Rising Star Luca Van Assche Looks Ready To Take His Game To Next Level

Luca Van Assche (photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour)

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

All five nominees for 2023 ATP Newcomer of the Year competed last week at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. While the careers of Italy’s Flavio Cobolli, finalist Arthur Fils of France, American Alex Michelsen, Dominic Stricker of Switzerland and France’s Luca Van Assche are just getting started, each made an impact on ATP Tour this season.

Among them, the 19-year-old Van Asche built upon the momentum of winning his first ATP Challenger Tour crown in Maia, Portugal at the end of the 2022 season by winning titles in Pau, France and Sanremo, Italy last winter. His title win over fellow Frenchman Ugo Humbert in Pau was the longest (three hours, 56 minutes) Challenger Tour final in history. By the time he lifted the Sanremo trophy, Van Assche had won 10 straight matches and cracked the Top 100.

“Two years ago, I was like 1,000-something. So, I don’t think I would’ve expected to be Top 100 now,” the Belgium-born Van Assche told the ATP Tour website earlier this season. “Last year, I was like 400. I was not expecting this maybe a year or two ago. It was very fast. Of course, I was dreaming about it. I’m very proud and I just want to be even better now.”

Following his semifinal loss in Jeddah, Van Assche finished the season ranked No. 90. He is the French No. 10.

Van Assche is in select company as one of only five players since 2016 — along with Carlos Alcaraz, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune — to win at least three Challenger Tour titles before their 19th birthday.

Looking back, among Van Assche’s highlights this season: He earned his first tour-level win in Estoril and reached the second round of the French Open, where he won the 2021 boys’ singles crown. He was twice a quarterfinalist, first in Hamburg and later in Metz. Van Assche, who finished the 2023 season 34-28 in all competitions, began the year ranked 138th and improved 48 places.

Carousel of coaching changes

World No. 15 Zheng Qinwen of China has reunited with her former longtime coach Pere Riba. Zheng made the announcement via Instagram on Sunday. In announcing she was going “back to the original,” she wrote: “Reunited after some time apart, ready to embark on the journey together and prepare for the upcoming year.”


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Zheng and Riba worked together in 2021 and the Chinese star rose from outside the Top 100 to inside the Top 30. She was named WTA Newcomer of the Year in 2022. However, the two split after this year’s French Open and Riba went on to coach Coco Gauff through her US Open triumph.

After Riba left Zheng, she was coached by Wim Fissette from the grass season through the US Open, where she made her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Fissette guided Zheng to her first WTA Tour title in Palermo in July. Fissette chose to end their partnership following the US Open to return to his longtime coaching role with Naomi Osaka, who is returning to the WTA Tour next month in Australia after giving birth to her daughter in July.

AO and United Cup team up with New Balance

Tennis Australia and New Balance have signed an extensive agreement to make New Balance the official performance apparel and footwear provider of the Australian Open and United Cup.

“We are thrilled to join with New Balance. We share a common goal of growing tennis through innovation while honoring the sport’s rich heritage, making New Balance an obvious partner for two of the sport’s biggest events the Australian Open and the United Cup,” Tennis Australia’s Chief Commercial Officer Cedric Cornelis said in a press release.

“New Balance has a long history of investing in tennis, with some of the game’s biggest names as proud ambassadors of the brand. We are excited to work with New Balance as it expands its presence in the sport even further.”

New Balance will release an Australian Open co-branded line of performance apparel and footwear to celebrate the relationship. It will be available for purchase online and during the Australian Open from New Balance’s on-site retail store on Grand Slam Oval. New Balance will also outfit ball kids at the United Cup event in Perth and Sydney.

Garbine Muguruza: Room To Read

Two-time major champion Garbiñe Muguruza has teamed up with WTA Charities to promote Room To Read, a non-profit organization that believes world change starts with educated children. “When girls and young women find their power, they become positive agents of change for themselves and for their communities,” Muguruza explains in a recent Instagram video. “Together with Room To Read, we continue to give new opportunities to girls.”

Dallas Open adds Bouchard, Wozniacki to Women’s Tennis Classic

The ATP Tour’s Dallas Open, which will become a 500-series event starting in 2025, has added Canada’s Genie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark to its 2024 lineup. Bouchard, a 2016 Wimbledon finalist and winner of one WTA Tour title, is currently ranked 286th. Meanwhile, Wozniacki is the winner of 30 WTA Tour titles including the 2018 Australian Open. She is ranked 242nd following her return to the Tour last year. Bouchard will face Wozniacki on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m.

From the love of the game to the love of wedding bells ringing

With so little time to enjoy the tennis off season, it’s not too surprising to learn via social media that several players have recently been married.

Just last week, Shelby Rogers of the United States married John Slavik in her home state of South Carolina. They began dating three years ago after being set up on a blind date and became engaged earlier this year just before the start of the Credit One Charleston Open.

“Thank you to everyone that helped make our day so special,” Rogers wrote on her social media channels Sunday. “We are overcome with gratitude, love, joy, and excitement.”

Also, Alexander Shevchenko and Anastasia Potapova were married Friday, less than four months after revealing their engagement. The Russian power couple each finished 2023 ranked inside the Top 50.

“Obviously, I didn’t know how it was going to work because scheduling in tennis is never easy,” Potapova told Tennis.com at the French Open. “But somehow, we’ve been able to manage it and in fact, it’s like we’ve spent every eeek together and we see each other a lot, which is a very good thing.”

For the numbers

• As Novak Djokovic celebrates his 402nd week ranked World No. 1, it’s exactly 100 more weeks at No. 1 than all other active men’s players combined.

To wit, Rafael Nadal (209), Andy Murray (41), Carlos Alcaraz (36) and Daniil Medvedev (16) have amassed a total of 302 weeks at No. 1.

Iga Swiatek led the WTA Tour with six titles this season. What’s remarkable about this is that she’s the first woman in a decade to win a WTA 250 (Warsaw), WTA 500 (Doha, Stuttgart), WTA 1000 (Beijing), the WTA Finals and a Grand Slam (French Open).

“Quotable …”

“I think he was really important for me, for how I was growing as a player, because I feel like he gave me a lot of confidence in one way. Obviously, he gave something new to the team. Mostly, I think the combination with him and with Simone and with all the team is really, really nice.

“I think this is one of my keys. I think every team has his own kind of stability. I have mine. I think we have worked really, really well.”

– World No. 4 Jannik Sinner of Italy, speaking at the Davis Cup Finals on the impact that his coach, Darren Cahill, has had on his success this year.