WTA Stuttgart Interviews. Jankovic: “I did my first split in a really long time. So, I think the crowd enjoyed it.” - UBITENNIS
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WTA Stuttgart Interviews. Jankovic: “I did my first split in a really long time. So, I think the crowd enjoyed it.”

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TENNIS WTA Stuttgart – J. Jankovic d A. Kleybanova 6-4, 6-3. An interview with Jelena Jankovic.

 

Have you got Petar Popovic in your box?

Yes, for this week.

 

Is he working with you or just cheering?

He’s just helping and joining our team for this week. Because Karlovic was not playing this week. He’s working with Karlovic. He’s his coach. So, he’s just helping and joining the team for this week. He’s a good friend of ours. So, it’s nice.

So, your split and the time it took to get back up. Is that because you didn’t want to put your hand down or is it old age?

No, you know, actually this was my first split in such a long time. It brought back a lot of memories.

Some good, some bad?

Yes, when I was doing that all the time, it was a lot of fun when I was very flexible. I’m kind of still flexible but it’s so much more difficult to get up, that’s the difference. So, I’m kind of now afraid to do them, just so I don’t get injured because I had a lot of injuries not because of the splits but just because I’m not as flexible as I used to be. So, I’m working on it, it’s getting better. I did my first one in a really long time. So, I think the crowd enjoyed it.

So, looking ahead now to the semi-final, this was the first-round match that everybody was really looking forward to. Now it’s actually a semi-final. What are your thoughts?

Actually, it’s for the better that we are playing the semi-final than in the first round because one of us will be in the final and it’s great for our country. It’s going to be great for either one of us to be in the final, to be competing for the Porsche. It will be a tough match. We’ve had really tough matches in the past and she’s playing quite well in this moment. I hope to be playing well as well. So, hopefully it will be a good match and the better one will win.

And you’re going for the Porsche?

It would be nice to get that blue one to my collection. I love Porsches. I enjoy driving them. They’re such great cars, such amazing brand. So, it would be nice

It was a good match for you but you are never really satisfied about your game?

Never actually. I’m a perfectionist and I get off the court and I always feel that I could have done so much better. I think there is just something in my nature. I’ll never say that I played so well. I always think my opponents played much better and I was maybe lucky a little bit here and there. No, but I think that I served very well, especially that first set I think that was the key because I broke her in the first game of the first set and I was able to keep my serve throughout the first set and win it. So, in the second set my first percentage went down and I gave her a look at my second serve a lot more and she took advantage of that. But I was able to break back and stay strong mentally and kind of get through. It’s not easy, especially that I was playing my doubles partner, you know someone I know very well and she’s such a nice girl, such a great player. It’s never nice to be playing against each other. But that’s the draw and you feel kind of awkward, Even though we are all professionals, I want to win, she wants to win but it’s kind of weird. Tomorrow we’re together on the same side. So, it’s never easy to do that.

With everything that Alisa has been through, how inspiring to you think it is for her to come back, especially since she took out Kvitova in her first match?

She showed that she is such a strong girl and it’s very inspirational to others that she was able to come after such a tough illness and it’s even more amazing that she is here competing at such a high level against all of us here. I’m very proud of her and I’m a big fan of her. I cheer for her every time she plays against other people and I support her. She’s a lovely girl. She’s an amazing person which is more important than being a great player, at least in my opinion.

When it comes to talking to the press you’re one of the most entertaining players. Is it something you work on or…?

Do you think I work on this? Of course not. It’s just my nature. Even though you think I’m doing a press conference for me this is just fun. That’s how I am even if there were no cameras around. If you guys were with me when I’m in the restaurant or outside the tennis court, then you’d know me a little bit better, then you would know that’s how I am. I’m bubbly and I just like to talk, sometimes nonsense. No, but it’s nice to have a good time and make people laugh and spread that good energy. I think that’s most important.

Did you ever regret something that you said?

Sometimes. I kind of realized over time that if you say something in a joke people don’t say ‘ha, ha, ha’ in the newspaper and people can think I said it in a serious way and I was just trying to say something funny or it sounded differently, was taken in a different context. But that’s you know …

It doesn’t affect you?

No, because I know what I say, what I meant. But I try to be kind of careful.

The press used to make a big big deal of you and Ana, your backgrounds and of how you came to where you were. A few years are past now. I guess the two of you …, you play Fed Cup?

No, we’re fine. We are both such great players and nice girls. You know, that’s the sport. We are good professionals. We both want to win. That’s just basically it. There is nothing … like you play someone else. That’s how you have to look at it. It’s not easy playing someone from the same country. Like I said it’s going to be good whoever goes to the finals. It’s going to be a good result. So, we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully we both play good tennis.

Last time you played Ivanovic you won?

When was that?

Madrid.

Oh, it was Madrid. That was a long time ago. We’ll see. I think every match is different. It depends on which kind of form you’re in, your confidence, the way you’re playing, how you feel in the moment. We’ll see. We’re both playing pretty well in this moment and like I said the better one will win.

Interviews

(EXCLUSIVE) Daria Kasatkina’s Coach Martinez Gives His Verdict On Her Current Form Ahead Of US Open

Kasatkina was the only top 10 player to play a tournament the week before Flushing Meadows but there was a good reason for her doing so…..

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Daria Kasatkina pictured with the champions trophy at the 2022 Granby National Bank Championships (image via twitter.com/wta)

Heading into the US Open Daria Kasatkina finds herself as one of the most successful players on the Tour this season in terms of matches won. 

 

The Russian world No.9 has registered 37 victories so far in 2022 with only three other women managing to win more matches than her on the WTA Tour. Ahead of her is Ons Jabeur (38), Simona Halep (39) and Iga Swiatek (48). Kasatkina is also one of eight players to have won multiple titles in 2022 with her most recent triumph occurring on Saturday at the Granby Championships where she beat Daria Saville 6-4, 6-4, in the final. 

Invariably there have also been blips for Kasatkina on the Tour. Between winning titles in San Jose and Granby this summer, she lost her opening match at two tournaments. Falling to Bianca Andreescu at the Canadian Open and then Amanda Anisimova in Cincinnati. 

Besides her results, the 25-year-old made headlines around the world after taking part in a fascinating documentary with vlogger Vitya Kravchenko where she spoke openly about her personal life for the first time, as well as the war in Ukraine. Andrey Rublev also took part in the documentary which was filmed in Spain where the two players train. 

At the centre of Kasatkina’s success on the court is her coach Carlos Martinez. A former player on the men’s Tour who has previously worked with the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marc Lopez, Kateryna Kozlova and Feliciano Lopez. The most striking aspect about Martinez is his honesty. He could easily say everything over the past few months has been great for Kasatkina but instead he points out there are still improvements to be made. His philosophy as a coach is ‘to go day-by-day and to do our best every day.’

Martinez spoke to UbiTennis shortly before Kasatkina won her sixth Tour title in Granby this weekend. The Spaniard explains why it was important to play a tournament the week before the US Open and what his expectations are for the Grand Slam. 

UBITENNIS: Carlos, we last spoke during the French Open. Since then Daria has won the San Jose Open. How would you describe her current form heading into the US Open?

MARTINEZ: She has been doing well but not since San Jose. She didn’t play her best tennis and didn’t compete very well. The mentality was good. She had a few matches where she played well but her level was not unbelievable.

She has been doing well all summer because after Miami we made more specific preparations and then she was practising hard on court. That is why since summer she has been doing well and now we have got the results.

She is very consistent and this is what I want from her, to be very consistent every week. After San Jose, she lost two matches against Andreescu and Anisimova. They were tough matches against good opponents but in my opinion she could have won both matches. She is doing well and now she is in the final of Granby. My philosophy is to go day-by-day and to do our best every day. Like this, she is going to achieve the results she wants.

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UBITENNIS: There has been a lot going on in Dasha’s personal life and when she spoke publicly about her sexuality there was a lot of media attention. Have you noticed any positive impact on her tennis since this has happened? Other athletes in the past have said they feel they perform better after coming out.

MARTINEZ: I will not talk about her personal life because I want to focus on her performance in tennis. I do not agree that since she did that interview, everything was getting better. At the beginning of the year and then in the summer she was good. To me, this is not the reason why she is playing well and winning matches. I am focused on just her tennis career and trying to help her in the best way.

UBITENNIS: Daria was the only top 10 player to play in a WTA event the week before the US Open. Why did you decide to play in Canada instead of heading to New York earlier? 

MARTINEZ: I am not focused on her ranking but the level of her performance. After losing two first-round matches I didn’t want her to wait two weeks between Cincinnati and the US Open. Because it is possible that at the end of one month she could play just two matches.

For Dasha, it is important for her to be in competitions. To have this adrenaline inside (her). I think the best preparation for her US Open is to play here (in Canada). Every single tournament to me is important, every match she plays is important for her improvement. That’s why we are here and next week we are going to be at the US Open. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. The most important (thing) is to play in the present. 

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UBITENNIS: What do you think of Daria’s US Open draw? She has only managed to reach the fourth round in New York once in her career so far. 

MARTINEZ: The draw is always tough. The first match is super tough and the second match is super tough. So there are no easy matches.

There are many good players, it depends on the part of their career…. we will see. Dasha right now is in a good shape. I like to see the present – not the past or the future. She did this in the past (reach round four) and I hope every single year she is going to be better and better.

UBITENNIS: I understand that your main job is to work on Daria’s physical training. How does she manage the mental side of being an athlete? 

MARTINEZ: I am trying to help her both ways because I think I can with my experience as a coach and as a player. We are talking a lot about tennis, the technical and tactical side. But also about how to manage situations in matches, how to see the light and these kinds of things. I am trying to support her in both ways.

Physically, tennistally and mentally. This is how I work with her. She is a very tough player mentally and tennistically.

Kasatkina is the 10th seed at the US Open and will begin her campaign against Great Britain’s Harriet Dart. In her section of the draw, she could play Veronika Kudermetova in the third round followed by Jabeur. 

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Travelling across tennis, relationships and life with John Lloyd

Ubaldo Scanagatta spoke to John Lloyd about a series of topics on his professional and personal life.

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In an exclusive talk with Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, John Lloyd, former British No.1 and Davis Cup Captain provides insights on tennis, a changing world and his personal history

 

Edited by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Wimbledon and the recent publication of “Dear John”, John Lloyd’s autobiography, set up the occasion for Ubitennis to meet up with John Lloyd and have a long talk which embraced four decades of tennis and personal anecdotes.

“Friend” is the word which most often recurs in John’s tales and unveils his unique empathy in his relating to people, to life. Always eager to embrace new experiences, yet loyal to his past.

Indeed, John Lloyds’ best run in a major was halted by a friend. In 1977, in fact, he reached the final at the Australian Open, which he lost in five sets to Vitas Gerulatis:

The Slam in Australia wasn’t like it is now. It was still a big tournament, but some of the big players didn’t come over because it was over Christmas. I got to the final. I should have won that match. I lost in five sets to my friend Vitas, which was a big disappointment although if I was going to lose with someone, he’s the guy because, you know, he was a great guy. It was one of the saddest days when he passed away at 40 years old with that tragedy with the carbon dioxide poisoning.

John is not a person who allows rear-view perspective to indulge in regrets, yet in terms of tennis he admits he regrets never managing to make a breakthrough at Wimbledon, where he says he always suffered from a self-inflicted pressure:

For some reason at Wimbledon I never played my best tennis. I won two mixed doubles, which was great [in 1983 and in 1984 with Wendy Turnbull] but in singles I was always very disappointed with my performances. I had a couple of big wins.  I beat my friend Roscoe Tanner when he was seeded number 3 and a lot of people thought he was going to win the title that year. I beat him on court number 1 but it was typical of my Wimbledon performances that I lost the next day to a German player called Karl Meiler who I should have beaten [after comfortably winning the first two sets he ended up losing in 9 7 in the fifth]. I let myself down after having one of the best wins of my career. And that was my Wimbledon story.

“Dear John” was written with Phil Jones, BBC journalist, while the foreword is by a tennis great, and friend, Bjorn Borg:

Bjorn is a good friend of mine. We’ve had many good times together when we played and also when we played on the senior tour. Bjorn is a lovely man and I called him up and asked him and he said no problem, I’d love to do it.  We’ve had so many good stories. I’ve always thought he is one of the greatest champions of all time. I beat him once in Monte Carlo on clay [1975, 60 57 64, in the quarterfinals]. It was probably my best ever win although there are rumours he was out until four in the morning with some ladies…but that’s not my fault!

When we mention how there was a moment when he became very popular also outside the world of tennis, owing to his romance with Chris Evert, John opens up about the difficulties in getting married so young and to a worldwide tennis star:

We had some good times. We were married for 8 years but we were too young, both 24, on the tennis circuit, going to different places.  If we had been married 10 years later we could have had a chance. We had some good times and some bad times, but we are still friends. I married into someone who was a huge legend. It was fortunate I was well known in Britain so I was used to having press around and that kind of stuff, but it was nothing like until I got married with Chris. It opened a lot of doors to me, to be honest. I met people I wouldn’t have met before. We went to wonderful places, met amazing people.

As well as broadcasting for BBC, John Lloyd’s working life spans from selling real estate for Sotheby’s in Western Palm Beach, where he is currently living, to some coaching, and some tennis lessons in Mar-a-Lago club run by Donald Trump, former US president and a man who built a financial empire with real estate. Mr Trump’s knack for business is well proved by a story John recalls:

I’ve known Mr Trump for 40 years. I saw him about three months ago at the golf club and had a chat with him. He said “John, how about you doing some celebrity lessons at Mar-a-Lago?” I said “Mr President, that could be good”. He said “This is what we will do: I’ll tell the director of the club and you’ll charge 500 $ an hour. So that’s good and I’ll take half.” “That’s a good deal” I said. So that was the president. He knows how to do business. There was no negotiation. It was like I’ll take 250, but 250 is not bad so I’ll do that.

Donald Trump is only one of the celebrities John Lloyd met in his journeying around the world and that he writes about:

I do a lot of name dropping. I’m very good at that. I’ve been around with a lot of celebrities. I’ve had some funny stories about celebrities that people would like to hear, I hope. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve met presidents, the queen, the royal family, I’ve met billionaires, amazing businessmen.

I’m a boy from a place called Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, a small town. From a family below middle class. And I’ve seen every country in the world I’ve wanted to be. I’ve been very very fortunate.

We can infer that John Lloyd’s autobiography is not just an album of tennis memories:

I think that the word “great” in tennis is a very overused word. I think great players are players that have won slams in singles. I was a good player and a good player cannot write a book on just what he did on the court. But I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve lived in four decades of professional tennis. I came in at the end of the Rod Laver era, and then came in with my era which was Borg, Connors and McEnroe. Then I went into the next era where I was Davis Cup captain with Henman, Rusedski, and Agassi, Sampras. Then the TV puts me into another one. So this book is really stories more than anything and I’m proud of it. But there’s also some serious stuff. I do a chapter about when six years ago I had prostate cancer and I’m very honest about that.

I also talk about my family and my son, who I’m very proud of. He had an addictive problem and he’s been clean now for thirteen years. When I wrote the book he asked me if I was going to mention it and I said no. And he said I want you to, because maybe it will help someone. So that was a very emotional and difficult chapter to write, about that period in my life which was without doubt the worst period, but then it became the most wonderful period to see my son turn out to be this amazing person.

Venturing back to tennis, since John has just spoken about players who were and still are good friends of his, we ask him if there were players he actually didn’t get along with. We learn that the toughest times came as a Davis Cup Captain:

I struggled a little bit with Andy Murray at times. I put in the book how much I admire him as a player, but I struggled a bit with his behaviour with coaches, the way he would say things to them. To be honest, it was one of my fears when I took the Davis Cup job that he was going to be on the court with me. I always thought to myself that if someone behaved like that and I was coaching them, I would just walk out, no matter how much they paid me. But as a Davis Cup captain, you can’t do that. I got really nervous about it. Then I came up with a good idea. At the time when I was captain he was being coached by Brad Gilbert. So I asked Brad to give me some instructions when Andy was playing, and he agreed to. And when Andy was coming up to me  and I could see he was mad, I told Andy, for instance, “Andy you need to come in to the net on the forehand more.” And he was about to say something, and I said, pointing at Brad, “He told me to tell you! It was him!” So Brad got all the shouting and I just gave him [Andy] the towel.

I struggled with Greg Rusedski a little bit too. He was fine on my team but, after he left, he was then trying to get my job and made a few remarks about me on TV, that I was picking the wrong players, the wrong chords, that kind of stuff that I wouldn’t do, sure.

This is the prompt that leads up to a comparison between tennis of different eras and John has a few prickly ideas.

Most players were good in my era. There were some guys that I struggled with a little bit, but, you know, we didn’t have entourages around us the way they do now. We had a group and we’d play matches, we’d be in the locker room and the guy who lost, it was like “Let’s go out tonight.” Now they’ve got managers and physiotherapists and parents, they are in all these groups… I always say to people I’m envious of how much money the players of today make, of course I would love that, but they don’t have as good a time as we had. I have friends that I still see. And I’m lucky I wasn’t in the era with cell phones and Ipads. I would probably have got locked up about twenty times for the things I did, but nobody could catch me.

As John has sailed through so many tennis eras and is well docked in the current harbours, we ask him if he expected players to be able to win twenty and more slams, and three players to win 62 [63, after Wimbledon 2022]. We also cannot but be curious to hear his say on the GOAT debate:

It’s a remarkable feat that these three players have done. I also wrote a chapter on this, called records. I like all those players but one of the things I like about Djokovic is that he is not scared to tell you that he wants to win the most titles, that’s his goal. Rafa and Roger come up with all this rubbish where they say “Oh no, that’s not my concern.” That’s just lies, of course it is. It’s in your DNA. Records are records, that’s what you live for if you are a player. And for them to say that is nonsense.

Who is the greatest of all time? It’s a fun conversation. I thought for sure that Novak was going to win more and then Nadal does what he does. I still think Novak is going to win more in the end, but for me when I talk about the greatest and all this, I switch it a little bit to say that what Rafa has done at the French Open, the 14 there, is the greatest sports achievement in any sport in history. So for me, whether he finishes second or third in terms of slams is not important. It’s a miracle he played 16 French Opens and won 14. It’s impossible what he did. That to me is the greatest achievement anyone has ever done.

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(EXCLUSIVE) Anne Keothavong Reacts To British Success At Wimbledon

The captain of the British Billie Jean king Cup team tells Ubitennis she believes her players can keep the momentum going beyond the grass swing.

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Image via https://www.twitter.com/tennisexplorer

This year’s Wimbledon Championships have without a doubt been a success for British tennis.

 

It all began during the first week when 10 Brits secured a place in the second round of the tournament – six in the men’s draw and four in the women’s. Making it the most successful start to the Grand Slam by British players since 1984. Continuing the momentum Liam Broady and Katie Boulter secured a place in the third round. Meanwhile, Heather Watson made it to the last 16 for the first time on her 12th attempt.

The stand-out Brit this year though has been Cameron Norrie who is only the fourth man from his country to reach the last four of Wimbledon in the Open Era. The breakthrough by the 26-year-old has been one in the making following a series of successes he has achieved on the ATP Tour. Norrie, who has featured in nine ATP finals since May 2021, will take on top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday.

Watching the success from the sidelines is Anne Keothavong who is the current captain of the British Billie Jean King Cup team. As a player, she cracked the world’s top 50 in 2009 and was the first female player from her country to do so for 16 years. She played in 24 Grand Slam main draws during a 13-year period.

As it is with every Wimbledon, the task for the LTA is to continue the momentum generated by their players beyond the grass season. Something Keothavong thinks will be certainly possible.

“That’s the challenge. All the British players – men and women – have had an unbelievable grass-court season, not just Wimbledon,” she tells Ubitennis.
“Naturally there is a kind of a break to regroup after everything that has gone on but they will be back in training in no time and getting ready for the hardcourt season.”

Due to the ban on Russian and Belarussian players playing at British events this year, no ranking points have been issued. Undoubtedly an annoyance for the likes of Watson and Norrie but they have made peace with the situation already.

Keothavong is one of those nurturing the best female players in her country and providing any possible help if asked to. The British women have been thriving in recent months, especially Emma Raduanu who became the first qualifier in history to win a major title at the US Open. In total there are six Brits in the WTA top 200 and a further two younger players just outside. 21-year-old Francesca Jones is 219th and 20-year-old Sonay Kartal is 226th.

“On the women’s side, all of those players have so much confidence,” said Keothavong. “Their ranking is going in the right direction, they are able to enter tournaments which they might not have been able to do at the start of the grass-court season. It’s a good place to be but they need to remain focused and keep doing what they can do.”

The tennis community is described by some as a family. An analogy Keothavong can certainly relate to as she describes herself as a ‘big sister’ to the other girls. Throughout Wimbledon, the home players have spoken out in support of each other with Norrie mentioning their participation in the Battle Of The Brits exhibition helped them form a closer bond.

“If you ask them (the players) they probably say I am like a big sister to them,” she said. “In my role as Billie jean king cup captain, I guess it is important that I do maintain a good relationship with all of the players. I follow their progress and if they need extra support they know I’m there.”
“It’s really important to have that relationship with them as captain and we need to be open with each other. I don’t invade their privacy but they know if they need anything I’m there.”

Under Keothavong’s guidance, the British Billie Jean King Cup team has won six out of their last eight ties since 2019. Their only losses were to the formidable Czech Republic (2-3) earlier this year and Slovakia (1-3) in February 2021.

The team will return to action later this year in the Finals which will be held in Glasgow. Britain has been drawn in the same group as Spain and Kazakhstan.

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