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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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Frances Tiafoe And Jack Sock Ready To Rain On Federer’s Parade At Laver Cup

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Frances Tiafoe describes his first match at this year’s Laver Cup as ‘iconic’ but he is determined to seal victory with doubles partner Jack Sock. 

 

Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open earlier this month, will feature in what will be the final match of Roger Federer’s illustrious career. The Swiss maestro has announced that the team competition will be the last event he will play before retiring from the sport at the age of 41. Federer will partner up with long-time rival Rafael Nadal in what promises to be an emotional encounter for all involved on Friday evening. 

“It’s going to be iconic to be part of that,” Tiafoe told reporters in London. “Both guys are absolute legends, and obviously Roger’s last dance. We are definitely just out there trying to get a win.”

Looking at the wider picture, Tiafoe knows a win in the doubles could prove vital in team World’s bid to win the Laver Cup for the first time in history. Whilst on paper his achievements are overshadowed by those he faces, his current form gives him the edge. Federer hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon last year due to a knee injury. Furthermore, Nadal is still trying to get back to his best shape following an abdominal injury and was beaten by Tiafoe at the US Open. 

“This is a special night. I just think me and Jack are just looking for a special night, come out there, have fun,” he continued. “The crowd is obviously going to be for them. You understand that kind of moment, and just go out there and do your part and just try to get a win. It’s going to be a special night tomorrow. I’m just happy I get the opportunity to do it with Jack.”

Sock, who has won three Grand Slam titles during his career, echoes Tiafoe’s desire to seal victory over the two tennis giants. 

“I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe (Tiafoe),” he said. 
“We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”

Federer’s final match at The O2 Arena in London is set to take place in front of a sellout crowd. Following his retirement announcement, ticket sales for the three-day event have exploded. Ace Odds have reported a 4020% rise in demand for tickets with prices starting from £900. An extraordinary outcome considering the most expensive ticket for the Laver Cup was originally £510. 

The doubles match involving Federer, Nadal, Tiafoe and Sock is estimated to start around 20:20 BST on Friday. 

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