Bits & pieces from the World of Tennis: 5th of May 2014 - UBITENNIS
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Bits & pieces from the World of Tennis: 5th of May 2014

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TENNIS – The world of tennis is in shock after the news of Elena Baltacha’s death. The former British no.1 died of liver cancer aged 30. This week also Bethanie Mattek-Sands underwent hip surgery last Monday. Prize money at Wimbledon is increased. Tomic returns and the Bryans celebrate their 36th birthday. Joshua Bosco

Former British No.1 Elena Baltacha has died from liver cancer at the age of 30.

She was diagnosed with a severe liver condition in her teens but,despite this, still managed to win11 singles titles in a career spanning 16 years.

She was diagnosed with cancer in mid-January, two months after retiring from professional tennis and just a few weeks after marrying her long-time partner and coach Nino Severino.

She announced her condition in March and the “Rally for Bally” – a series of matches for the Elena Baltacha Foundation and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity – will now take place in memory of this amazing young woman.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands hip surgery

World No.81 Bethanie Mattek-Sands underwent hip surgery last Monday. According to her agent the American, who had another hip operation back in 2008, wanted to resolve some discomfort that was hindering her movement.

It’s been a tough six months for Mattek-Sands, who missed the end of last year due to knee injury. A timetable for her return hasn’t yet been announced but apparently she’s already up and walking around.

Losing just got better

The All England Club has announced an 11% rise in total prize money at this year’s Wimbledon Championships, bringing the total up to £25m.

The increase is once again weighed in favour of those who lose in the early rounds: first round losers will get a £27,000 cheque (just three years ago they won only £11,000), second round losers will take home £43,000 and third round losers will bag a nice £71,000. They didn’t forget about the winners though, as the champions will receive a hefty 10% increase on the £1,6m Murray and Bartoli won last year.

Who’s missing Madrid (and Rome)

Venus Williams has announced her withdrawal from the WTA Premier Mandatory Madrid Open citing an illness. Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton have also announced they won’t play in Madrid while Victoria Azarenka, who is side-lined since the BNP Paribas Open in early March due to a foot injury, will also miss the Internazionali in Rome next week.

Richard Gasquet has joined del Potro, Florian Mayer, Gael Monfils and Vasek Pospisil in the list of players who have withdrawn from the Madrid Open. According to L’Equipe, Gasquet will also miss the Internazionali and is doubtful for the French Open.

The news was already in the air: newspaper Marca.com had reported that Novak Djokovic could have missed the Masters 1000 in Madrid due to his ongoing right arm injury, suffered three weeks ago in Monte Carlo. Yesterday, with a statement released on the ATP World Tour website, the player confirmed he won’t take part in this year’s Madrid Open and hopes to be ready for the Internazionali in Rome, which starts on May 11th.

While top players Nadal, Wawrinka and Murray are already in Madrid, Roger Federer is expected to arrive only today and that’s if his wife Mirka, pregnant for the second time, is in good health.

Tomic comeback

Last week saw a double comeback from the Tomics: Bernard, now ranked World No.77, has made his comeback on the tour fifteen weeks after withdrawing from his first round match against Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open (and six weeks after his humiliating match against Nieminem in his first attempted comeback). He defeated Michael Llodra in the first round of the qualifying tournament in Madrid, but then lost in the final round to Benjamin Becker.

His father John could also make a comeback on the tour after the 12-month suspension for assaulting his son’s sparring partner expired. It remains to be seen if he’ll make his comeback in Rome, where his son will once again play in the qualifiers on Saturday and Sunday.

Heather Watson comeback

World No.121 Heather Watson is set to make her comeback on the tour after missing more than two months due to a shoulder injury sustained at the Sony Open in Miami.

The 21 year old, who dropped in the rankings after reaching the Top 40 last year, will play at the ITF Cagnes-sur-Mer Open in south-eastern France, starting today.

Gonzalez turns coach

Former World No.5 Fernando Gonzalez is the newest name on the list of ex top players turned coaches: beginning at Roland Garros, he will travel with Colombian Santiago Giraldo, as assistant coach, to 10 tournaments a year. Giraldo will continue to work on a full-time basis with current coach Felipe Beròn.

Del Potro Update

Six weeks after undergoing surgery on his wrist, World No.7 Juan Martin del Potro has finished his rest period and has now entered a long period of intense rehabilitation.

“[…] even though I need to keep using the splint, now I can start the rehabilitation exercises to recover the mobility in my left wrist” wrote del Potro on his Facebook page.

Happy American Birthday

April 29th was the birthday of three great American tennis players: 8 time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi turned 44, while doubles World No.1s Bob & Mike Bryan turned 36 years old. Happy Birthday to them all!

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Novak Djokovic Opens Up About Wimbledon Points Removal

The world No.1 states that he will always support the views of his peers.

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Novak Djokovic (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

In his press conference following his win over Yoshihito Nishioka at the French Open, Novak Djokovic expressed his views about the ATP decision to remove points from Wimbledon.

 

Negatively affected by such a decision – he will drop 2000 points – the world No.1 praised the ATP’s stance and called for players’ unity.

“I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show that there are going to be some consequences. So I support the players, unification always. I have always done that. I will always do that.” He said.

Djokovic criticized the lack of communication between the parties involved, in particular with regard to a document of recommendation by the English Government which contained diverse options. Had it been discussed by the All England Club with ATP and players, a compromise may have been reached.

“I think it was a wrong decision. I don’t support that at all. But, you know, during these times, it’s a super sensitive subject, and anything that you decide, it’s unfortunately going to create a lot of conflict, a lot of separation instead of unification.” He continued.

Djokovic also mentioned other suggestions coming from WTA and ATP, that possibly men’s and women’s players from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia could play together at some exhibition event during the slam or something like this and prize money could go to the victims in Ukraine. There were different ideas, but there was never really a strong communication coming from Wimbledon.

He stressed that removing the points from Wimbledon, therefore not allowing players to earn or to defend points, is a decision that affects everyone, a lose-lose situation for everyone, as he called it.

Nonetheless, the charm and prestige of Wimbledon shall rest unaltered and its meaningfulness extends far beyond: “A Grand Slam is still a Grand Slam. Wimbledon for me was always my dream tournament when I was a child. You know, I don’t look at it through the lens of points or prize money. For me, it’s something else.”

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Injury-Hit Borna Coric Reacts To First Grand Slam Win In 16 Months

The Croat admits he was unsure how his shoulder would hold up in his opening match at Roland Garros.

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Borna Coric - US Open 2020 (via Twitter, @usopen)

Borna Coric said he is relieved that his body managed to hold up during his opening win at the French Open on Sunday.

 

The former world No.12 spent almost three hours on the court before defeating Spain’s Carlos Taberner 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, in what was his first Grand Slam match of any kind since the 2021 Australian Open. Paris is only the seventh tournament Coric has played in since returning to the Tour following a year-long absence due to shoulder surgery. The 25-year-old is yet to win back-to-back matches this season.

It does feel great. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of my shoulder because I’ve never been in the fourth set, fifth set (of a match) for one-and-a-half years,” said Coric.
“So it was also kind of worrying for me, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how I’m going to feel and how my whole body is going to behave in those later sets. Obviously I’ve been practicing it, but it’s really never the same.”

Impressively the Croat produced a total of 54 winners against 39 unforced errors in his latest match in the French capital. Furthermore, he won 76% of his first service points and 53% of his second.

“The last few weeks haven’t been very easy, I lost many tight matches. I mean, I was also quite happy with my tennis, but I was just losing,” he reflected.

Coric was once tipped to be the future of men’s tennis after rising quickly up the ranks at a young age. In 2014 he was the youngest player to end the season in the top 100 and a year last he was the youngest to do so in the top 50. He has recorded a total of nine wins over top five players, including Roger Federer, as well as winning two Tour titles.

In the second round at Roland Garros Coric will take on the formidable Grigor Dimitrov who has been ranked as high as third in the world. He will enter the clash as the underdog given his ongoing comeback from injury. At present Coric’s principal focus is on his body but that will change in the coming weeks.

Until Wimbledon my health needs to come first and after Wimbledon I can kind of try to switch in my mind so I can start playing more and more tournaments. I can train more and I can focus more on the tennis rather than on my shoulder,” he explains.

Coric has reached the third round of the French Open on four previous occasions.

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Felix Auger Aliassime Wins First Ever Roland Garros Match In Five Sets

Felix Auger-Aliassime earned his first ever victory at Roland Garros.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (@MatchPointCAN - Twitter)

The Canadian found himself down two sets to none but fought back to pull off the comeback in a thrilling five set victory.

 

Felix Auger Aliassime is into the second round of the French Open for the first time in his career after battling back to beat the Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas in five sets 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in three hours and 14 minutes.

The Montreal native finished the match serving 14 aces and hitting 52 winners in a match that featured a lot of long rallies from behind the baseline.

“It was a dream for me to play here, it was an honor and my first time on Phillipe Chatrier and my first win at Roland Garros and I had to work hard to get it and credit my opponent he played very well today.”

The Peruvian started the match by breaking the number nine seed right out of the gate and at 3-1 managed to turn that break into a double break as he served out the first set with ease.

The first two games of the second went on serve but again the world number 122 seemed to play better as the Canadian looked stunned, searching for answers.

The Lima native once again took an early lead to take a 3-1 lead and again that seemed like enough for the Peruvian as he served out the second set and was one set away from an improbable upset.

The third set is where the Canadian started to turn things around and his groundstrokes seemed to have more precision. At 2-1 it was the Montreal native who got the first break of serve.

After consolidating the break the world number nine was hungry for more and turned that break into a double break and it looked like the match was turning in his favour.

The Canadian served out the third set to send it to a fourth looking to send it to a decider.

The Montreal native rode the momentum from winning the third into the fourth set where after holding the opening service game got the early break once again taking a 2-0 lead.

At 5-3 with the Peruvian looking to stay in the set, Auger Aliassime managed to get another break to win the set and send the match to a fifth set.

The fifth set stayed on serve until 4-3 when the Canadian had four chances to break and at the fourth time of asking he was able to break and serve out the match to complete the comeback.

After the match in his on court interview he was asked about the adjustments he made in the third set to turn the match around and pull off the win.

“I tried to give myself some more space and a little more time, my opponent at the beginning was playing very quick, aggressive, and flat so I tried a couple things and I also served better and after that it was easier.”

The Canadian will next face either Aslan Karatsev or Camilo Ugo Carabelli in the next round.

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