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Are changes afoot?



TENNIS – As the dried ice, bright lights and thumping music fade following the conclusion of this year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2, there are a couple of questions which currently remain unanswered. By Harry Wancke for Tennis Today

As the dried ice, bright lights and thumping music fade following the conclusion of this year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2, there are a couple of questions which currently remain unanswered.

One – will the event stay at the O2? and two – will the man who created it be moving on?

In its fifth of a seven year agreement between the ATP Tour and the O2 Arena, the championships, involving the best eight singles and eight best doubles pairs in the world, attracted another record crowd of 260,000 which adds up to an attendance total of over 1.25 million spectators in the years the Tour Finals have been staged in London.

From a commercial point of view, it has been a financial success and it would seem crazy to move it to any other country or venue.

However, some players are keen to see that happen, like Novak Djokovic, who successfully defended his title at this year’s event.

“The tournament is of the eight best players in the world. It is the tournament which is not fixed for one city or one country, it is in ATP’s hands to think about this,” he stated at the start of the event following Rafael Nadal’s comment that the surface should be varied from year to year so that clay court exponents stood a chance of overall victory.

Nadal, of course is ‘The King of Clay’, who has never won the event and this year’s final showed that he has some way to go to match his Serbian rival indoors.

Dokovic also points out that to continue to popularise the sport, the shop window should play its part – as it used to in its early days – by staging it in other cities for not more than three years in each venue.

“I know various players share the same opinion, because of the promotion of tennis,” he said, adding that the ATP should be looking into that.

The O2 agreement comes to an end after the 2015 championships and cities will no doubt be bidding for it over the coming months but there cannot be a better argument for it stay in London than the fact Britain’s capital is now synonymously associated with the Tour finals.

In addition, as mentioned, it has more than proven itself a commercial success.

And the man behind that success? Chris Kermode, who could well become the new president and executive chairman of the ATP Tour and if that does come about – an announcement is expected within the next week or so – he would be the first Briton to fill that post, previously occupied since 1990 by Mark Miles, Etienne de Villiers, Adam Helfant and Brad Drewett.

The vacancy became available when Brad Drewett died last May following an unsuccessful fight against cancer. A popular man, the ATP World Tour Trophy has been renamed the Brad Drewett trophy and, as many will have noticed, all the umpires and lines-people at this year’s event displayed, in memory of the man, a bold BD badge on their uniforms.

Kermode would be a more than a suitable replacement for apart from The Championships, Wimbledon, he runs the two biggest tennis events in Britain, the Tour Finals at the O2 and the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club. Both vastly different affairs.

The former could be described as a ‘tennis festival’ while the latter is more of a garden party seeped in history and consequently appealing to the ‘traditional’ tennis follower.

Should the popular 48 year-old Kermode be chosen from the four-man shortlist currently being considered, it could prove an embarrassment to the Lawn Tennis Association, who allegedly, didn’t even consider him for the post of chief executive, a position which was subsequently filled by Tennis Canada’s Michael Downey.

Kermode came into tennis from the music world so one can understand the razzmatazz of the O2 and believes he learnt some valuable lessons in those early days, lessons he has been able to apply to his current role and turn the 18,000 seat O2 into ‘the biggest indoor tennis event in the world ever’.

Kermode, who competed at Challenger level, said: “The thing I find interesting is that I run two events in the same city but acknowledge they are very different venues. And how they are put on is very different. It’s what is applicable to the stage you’re on.

“With the finals I thought the 02 was primarily a music venue so let’s bring the elements of that show to tennis. Light and stage the arena in a different way. The lights on the stage – the court – and the audience in darkness.

“I fought for two sessions a day rather than one. It’s worked well. Two lots of 18,000 at £20 a ticket and half price for under-16s. Creates a huge opportunity to engage with an audience who would not normally go to a tennis event.

“It’s very easy to think ‘well that works at the 02, let’s try it at Queen’s, the music, lights etcetera’. It wouldn’t.”

He explained: “Queen’s was already an incredibly successful tournament and it was ‘how could I tweak it’. You’d be a fool to mess with the core element.

“With the 02 event I could make my mark. I was handed a blank piece of paper to set it up.Just a bit of responsibility? Yeh. A fantastic challenge and I’m so proud of how it has developed.”

One can only hope that if he does get the job he will vote to keep the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London. That would certainly be the right answer.


Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream



Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid



Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon



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Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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