ATP Montecarlo interview, Djokovic: "My wrist is ok" - UBITENNIS
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ATP Montecarlo interview, Djokovic: "My wrist is ok"

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TENNIS ATP Montecarlo – N. DJOKOVIC defeats A. Montanes 6‑1, 6‑0. An interview with: NOVAK DJOKOVIC

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  How did the match feel today?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, for the first match on clay, it was great.  I mean, I lost only one game, so there were not too many flaws in my game that I could recall.

On the other side, I’ve had an opponent that is a specialist for this surface, but he hasn’t played even close to his highest level.  He was making a lot of unforced errors.

Me on the other side, I was just trying to, you know, use the court well, not allowing him to get into the rhythm.  I was changing the angles.  I was coming to the net, being aggressive.

Just very good first match.

Q.  I know you’re a football fan.  Do you remember the last time you won a match in 45 minutes?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I don’t.  Do you?  I don’t remember.  I mean, I’ve had some short matches.  I would say I had some matches.  For example, the one I remember was against Hernych in Basel, I think 6‑Love, 6‑Love, 30 something minutes.  I mean, it’s great that you have a chance to finish your work on the court in such a short time.

On the other side, I would like to have a little bit more longer rallies, bigger challenge so I can test myself, see where I am, where my game is at at this moment on the clay because it’s the first match on the clay since Roland Garros last year.

But, again, I’ve practiced a lot.  This is the place where I live.  This court is very familiar to me.  During the season I spend a lot of time hitting the balls here.  So I look forward to the next match.

 

Q.  Can you tell us what happened to your right wrist?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, I have a certain problem that I carry for the last week or so with the wrist.  The short match today helped definitely.  So I’m going to have some time to heal it.  Hopefully it’s going to be even better next one.

 

Q.  Do you enjoy your rivalry with Rafa as much as the fans do?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Of course.  Look, this is the biggest rivalry I have in my career, that’s for sure.  I mean, I’ve played him 40 times, different surfaces, different occasions.

I was mentioning a few days ago in the press conference that I think my first or second year on the professional circuit I already played him a couple matches in the big tournaments.

Every match brings something new, some new excitement, of course a lot of emotions, a lot of tension and expectations from both sides.

Hopefully it’s going to escalate and it’s going to, you know, become one of the biggest rivalries ever.

Q.  And it’s fun?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Of course.  It’s a huge challenge for me to be able to play Rafa and win against Rafa in the biggest stages, biggest tournaments.

Of course, it’s not easy.  But a rivalry with him definitely allowed me to grow as a person and as a tennis player, allowed me to understand the things I need to work on.

I take it from the positive side, of course.  I had my ups and downs throughout my career, but my rivalry with him and with Roger made me a better player, that’s for sure.

Q.  Can you talk a bit more about the wrist injury, how it started?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I prefer not talking about it.  It’s just something I carry for the last seven days.  Hopefully it’s going to go away.

Q.  Do you still have time also and the pleasure to enjoy off the court?  I saw you on TV in Italy.  Here normally you participate for the player party.  Do you still like to do that or is it more fatiguing and you’re trying to stay out of all the action outside the tennis court?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  It’s the balance between the things.  I believe ‘balance’ is the right word.  It’s one of my mottos in life, trying to always moderate between the professional and private life.  In the end of the day, you know, you need to lead your life.

Of course, tennis is a big part of my life, but it’s not the only thing that I enjoy, that I have that makes me happy.  Luckily for me I have a lot of sources of happiness from outside of a tennis court.  That’s something that definitely brings a smile on my face because I wouldn’t be enjoying so much if the only source of the happiness in my life is winning tennis matches.

That’s it.

Q.  Will you sing or dance this week?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  You’re referring directly to the player party?  You have to ask the question like that then (laughter).  But thanks for being philosophical before that.

No, the player party is for me one of the highlights of the year, of the tennis season.  I love it.  Unfortunately last year I didn’t take part in it.  This year I’ll make sure I’m there and I’ll do something fun.

Q.  You said two days ago, and Rafa said, it is difficult to find out how to beat you on clay.  Where do you go?  Forehand?  No.  Backhand?  No.  Movement?  No.  At the same time how can you explain that you win seven times in a row, he wins three times in a row?  As you said, yes, you learn from something.  How and what do you learn?  Seven times in a row, why do you beat him?  Why are you beating him so many times?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  There is not one word that can really describe or that really tells you the secret of my tactics or my approach to the matches with Rafa or the way I win against him.  I’m sure he’s going to say the same.

It just comes in swings.  I think it’s normal in life to have ups and downs.  In last few years we had periods where he was winning a couple matches in a row, then myself, then him again, then me again.  That shows, in my eyes, that both of us, we learn from the mistakes, then we make it count in the matches after that.

We all change.  I cannot compare myself to the player that I was a few years ago.  Every season is different.  It’s a new challenge, not just on the court but off the court.  I’m the same person at home and on the court.  There are things mentally that can affect you and your game.  Whatever happens in your private life can be an advantage or disadvantage on the court.  That is why there is always something new mentally you have to counter.

Physically we all can work and get ourselves in the perfect state.  But mentally and emotionally it’s up and down.  It’s life.  You know, you’re human, you make mistakes, then you learn something new.  You have to encounter something else because in the end of the day confidence is something that every single professional athlete in the world wants to have and doesn’t want to lose.

But losing confidence is much easier than gaining confidence.  It’s a long process of winning many matches, getting the self‑belief on the court, maintaining that high level of performance, getting that confidence, getting in that right zone and where you want to be.

You can lose it in a few days’ time.

People were asking me before about 2011, why can I not perform the same way I performed in 2011.  It’s different.  Every year brings something new.

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EXCLUSIVE: Wimbledon Great Billie Jean King Gives Her Verdict On Jasmine Paolini

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Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss in the Royal Box - Credit: AELTC/Ben Solomon

Billie Jean King has told Ubitennis the game style of Italy’s Jasmine Paolini is ‘perfect’ for the grass as she pays tribute to the 28-year-old. 

King, who won 20 Wimbledon titles in both singles and doubles during her career, praised Paolini just hours before her semi-final match against Donna Vekic. The world No.7 had never won a match at The All England Club until this year but has stormed through the tournament by dropping one set in five matches played. She has beaten players such as former US Open champion Bianca Andreeescu, Madison Keys (who retired at 5-5 in the final set due to injury) and Emma Navarro. 

“I’ve always liked watching Jasmine for a while now, and I got to see her last year at the Billie Jean King Cup,” the 80-year-old told Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta.
“Italy lost to Canada, but I saw her there and she was amazing.
“Finally at 28, she’s she’s doing what I think she should have been doing.”

Paolini is enjoying the best season in her career. She won her first WTA 1000 title in Dubai, reached the final of the French Open and at least the semi-finals at Wimbledon. She is the oldest player on the WTA Tour to reach their first two major semi-finals since 1977, according to OptaAce. 

As for the grass, King says Paolini has a ‘perfect’ game for the surface. Even though the tennis star has previously spoken about her mixed feelings about playing on the surface. 

“On grass. She’s perfect.” King stated. 
“She’s low to the ground, she can volley, she can hit Groundstrokes. Big forehand. Unbelievable.”

Paolini is one of three women aged 28 or older to reach the last four at Wimbledon. Something that last occurred in 2018. As for the reason behind these players coming to top form at a later age, King admits she hasn’t got an explanation. 

“I have no idea.” She said
“I think she’s (Paolini) finally found herself and everybody gets to be their best at different ages.
“This year at Wimbledon, it seems like in the women’s events it’s now that they’re older, they’re doing better. So I don’t get it, to be honest.
“It’s the weirdest Wimbledon ever and I’ve been coming here since 1961!”

King has won an incredible 175 titles during her career in the Open Era. 101 of those were in doubles, 67 in singles and seven in mixed doubles.  

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EXCLUSIVE: Ex-No.1 Nenad Zimonjic Gives His Verdict On Djokovic And The Wimbledon Crowd

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Novak Djokovic might be the headline act when it comes to tennis in Serbia but Nenad Zimonjic also enjoyed his fair share of success in the sport. 

The 48-year-old is a former world No.1 in the men’s doubles which makes him one of only four players from his country to have ever topped the tennis rankings. During his career, he won eight Grand Slam doubles titles with five of them occurring in the mixed doubles. Overall, he won 53 trophies on the ATP Tour, as well as the Davis Cup where he later became the captain of the Serbian team.

Zimonjic has returned to Wimbledon this year to play in the Legends event. He has been keeping an eye on compatriot Djokovic and his bid to claim a historic 25th major title at Wimbledon.

“I think he’s been playing better and better as the tournament progresses.” He told Ubitennis.
“The last match (against Holger Rune), he played the best so far.
I expect him to play even better in the quarterfinal match against Alex de Minaur.”

Whilst Djokovic is gaining momentum, he has unexpectedly taken a swipe at the Center Court crowd following his latest win on Monday evening by accusing some members of being ‘disrespectful.’ Throughout the clash, there were shouts of the words ‘ruuune’ in a show of support for his Danish opponent. However, the world No.2 believes some were using those cheers as an opportunity to take a shot at him. 

Zimonjic, who is a long-time friend of Djokovic that travelled to Monte Carlo and Rome with him earlier this year, is unable to weigh in on this particular argument. However, he defends the British crowd at The All England Club where he made 18 main draw appearances as a professional player. 

“I didn’t get to see the whole match I cannot comment (on Djokovic’s remarks) because I wasn’t there.” He said. 
“But what I can say is that the crowd here (at Wimbledon) is very knowledgeable and really respectful to everybody.
“If there was somebody (being disrespectful to Djokovic) maybe there are a couple of people.
“So you cannot say this about the crowd. I’m sure it’s nothing nothing major.”

Djokovic continues to be a dominant force in tennis at the age of 37 and has no plans to step away anytime soon. However, when he does there will inevitably be a huge gap in Serbian tennis. The country currently has five players in the ATP Top 150 but only two of those are under the age of 25 – Hamad Medjedovic (20) and Miomir Kecmanovic (24). There is also 18-year-old Marko Maksimovic who is currently ranked in the junior top 20 on the boy’s Tour. 

“Hopefully some new, really good generations are coming up. We’ll see what the future brings.” Zimonjic commented. 
“It’s not going to be easy to match any of these results and the standards that he (Djokovic) achieved and all the records speak for themselves.
“Maybe they will never be broken, but, we’ll try to make it as better as possible.”

As for life on the Tour for those players, Zimonjic admits it is tough going due to the demanding schedule which starts from January until November. However, since last year the ATP have agreed to stage their Next Gen finals, which features the eight best players under the age of 21, in December. 

The schedule has been a long-debated subject that goes back to Zimonjic’s days on the Tour. 

“Our season is probably the longest in sport.” He said.
“It’s very demanding on the body, travelling, changing the time zones so you have to be extremely fit, mentally tough, and you need a really strong team around you and family support.
“If this can change, I don’t know. So far they (tennis’ governing bodies) haven’t found a way, but, hopefully, anyway, it got shorter a little bit compared to ten years ago was even longer.
“We had maybe three weeks to prepare for the next to rest and prepare for next season, which was really brutal.
“But the good thing is that tennis is very popular and people are following it.”

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EXCLUSIVE: ‘People Are Dying Everyday’ – Elina Svitolina’s Voice Is Important For Ukraine

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Elina Svitolina (UKR) playing against Magda Linette (POL) in the second round of the Ladies' Singles on No.2 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 4 Thursday 01/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

There was little celebration from Elina Svitolina after she reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon on a grave day for her home country. 

The world No.21 eased to a 6-2, 6-1, win over China’s Wang Xinyu without dropping serve, reaching the last eight of the tournament for the third time in her career. It is a huge boost for the 29-year-old who later admitted she didn’t feel like playing in the wake of a new attack against Ukraine. 

A Russian missile attack struck the country in daylight on Monday which resulted in the deaths of at least 36 people and caused significant damage to the main children’s hospital in Kyiv, according to officials. Reuters News Agency says they have a video showing a missile falling from the sky towards the children’s hospital followed by a large explosion.

“It’s an incredibly sad day today for all Ukrainians. It was really difficult for me to be here (at Wimbledon) in a way and do anything. I just wanted to be in my room, just be there with my emotions, with everything,” said Svitolina.

“Today was one of the days where it was even more difficult because the missile landed on the hospital, the kids’ hospital. Straightaway you see the images and everything that happened there. So many kids lost their lives.”

Svitolina took to the court wearing a black ribbon on her t-shirt in respect to those affected. The gesture was approved by The All England Club which usually has in place a strict all-white policy when it comes to attire. Throughout the war in Ukraine, she has spoken numerous times about the conflict and is an ambassador her the United24 fundraising platform, which was set up by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Evgeniy Zukin, who is the executive director of the Ukrainian Tennis Federation (UTF), spoke to Ubitennis following his compatriot’s latest win at SW19. He stresses the significance of Svitolina and her peers to continue speaking out about the war.

“It is important for Ukrainians to keep informing the world of the atrocities that are now happening in Ukraine,” said Zukin. 

“We know the public in the West is tired of bad news. Only disasters like today when many children were killed bring attention back to Ukraine. But unfortunately, people are dying every day and no less than today.”

Zukin’s words are also echoed by tennis journalist Sergey Kontorchik, who is the founder of Великий теніс України which is known in English as BTU. He is based in Dnipro, a city located in the centre of the Dnipropetrovsk Region which borders Donetsk. As somebody living in the conflict zone, Kontorchik is frustrated by the promotion of Russian and Belarussian athletes in the media whilst his athletes suffer. 

“No one is interested in the mental state of Ukranian players. You saw how hard it was for Svitolina after the match today,” he told Ubitennis from Dnipro on Monday afternoon.

“For Ukrainians, it is hard and it hurts. Our players receive negative criticism for not shaking hands with representatives of these countries. We are pushed to the background, far away, so as to not bring up an uncomfortable topic, the war, which continues to destroy our country.

“It is important to us (Ukrainians) when players talk and remind the world about the war, that Ukraine is still alive and continues to fight for independence. 

“It’s clear many people have forgotten.”

Wimbledon had previously banned Russian and Belarussian players from competing in the tournament in 2022 amid concerns that those governments could use the event as propaganda. The move prompted backlash from the governing bodies who removed the allocation of rankings points that year. The ban was lifted in 2023. 

“I would prefer that (the ban to still be in place) but it is how it is now,” said Svitolina. “I cannot change. We tried every possible way to talk with many organizations.

“For now I just want to raise awareness, to raise funds for people in need, to raise support for the kids through my foundation, through United24. So many ways we can help people and not only focus on the things we cannot control.”

The hope for Svitolina is that her tennis is providing comfort to those back home. Although dealing with her emotions due to the war is tough.

“I think for many Ukrainians they will share this feeling with me. We feel guilt that we feel happy or that we feel good. Not only because I’m in the quarterfinal of the Grand Slam but in everything,” she explained.

“Like you go on holidays, you feel guilty because you’re not in Ukraine. Many people cannot leave the country. Many people are at war. Many people are fighting, and defending our front lines.

“I think we’ve been living with this feeling for over two years. I mean, it’s nothing new. But yes, of course, it’s not a pleasant feeling to have.”

On court, things are going well for Svitolina. She has dropped only one set in the tournament so far, which was against Magda Linette in the first round. 

“She showed in the last year that she knows how to play on grass,” Zukin told Ubitennis about Svitolina. 

“After beating Ons Jabeur (in the third round) she felt confident and played flawlessly today.” 

Svitolina will next play Elina Rybakina. 

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