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.

Editorial

EXCLUSIVE: How The ATP Plans To Make The Tour More Welcoming For LGBT Players

The governing body of men’s tennis has received praise for taking a proactive approach to the topic with the help of a leading LGBTQ+ organisation and a top research university.

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Guido Pella during a Men's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Manuela Davies/USTA)

During the first week of the US Open, there was an abundance of rainbow-theme flags and wristbands worn by both players and fans to mark the tournament’s first-ever Open Pride Day.

 

The event was part of the USTA’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic platform which aims to make tennis more inclusive. Unlike the women’s game, there are no openly LGBTQ+ players on the men’s Tour and there have been few historically, even though various players have spoken of their support for anybody on the Tour who decides to come out. Including Stefanos Tsitsipas and newly crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who were questioned about the topic following their second round matches. Meanwhile, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime revealed that there is an ongoing survey related to LGBTQ+ issues being conducted by the ATP.

“Recently I’ve started doing a survey inside the ATP about the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “It’s important these days to be aware of that and to be open-minded and the ATP needs to do that, in today’s time it’s needed.

“The reason we don’t have openly gay players on the ATP Tour, I’m not sure of the reason, but I feel me, as a player, it would be very open, very welcome. Statistically, there should be some, but for now there’s not.”

In response to Auger-Aliassime’s comment, UbiTennis looked into the work currently being done by the ATP alongside two other parties. Their decision to venture into LGBTQ+ representation on the Tour is part of their recent commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of their players and staff. Last year, in May, they formed partnerships with Headspace and Sporting Chance.  

The survey currently being conducted by the ATP started after the governing body of men’s tennis reached out to Lou Englefield, the director of Pride Sports, a UK organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+phobia in sport and aims to improve access to sport for all LGBTQ+ people. Through their connection, they contacted Eric Denison, a behavioural science researcher at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences. Denison was the lead author of the Out on the Fields study, the first international study on homophobia in sport and the largest conducted to date.

“I have been personally impressed with the initiative of the ATP and their desire to find ways to mitigate the broad impact of homophobic behaviour (in particular), not only on gay people, but on all players.” He told UbiTennis during an email exchange.

“We know of no other sporting governing body in the world that has been proactive on LGBTQ+ issues, and has taken a strong focus on engaging with both the LGBTQ+ community and scientists to find solutions.”

Denison says the norm has been for sports bodies to address this issue after they have been either pressured to do so or if the LGBTQ+ community got the ball rolling themselves. Incredibly, research conducted as part of the Out On The Fields initiative documented 30 separate studies which found sports organisations ignored discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ people in sport.

Monash University has supplied the ATP with a series of scientifically validated questions, which they are using to ‘look under the hood’ at the factors which supports a culture where gay or bisexual players feel they are not welcome. The methodology is similar to a study Denison conducted in 2020 that focused specifically on the team sports rugby union and ice hockey.  

“We suspect that tennis isn’t inherently more homophobic than other sports, or traditionally male settings. Instead, there is a disconnect between people’s attitudes towards gay people (e.g. the recent pro-gay comments by top players) and their behaviour, specifically their use of homophobic banter and jokes,” said Denison.

“This behaviour, which is largely habitual, creates a hostile climate for young gay/bi people who drop out or hide their sexuality. This means gay/bi players are invisible in youth tennis and leads to the downstream problem of no professionals. The banter/jokes continue because people think it is harmless.”

The hope is that players will also agree to be interviewed by the researchers for them to get a better understanding. All of the results will then be used by Pride Sports and Monash University to recommend evidence-based solutions. It is unclear as to how long the study will take or when the findings will be ready. 

Former top 100 player Brian Vahaly is one of the few players to have been both openly gay and played at the highest level of the men’s game. However, he didn’t fully come to terms with his sexuality until after retiring from the sport at age 27. Speaking to UbiTennis earlier this year, Vahaly shed light on the potential barriers for gay players.

There were a lot of homophobic jokes made on Tour. It’s a very masculine and competitive environment,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of gay representation, except for the women’s Tour. With me not having the personality of an outspoken advocate (for LGBTQ+ issues), certainly not in my twenties, I needed some time to understand myself. To me, in tennis I didn’t feel like there was anybody to talk to or anybody that was going through anything similar.”

The ATP has spoken with Vahaly about their initiative and he has become ‘quite involved.’ Through their discussions, he got acquainted with Denison for the first time. As a professional, Vahaly peaked at a ranking high of 64th in the world and won five Challenger titles. After retiring from the Tour, he has served on the USTA’s board of directors since 2013. 

“I am happy to hear that the ATP is finally taking action to address this issue.  I’m impressed they are taking a thoughtful, data-driven approach to make a meaningful difference here,” he told UbiTennis. 

The ATP aims to make the men’s Tour more welcoming to potential LGTBQ+ athletes playing either now or in the future. For those who question if such an initiative is important in 2021, you only have to look at the younger demographic.

Sportsnet quoted CDC data from 2019 which showed that 26% of American LGBTQ+ teenagers aged 16 or 17 has contemplated suicide, five times more than those who identify as straight (5%). Among those teenagers who heard homophobic terms, 33% self-harmed and an additional 40% considered doing so.

More than 2000 players around the world currently have an ATP ranking.

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2020 Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic on the heat and the new scheduling: “I’m glad they listened to us”

Speaking to Ubitennis, the world number one describes the work that he, Medvedev and Zverev (among others) have done to obtain better playing conditions

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So far, the tennis tournament at the 2020 Olympics has made headlines less for the match-play than for the difficult conditions in which it has been taking place due to the heat and the humidity. In the women’s draw, for instance, four players have been forced to retire during their matches: the last one has been particularly shocking, as Paula Badosa was taken off-court on a wheelchair after collapsing late in the first set of her quarter-final match against Marketa Vondrousova. Luckily, these issues appear to have finally caught the attention of the International Tennis Federation: starting tomorrow, no match will be played before 3pm (7am in the UK).

 

Part of the credit for this (still belated) decision goes to the lobbying and the complaints of the players, as world N.1 Novak Djokovic explained while speaking to Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta in Tokyo: “I’m glad the decision was made to reschedule tomorrow’s opening matches at 3pm. Today we went to speak to the supervisor – when I say ‘we’ I mean myself, Medvedev, and Zverev, along with the team captains. I have spoken to Khachanov and Carreno Busta as well, so the majority of the players who will feature in the quarter finals was of the same opinion.

“Of course I would have wished for this decision to be made a few days ago, but it’s still a good thing,” he added. “Nobody wants to witness incidents like the one that occurred to Badosa.

“The conditions are really brutal. Some people might think that we are just complaining, but all resistance sports (and tennis should be included among them) are taking place later in the day because the combination between the heat and the humidity is really terrible.”

He then concluded: “I’ve been a professional tennis player for almost 20 years and I’ve never experienced such hard conditions for so many consecutive days. It may have have happened once or twice in Miami or New York, but just for one day, whereas in Tokyo the situation is like this every day. I think that this decision will benefit the fans as well, because playing later allows us to play our best – these conditions were just draining for us.”

Article by Lorenzo Colle; translated by Tommaso Villa

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Mats Wilander Exclusive: Matteo Berrettini Will Win A Grand Slam

UbiTennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta speaks to the former world No.1 about Berrettini’s historic win at Wimbledon.

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Matteo Berrettini (ITA) celebrates as he beats Hubert Hurkacz (POL) in the semi-final of the Gentlemen's Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 11 Friday 09/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Florian Eisele

Swedish tennis great Mats Wilander has praised Matteo Berrettini for his run to the Wimbledon Final during a one-to-one interview with UbiTennis.

 

25-year-old Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to reach the final of the Grand Slam after beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-4. Throughout the clash he was impressive behind his serve where he fired 22 aces and won 86% of his service points. This year he is unbeaten on the grass and is currently on a 10-match winning streak following his triumph at Queen’s last month.

“Breaking the first game of the fourth set is to me the sign that we all look for in players. Whatever happens in the third (set) should not matter and he came straight back,”Wilander tells UbiTennis.
“That’s my indication that he will be one of the best players in the world. He will win a Grand Slam one hundred percent, for sure, if he stays healthy.”

Wilander’s bold prediction centres around Berrettini’s game on both grass and hardcourt. However, he is less optimistic about his chances on the clay at present until his backhand becomes more powerful.

As to why the former world No.1 has so much confidence in Italy’s top player, he says it is his ability to not expose his weaknesses during matches. Drawing parallels between him and Roger Federer. The player Berrettini comprehensively beat in straight sets earlier in the week.

He knows how to hide his weakness and most great players know how to hide their weaknesses. Roger Federer is the perfect example. His backhand compared to the serve and the forehand. He stays alive with the slice and he comes over (to the net) sometimes when he has to,” he said.
“I think Matteo has figured out that he can stay alive with the slice. But the difference is that he is willing to slice and come in. He’s also double the size of Federer at the net so it is difficult to pass him.”

It wasn’t until the age of eight when Berrettini started to focus more on tennis after being asked by his younger brother to play more. As a professional he has won five ATP titles since 2018 and is the highest ranked ATP player from his country since Corrado Barazzutti back in 1978. He is coached by Vincenzo Santopadre, Marco Gulisano and Umberto Rianna.

“I would be so encouraged if I was coaching him. For the coach it must be like oh my god we are looking at a player who has (good use of his) hands and hides his weakness though the rest of his game,” the seven-time Grand Slam champion commented.
“I don’t why it has taken him a bit longer (to break through). I know he started a little bit later but I think he’s a natural at the big moments.”

On Sunday Berrettini faces the ultimate test against Novak Djokovic who will be seeking his third consecutive Wimbledon title and sixth overall. He has lost to the Serbian twice before on the Tour, including the French Open earlier this year. The Italian enters the final as the underdog but Wilander thinks he shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I think he has a good chance, I really do because that serve (of his) is different and he has a different forehand. He is not afraid to stay alive,” he concluded.

UbiTennis’ full interview with Wilander can be listened to below

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