Bits & Pieces from the World of Tennis: 3rd of March 2014 - UBITENNIS
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Bits & Pieces from the World of Tennis: 3rd of March 2014

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TENNIS – Mahesh Bhupathi’s International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) is taking shape. The AEGON Championships are looking for a new director. Who is skipping Indian Wells, Shanghai Dubai and Queen’s win awards and Bubka Jr.’s comeback.

 

Bhupathi’s IPTL
Some of the biggest names in today’s (and yesterday’s) tennis have signed up to play for Mahesh Bhupathi’s International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), a team competition set to debut on 28th November 2014 and last for 16 days, right in the middle of the tennis offseason.

The creation of this tournament has caused some controversies in the tennis world, given that many tennis players have spent the last years complaining about the length and arduousness of the regular tennis season. World No.1 Rafael Nadal has been one of the most vocal critics, claiming that “…the bad thing about the calendar is how it is made and obligates you to play tournaments all year”.

The project, however, has attracted major interest from many players and would appear to be a huge success (I guess money cures fatigues!). More than 70 players, current and retired, signed for an American style draft that took place yesterday in Dubai.

The competition format is that of matches played between 4 city-based teams (Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore and Bangkok), home and away. Each match will consist of five separate sets disputed in men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, mixed doubles and legend’s doubles. There will be no-ad scoring, and a tiebreak will be played on the score of 5-5.

Each team is allowed to sign a maximum of 10 players, with team owners still able to add players even after yesterday’s draft.

Team Rosters so far:
Mumbai: Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Pete Sampras, Rohan Bopanna, Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Fabrice Santoro

Dubai: Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Goran Ivanisevic, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic, Malek Jaziri, Martina Hingis
Singapore: Tomas Berdych, Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt, Serena Williams, Bruno Soares, Pat Rafter, Daniela Hantuchova, Nick Kyrgios
Bangkok: Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Victoria Azarenka, Daniel Nestor, Carlos Moya, Kirsten Flipkens

Of the 28 players drafted so far, 21 are Grand Slam champions and 14 are present or past No.1s.

AEGON Championships looking for director
Ross Hutchins, Andy Murray’s great friend, is in the running to become the new AEGON Championships (aka Queen’s) tournament Director, according to the PA.

The 29 year old doubles player was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December 2012 and underwent more than six months of chemotherapy before revealing he was in remission in July 2013. He then made his competitive comeback in January 2014 and lost his first two matches partnering fellow Brit Colin Fleming before finally recording his first win in the first round of the 2014 Australian Open.

The name of the new director is set to be announced within the next two weeks.

Who’s missing Indian Wells?
The 2014 BNP Paribas Open (aka Indian Wells) starts today with the women’s qualifying draw. It’s a mandatory tournament for both men and women, so all players eligible are forced to play and can opt out only due to injury.

Two men’s seeds have withdrawn before the start of the tournament: World No.4 David Ferrer pulled out due to an adductor injury while 28th seeded Benoit Paire is out with a knee injury. Bernard Tomic, Janko Tipsarevic and Filippo Volandri are among the non-seeded players sitting out the tournament due to injury.

Of the 32 women’s seeds, four are missing from the tournament: Maria Kirilenko and Jamie Hampton are out due to injury, while Serena and Venus Williams are continuing their 13 year long boycott of the tournament. British No.1 Laura Robson, who hasn’t played since her first-round loss to Kirsten Flipkens at the Australian Open, is also out due to her ongoing wrist problem.

Bubka Jr comeback
Sergei Bubka Jr, son of world-famous pole-vaulter Sergei Bubka, made his return to the ATP major tour 15 months after suffering a near-fatal incident in Paris, when he fell from a third-story apartment trying to exit a bedroom he was blocked in.

Bubka lost his first round qualifying match in the Dubai 500 tournament but it was still a great achievement for someone who spent more than six months on crutches and is lucky to be walking, let alone playing competitive tennis.

The Ukrainian has also played three other qualifying matches in 2014, winning one in the Bergamo Challenger three weeks ago.

Shanghai, Dubai and Queen’s win 2013 ATP Awards
The Shanghai Rolex Masters, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the AEGON Championships have all been announced as the Tournaments of the Year 2013 in their respective categories (ATP World Tour Masters 1000, ATP 500 and ATP 250).

It was the fifth straight win for the Shanghai tournament since its first edition at this level in 2009. The Dubai Championships collected the trophy for the 10th time in the last 11 years, while the AEGON Championships ended the longest reign in the ATP Awards (11 straight wins for Bastad at ATP 250 level) winning the honour for the first time.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Ladies’ Semifinals

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Ons Jabeur during her quarterfinal victory on Tuesday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Thursday’s ladies’ singles semifinals are full of inspiring storylines, featuring the 2019 champion alongside three debutantes at this stage of a Major.  Simona Halep is on a 12-match win streak at The Championships, and is yet to drop a set this fortnight.  Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina had previously only reached the quarterfinals at a Slam, and have made history by becoming the first players from their countries to reach a Slam semifinal.  And remarkably, 34-year-old mother-of-two Tatjana Maria had never been beyond the third round at a Major, and was on a nine-match losing streak at Slams prior to this fortnight. 

 

Also on Thursday, the gentlemen’s doubles semifinals will be played, as well as the mixed doubles championship match.


Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Tatjana Maria – 1:30pm on Centre Court

These are two good friends who describe each other as frequent barbecue buddies.  They also possess two of the sport’s most eclectic styles, with plenty of slices mixed with surges of power.  But in this matchup, Jabeur is clearly the favorite.  Ons has become the No.2 player in the world, with an outstanding record of 35-9 this season.  She was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, and is an undefeated 10-0 on grass in 2022, and 20-2 on this surface since last year.

Maria missed the first six months of the 2021 season due to giving birth to her second child.  She came into this year ranked 284th in the world, yet she’s accumulated 36 match wins at all levels.  As a qualifier, she won a WTA title on clay this past April in Bogota.  And despite her lack of results at Majors, with a career record of 12-34 in main draws, Tatjana has fought her way into her first Slam semifinal, with four three-set victories.  In three of those matches, she came back from a set down.  And she also won three of them by a third-set score of 7-5, even saving two match points against Jelena Ostapenko.

They’ve only played once at tour-level, with Maria prevailing in straight sets five years ago in Linz.  But in 2022, Jabeur is the far more accomplished player, especially at Majors.  And her all-court skills outmatch those of Tatjana.  As long as Ons does not succumb to the pressure of being a strong favorite in her first Slam semifinal, Jabeur should comfortably advance to Saturday’s championship match.


Simona Halep (16) vs. Elena Rybakina (17) – Second on Centre Court

Halep has been on a tear in her last few matches.  On Monday, she allowed fourth-seeded Paula Badosa only three games.  On Wednesday, Amanda Anisimova was only able to win six.  However, both of those opponents already had previous poor results against Simona, as their games do not match up well with that of the two-time Major champion.  The same cannot be said for Rybakina.

While Halep leads their head-to-head 2-1, their last two encounters have been extremely right.  Two years ago in Dubai, Simona required a third-set tiebreak to survive.  And at last year’s US Open, she prevailed 6-3 in the third.  The big difference between the set Rybakina won in New York, and the two sets she lost, was her winner-to-error ratio.  In the set she won, those numbers were equal.  In the sets she lost, she struck nearly twice as many unforced errors as winners.

While reducing her error count will be key for Rybakina, so will continuing to serve well.  In her last two rounds alone, Elena as struck 21 aces and only one double fault.  Rybakina leads the WTA ace count this season, though Halep remains of the sport’s best returners.  And Simona’s serve has improved significantly over the last few seasons.

Experience may be the key factor on Thursday, which is obviously a huge advantage for Halep.  This is her ninth Major semifinal, and her third at Wimbledon, while this Rybakina’s first at any Slam.  Also Centre Court itself will be new territory for Elena, who has never played on this court in her career.  And based on Halep’s current form, the 2019 champion should be favored to return to the final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Neal Skupski and Desirae Krawczyk (2) vs. Matthew Ebden and Sam Stosur – Skupski and Krawczyk are the defending champions, while Ebden and Stosur were finalists at last year’s Australian Open.

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (1) vs. Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell (14) – Ram and Salisbury and two-time Major champions as a team.  Ebden and Purcell were finalists at this year’s Australian Open.  That’s the event where these teams last met, with the Australians prevailing in the semifinals.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (6) – Mektic and Pavic are the defending champions, while Cabal and Farah won this event in 2019.  Cabal Farah are 2-0 against Mektic and Pavic this season.


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Nick Kyrgios Insists Bombshell Assault Charge Didn’t Affect Wimbledon Prep

The tennis star has been publicly questioned about the allegations for the first time.

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Image via https://twitter.com/Wimbledon/

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios says he has ‘a lot of thoughts’ concerning the revelation that he has been charged with assaulting his former girlfriend.

 

On Tuesday it was reported in the media that the tennis star has been summoned to court next month over an incident involving his former partner  Chiara Passari. The incident is reported to have taken place in December 2021 which has triggered the charge of ‘common assault.’ In the worst-case scenario, those convicted of such offenses can face up to two years in prison in extreme cases. 

The timing of the news coincides with Kyrgios enjoying his best-ever win at a Grand Slam. He defeated Cristian Garin in straight sets to book a showdown with Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon semi-finals. A player who he has beaten on three previous occasions. It was after his milestone win when the tennis star was asked about the assault charge. 

“Obviously I have a lot of thoughts, a lot of things I want to say, kind of my side about it,” he said.
“I’ve been advised by my lawyers that I’m unable to say anything at this time.’
“I understand everyone wants to kind of ask about it and all that, but I can’t give you too much on that right now.”

Due to the ongoing legal case, it is unclear if Kyrgios was informed about the charge on the same day the news broke out or before. Although he has assured that the development had no impact on his preparations or affected his mentality at The All England Club. 

“It didn’t really affect me at all, to be honest,” he stated.
“Obviously seeing it — I’m only human. I read about it and everyone else was asking questions. It was hard. It was hard to kind of just focus on the mission at hand. It was the quarterfinals of Wimbledon today. I know deep down that’s what I was prepared for.’
“It didn’t really affect my preparation at all. I knew I stayed true to myself and gave my best performance today.”

The court is a much happier place for Kyrgios at the moment. Currently ranked 40th in the world he is the lowest-ranked player to reach the last four at Wimbledon since Marat Safin did so in 2008. His win-loss record on the grass this season currently stands at 12-2.

The surge in form for the tennis star comes during what has been a roller-coaster career where he had doubted on multiple occasions if he wanted to continue playing. 

“I obviously had thoughts the last year, year and a half, whether I wanted to play anymore. I lost the love, lost the fire and lost the spark,” Kyrgios reflects.
“Then some things just changed in my life. I kind of just rediscovered that I’ve got a lot of people that want me to play, that I play for. I’ve got a lot left in the tank. I feel like I’m probably playing some of my best tennis, mentally I’m feeling great.”

As for his upcoming clash with Nadal, the former top 20 star feels that it could be a very special encounter. Although the match is currently overshadowed by Nadal’s health with him nursing an abdominal injury.

“We are two completely different personalities. I feel like we respect the hell out of each other, though,” he said. “I feel like that would be a mouth-watering kind of encounter for everyone around the world. That would probably be the most-watched match of all time. I would argue that.”

Kyrgios will play Nadal on Friday. 

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Tatjana Maria – Reaching Wimbledon Semi-Finals is ‘Amazing’ But It Doesn’t Beat Parenthood

The underdog is enjoying her best-ever run at a major 15 years after making her debut.

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Image via twitter.com/wta

Germany’s Tatjana Maria reveals people once doubted her ability to return to tennis after having her first child. Now a mother-of-two, she has secured a place in the Wimbledon semifinals. 

 

The fairytale run of the world No.103 continued on Tuesday when she ousted compatriot Jule Niemeier 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, in her quarter-final match. Until the tournament, Maria had never been beyond the third round of a major event. However, that changed with high-profile wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko prior to Niemeier.

“It’s amazing. I mean, I tried to calm down a little bit in the locker room and to realize something, but it’s still hard to realize it,” she said of reaching the last four at Wimbledon.

Whilst some players prepare for their Grand Slam matches in the gym, Maria’s routine is somewhat unique. She began her day by taking her 8-year-old daughter to her tennis lesson. It wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she also has a 15-month-old baby.

“Outside of the court, nothing changes for me for the moment,” she said.  “I try to keep this going, everything the same. We keep going (to the tennis lessons) even if I’m playing the semifinals.”

Incredibly the 34-year-old returned to the circuit following maternity leave less than a year ago. It was during that absence that she decided to switch to a one-handed backhand. She has been ranked as high as 46th in the world and has two Tour titles to her name. 

“A lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand,” she said.
“I showed it last time already that I am back. I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I’m back with my second child. Still, everybody was doubting.’
“I’m still here and I’m a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming.”

Relishing in her best-ever performance at a major event, Maria is another example of a player having a breakthrough later in their career. To put her run in perspective, in the Open Era only five other women have reached the semifinals at Wimbledon after turning 34.

However, in Maria’s eyes, her achievements on the court can’t beat her top priority off the court.

“To be a mum is for me on the top of my life. So I think it helps me in tennis too because now my priority is my kids,” she explains. “I play tennis, I want to do my best, that’s all that I want. But my kids are the priority.’
“If I go out there, I want my kids to be happy, that they are healthy, that everything is okay. That’s the most important thing for me in my life.”

Maria made her Grand Slam debut back at Wimbledon in 2007. 

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