic said in Melbourne last month.

"You can have a great grand slam, a great tournament, a great couple of months, or even a great season but to do it over and over again, to be actually contender for historic number one, you need to play well and have a consistency from January to November, ever single year.

"I've been fortunate to do that and put myself in a position to make history in that regard. I'm very, very proud of that and privileged to be in that position.

"It's also a relief because it has been definitely my main goal, other than winning slams and now that I'll be managing to achieve it, I'll focus myself more on slams and adapt my calendar and schedule because when you're going for number one, you have to play all year and you have to play all the biggest tournaments.

"You can't allow someone else to earn more points than you. It's like a constant pressure, I think, and expectations that you have to deal with. It's definitely fulfilling to achieve that."

Federer now sits sixth in the rankings, having not played competitively since the 2020 Australian Open.

Nadal remains second, though he is set to be leapfrogged by Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev in the next rankings release on March 15.

Russian Medvedev will be the first player, other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray, ranked in the top two since July 2005.

Diego Schwartzman claimed his first ATP Tour title on home soil as he defeated qualifier Francisco Cerundolo in the final of the Argentina Open on Sunday.

After losing in his two previous finals in Argentina, Schwartzman finally came good in his home city of Buenos Aires with a 6-1 6-2 victory. 

The world number nine was in complete control from the off, breaking six times and conceding on his serve just once as he took just 81 minutes to wrap up a fourth Tour title.

Cerundolo's run to the final had at least ensured that whoever came out on top in the showdown would result in the first Argentine champion of the competition since 2008, when David Nalbandian triumphed in a clash with compatriot Jose Acasuso.

"I'm very, very happy, it's been an amazing week for me," Schwartzman said in the trophy presentation.

"It's the first time that [I have won at] home. Two years ago, I reached the final here and lost. I was very unhappy, but two years later I have my revenge against Francisco who is a great player."

Andrey Rublev maintained his magnificent form by beating Marton Fucsovics in straight sets to win the Rotterdam Open.

Rublev won Sunday's final 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to claim his fourth consecutive ATP 500 title.

The world number eight from Russia has now won 13 of his 14 matches this year, his only defeat coming against Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Rublev won 75 per cent of points on his first serve, winning the first set on a tie-break after saving four break points in the opening game.

Fucsovics was unable to turn it around in the second set, Rublev claiming his second win in three meetings with Fucsovics.

Just the one break in the opening game of the second set was enough for Rublev to add to his victories in Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna last year.

 

 

Andrey Rublev continued his remarkable 2021 as he saw off Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets to reach the final of the Rotterdam Open.

Tsitsipas has himself enjoyed a fine start to the year, reaching the semis of the Australian Open, but it was Rublev who progressed to the final in more routine fashion than might have been expected.

He prevailed 6-3 7-6 (7-2), marking his 12th win from 13 matches this season.

The victory also extended his winning streak in ATP 500 matches to 19. Only Roger Federer (28) and Andy Murray (21) have produced longer such runs.

"[I play tennis] to play at the best level, to play at the best tournaments, to try to compete, then to go deep and to try to win them," Rublev said in an on-court interview. "A final is always special, so I am going to try to do my best tomorrow [Sunday]."

Rublev is likely to require his best given the form Marton Fucsovics, his opponent, is in.

Fucsovics came through qualifying to reach the main draw and delivered a superb performance to stun world number 26 Borna Coric 6-4 6-1.

The final will be the third of Fucsovics' career and his first since February 2019, when he lost to Rublev's Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev at the Sofia Open.

Daniil Medvedev will climb to number two in the ATP rankings later this month, with his small step signalling that big change is afoot in the men's game.

The leading two positions have been occupied by a combination of the 'Big Four' ever since Rafael Nadal climbed above Lleyton Hewitt to take second place on the ladder on July 25, 2005.

Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have all had spells at number one in the years since then, and no other player has had a look-in on those leading two positions.

Within days, however, that is about to change, as the younger generation of players gains a first foothold in the top two.

The ATP, which runs the men's game, said on Saturday that 25-year-old Medvedev is certain to nudge up one place from his current position of world number three when the rankings, are published on March 15.

The Russian is currently on 9,735 points, 115 points behind Nadal, and he has a first-round bye at the Open 13 Marseille next week.

The ATP, tweeted: "With the release of next week's @atptour draws, @DaniilMedwed is confirmed to become World No. 2 in @FedEx ATP Rankings on 15 March. Medvedev will be the 1st player in the Top 2 since 25 July 2005 other than the Big 4 of @DjokerNole, @RafaelNadal, @rogerfederer and @andy_murray."

Medvedev, who won the ATP World Tour Finals title in November and reached the Australian Open final last month, missed an early chance this week to move ahead of Nadal when he lost in the first round of the Rotterdam Open.

Roger Federer said he is "very excited" ahead of his long-awaited return to the ATP Tour at the Qatar Open.

Federer has not played competitively since his semi-final exit at the 2020 Australian Open – the 20-time grand slam champion having undergone knee surgery last year.

The 39-year-old Swiss superstar opted not to travel to Melbourne for this year's Australian Open, but he is set to make his comeback in Doha next week.

Before departing for Qatar, Federer said on Friday: "It's been a year since my last travel to any event and I'm very excited.

"This is the moment where I could maybe thank all the people involved who made this possible.

"It's been a long and hard road. I know I'm not at the finish line yet, but it's good."

Federer holds the record for most Qatar Open titles with three, with his most recent success at the ATP 250 event coming in 2011.

The 103-time tour-level champion added: "I feel like I'm in a good place, I've been practising very well.

"Hope you guys also are going to tune in to watch it and I hope I see you again very soon. Take care everybody."

Federer and Spanish great Rafael Nadal have both won a record 20 major titles.

Veteran Federer is on the comeback trail and planning to play tournaments in Doha and Dubai in March, building up to Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, key goals for what might prove to be his final season on tour.

Former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich believes winning a ninth SW19 crown would be the perfect moment for Federer to bow out.

Stich told Stats Perform News recently: "It is clear that at some point he will stop. Many would have thought that already five years ago.

"We have no influence on that. I would wish for him to win Wimbledon and say after the final: 'You know what, I had a sick time, I'll stop.'

"There couldn't be anything better and that would give so much to the sport."

Andrey Rublev was pushed hard by Jeremy Chardy on Friday but eventually secured his 18th successive ATP 500 win to set up a semi-final meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Rotterdam Open.

Chardy managed to save match points in the second set, as Rublev wobbled at the crucial moment, but the Russian got the job done 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (2-7) 6-4.

The pair were on court for just under two hours and 40 minutes and racked up a considerable number of winners, with Rublev's 44 eight more than the Frenchman.

His 18-match winning streak in ATP 500 events has only been bettered on five previous occasions since 2009, all of which were achieved by Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, who holds the record of 28 successive victories.

If he is to get any closer to Federer's remarkable haul, Rublev will have to go beyond Tsitsipas, but Friday's match took plenty out of him.

"I will try to do as much as I can to be ready for [the semi-final]… Stefanos also had two tough matches [this week]," said Rublev.

"He had three sets [on Thursday] and today he had three sets. Now he has to play doubles. It is not easy."

As Rublev alluded to, Tsitsipas certainly did not have it all his own way against another Russian, Karen Khachanov, coming from a set down to win 4-6 6-3 7-5.

Tsitsipas also had to contend with being 3-1 down in the third set – but Rublev knows all about the Greek's ability to come back from the brink having lost to him in last year's ATP Finals despite having match point.

"He [Khachanov] was playing great tennis and I wasn't sure if I would be able to compete," Tsitsipas said after the contest.

"I had an amazing 5-0 lead in the second set and that brought a lot of confidence into my game. We had great rallies and the quality of tennis was excellent. You need to stay as calm as possible in three-setters. I have won a lot in the past and with experience, it gives me an idea of how to play in these tight moments."

Borna Coric and Marton Fucsovics will go head-to-head in the other semi-final.

Croatian Coric came through in straight sets against Kei Nishikori, though it was by no means a straightforward victory as he was pushed to tie-breaks in both sets, winning 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-4).

Fucsovics saw off Tommy Paul 6-4 6-3 to reach the last four.

Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas emerged from a brutal battle with Hubert Hurkacz to reach the quarter-finals of the Rotterdam Open. 

The second seed will meet Karen Khachanov in the last eight of the ATP 500 event. 

His progress was in doubt for parts of his 6-4 4-6 7-5 victory over Hurkacz, the match lasting two hours and seven minutes on Thursday. 

But Tsitsipas, the highest seed left in the competition after an early exit for Daniil Medvedev, did not allow Hurkacz a single break point either side of the solitary loss of serve he suffered in the second set. 

"I played really well," said Tsitsipas, who has an 8-1 record this year. 

"Both of us, we played a high [level] of tennis and didn’t give [away] many break-point opportunities. 

"[There were] pretty good serves from both sides and I am really glad that I fought so hard towards the very end. It was exhausting, but it paid off."

It was the fifth straight match between Tsitsipas and Hurkacz that required a final set. 

"Hubert is a very tough competitor," added the Greek, who is yet to win an ATP 500 tournament.  

"We have played loads in the past. Every single time I go out on the court, I know what to expect.  

"He is a fighter and he doesn’t like to give up, so it always makes him a very difficult opponent." 

Dusan Lajovic had stunned Melbourne runner-up Medvedev with a straight-sets win on Wednesday. 

However, his campaign was ended by Borna Coric, who won comfortably 6-3 6-2 to ensure he will face Kei Nishikori in the quarters.  

Veteran qualifier Jeremy Chardy defeated David Goffin, ending the Belgian's hopes of back-to-back ATP titles, and will take on Andrey Rublev in the last eight.

Andy Murray slumped to defeat to Andrey Rublev at the Rotterdam Open, where both Alexander Zverev and top seed Daniil Medvedev crashed out in Wednesday's action.

Rublev – defeated by Medvedev in the Australian Open quarter-finals – booked his place in the last eight with a clinical 7-5 6-2 victory over the former world number one. 

The world number eight hailed Murray as a "true legend" ahead of the clash, with the Russian and Scot having previously met only once before. 

Murray, then at the peak of his powers, came out on top in the second round of the 2017 Australian Open, thought it was a far different story this time around, Rublev dispatching his opponent with relative ease. 

Rublev saved all three break points that Murray managed to create during proceedings, breaking twice in the second set before wrapping up the win at the first opportunity.

Dusan Lajovic put in an impressive display as he registered a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 victory over Medvedev. 

A run to the Rotterdam final would have moved Medvedev up to world number two, yet the Australian Open runner-up was well shy of his best. 

The Russian led by a break in the first set, only for Lajovic to hit back to square things up at 3-3, with the Serbian winning the tie-break when Medvedev double-faulted. 

Lajovic looked to have the odds stacked against him early in the second set, yet ultimately fought back again following another unforced error from the world number three to claim his second career win over Medvedev.

Lajovic will now face Borna Coric to tee up a tie with Kei Nishikori, who followed up his opening win over Felix Auger-Aliassime by beating Alex de Minaur 6-3 2-6 7-5 to clinch a quarter-final spot. 

The other shock result during the day came in the form of world number seven Zverev losing 7-5 6-3 to Alexander Bublik. 

It was the biggest win of Bublik's career, with the world number 43 - a finalist at the Singapore Open on Sunday - having now triumphed in his last three matches against top-10 opponents. 

Zverev was playing for the first time since a quarter-final defeat to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne last month. 

Bublik will face American Tommy Paul in the next round, while David Goffin beat Jan-Lennard Struff and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina got the better of compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut. 

Andrey Rublev will face Andy Murray at the Rotterdam Open after the Russian battled past Marcos Giron 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

The appetising showdown between Rublev and former world number one Murray was handed a primetime evening slot on Wednesday's schedule by tournament organisers, given the appeal of a clash between one of the ATP Tour's brightest younger stars and the three-time grand slam winner.

World number eight Rublev is, at the age of 23, among the band of players who have emerged as potential torchbearers for the men's tour once the likes of Murray and the big three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic make way.

After wildcard Murray's win over Robin Haase on Monday, Rublev secured victory on Tuesday against 80th-ranked Giron, who earned his place in the ATP 500 tournament through qualifying.

Murray and Rublev have played only once before, in entirely different circumstances to those surrounding Wednesday's match. That previous encounter came at the Australian Open in 2017, with Murray, then ranked number one in the world, scorching to a 6-3 6-0 6-2 win in round two.

The Scot has since undergone major surgery on a hip problem that has threatened to end his career, and heads into his clash with Rublev ranked 123rd in the world but eager to show he can compete at a high level.

"Andy is a true legend and I have a really good connection with him. I really like him as a person and as a player. He destroyed me once in the past. I'm sure we'll have great, long rallies and it will be a fight," Rublev said, quoted via the ATP website.

Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas passed his first-round test by scoring a narrow win over a player that beat Murray in Montpellier last week – the second seed and world number six overcoming Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 7-6 (7-4) 7-5.

The tournament lost a three-time grand slam champion when Stan Wawrinka was edged out 6-4 7-5 by Russian Karen Khachanov in a tough first-round matchup for the Swiss, who sits just one place above the Russian at number 20 in the world rankings.

Alex de Minaur beat fellow Australian John Millman 6-1 6-4, while top seed Australian Open runner-up Daniil Medvedev begins his challenge on Wednesday when he tackles Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

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