TENNIS ROLAND GARROS 2014 – This year should be known as a banner year for growing old gracefully with tennis as the sport of a lifetime. There are 38 men over the age of thirty. This is the oldest group ever assembled to compete at Roland Garros. From Paris, Cheryl Jones
As usual, at least for the last nearly ninety years, the last month of spring always brings Roland Garros and for the past few years – buckets of rain. Even with the overcast skies and brief periods of showers, the crowds were buzzing with excitement. Children carrying grossly oversized tennis balls were anxiously seeking out their idols, hoping that they would be able to collect an autograph or two. The scene isn’t right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but if he was French and living in the twenty-first century, he would feel right at home creating a portrait of the happy faces, filled with anticipation of spectacular terre battue play for a magazine that could be the French version of the Saturday Evening Post – “Samedi Soirée Poste”, as it could be known.
Alas, that is a fantasy. The real Roland Garros is filled with top of the line tennis players. Along with the opening day draw, there are oddities and factoids that would thrill anyone with an appetite for trivia, as it relates to players in competition. (Trivia is defined as, details, considerations, or pieces of information of little importance or value.) Actually dictionaries might have been too quick to generalize when spelling out this definition. Today, it seems as if every little thing might have an impact somewhere down the line, and 2014’s Roland Garros information could fit into that defined useless category, but in reality, it is important. Actually it’s a part of history and the books will have the information packed away for opening at some later date.
The men and women’s draw each has 128 participants. This year should be known as a banner year for growing old gracefully with tennis as the sport of a lifetime. There are 38 men over the age of thirty. This is the oldest group ever assembled to compete at Roland Garros, surpassing 2012 when there were 37. It will be interesting to see how the oldsters progress this year. (It is difficult to think of anyone who is under forty as old, but in tennis, there are rocking chairs waiting in the wings once a player has blown out thirty candles on their birthday cake.)
Roger Federer, one of those oldsters is 32, soon to be 33. He has moved on to the next round, defeating Lukas Lacko of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. He, along with Gaston Gaudio is the only other man to have taken the title home, other than Rafael Nadal over the past ten years. Federer has been a busy guy this year dealing with a lot more than tennis. His wife, Mirka gave birth to their second set of twins on May 6, 2014. The two boys joined his daughters who will be five in a few months. The girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, are big sisters to Lenny and Leo. The Swiss maestro has always done things in a big way, and something tells me that the world of tennis will be watching the children for signs of their father’s magnificent command of the game. He seemed relaxed and confident today as he moved on to face Diego Schwartzman, a qualifier from Argentina, in the next round. His success will be the top of many not so trivial conversations if his winning ways continue.
Another point for the trivia books that is evident here in Paris is the lack of American players after the first few rounds. It has been a very long time since anyone advanced beyond the first week. Robby Ginepri made it through to the round of 16 in 2010. John Isner advanced to the next round by defeating Pierre-Hughes Herbert, 7-6, 7-6, 7-5. Isner has the record for the longest match in Roland Garros history and as a topper, at Wimbledon he and Nicolas Mahut battled for three days for “the” longest match in history. It was an exhausting match that took over 11 hours and 5 minutes of playing time. The final set was a doozy, ending up at – 70-68. At twenty-nine, he is inching toward the oldster’s club, but today he was an American who moved forward with gusto, joining his compatriot, Sam Querrey who defeated Italian, Filippo Volandri 7-6, 6-4, 6-3. Hope seems to be percolating for the Americans. This might be the year where the second week will not be American-less. Tomorrow will offer up other opportunities when Michael Russell faces Alejandro Gonzales who is Colombian, and Donald Young will face Dudi Sela, an Israeli.
Yes, there are American women in the competition, but they have fared so much better than the men, with Serena Williams as the defending champion. She easily dispatched her French opponent, Alize Lim today, 6-2, 6-1. Her sister, Venus, who has been dealing with a myriad of serious health issues during the past several years, felt some magic again and managed to pull out a good win over Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, 6-4, 6-1. (At 33, Venus is in the women’s version of the oldsters group, along with Serena who is 32, and more fit than ever.)
This is Roland Garros and it is a big part of why I love Paris in the springtime. There’s magic on the terre battue. Tomorrow it may sizzle, and it’s not quite summer!
Felix Auger Aliassime wins all Canadian battle with Denis Shapovalov in Barcelona
The Montreal native needed less than 90 minutes to dispatch his good friend and book a spot in the quarterfinals.
Felix Auger Aliassime booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Open Banc Sabadell in Barcelona beating his fellow Canadian and good friend Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 20 minutes.
“Against a player like Denis (Shapovalov) is positive, I was able to do a lot of good things out there and hopefully I can keep that form going”
It was the number 10 seed who got off to the best possible start holding his opening service game and earning his first breakpoint of the match with his powerful forehand.
The number seven seed played a bad service game and would get broken after serving a double fault to give his opponent a 2-0 lead. The world number 20 would break once again to take a commanding 5-1 lead and serve for the set but was broken in the process.
The Montreal native would break right back the following game to take the set in a mere 38 minutes after another double fault from the world number 14.
Between the first and second set Shapovalov called for the trainer and took a medical timeout to have work done on his left shoulder. It didn’t seem to change the game that much as like the first set Auger Aliassime would hold serve and get the early break.
At 5-2 the number 10 seed would have two match points on his opponent serve but the number seven seed did a good job saving both. The Montreal native would get a third chance to seal the victory but once again the world number 14 would deny him the opportunity.
He would save one more match point before holding serve and the world number 20 would serve it out. He will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas after he beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-3.
After the match Shapovalov told Ubitennis if he thinks his good friend Auger Aliassime has the upper edge on him on clay being that now he has beaten him in both Madrid and Barcelona.
“He was the just the better player today and I need to play more”
After the match in his post match press conference Auger Aliassime told Ubitennis his thoughts of having fans back in the stands this week in Barcelona.
“Little by little we are seeing tournaments having fans again, I think it gives hope that things are coming back to what we used to have and I hear in Madrid they will have fans too, It’s great to have fans again, I had a great time in Australia and Mexico and I’m happy to see faces again in the stands”
Rafael Nadal Survives Ivashka Scare In Barcelona
Rafael Nadal moved into the last 16 after surviving a big scare from Ilya Ivashka.
Rafael Nadal edged out Ilya Ivashka 3-6 6-2 6-4 to reach the third round in Barcelona.
The 11-time champion survived a big scare against the Belarusian as he broke on three occasions to reach the last 16.
Nadal will now face the winner of Kei Nishikori and Cristian Garin on Thursday.
It was a slow start from the Spaniard, who was broken straight away as he failed to adapt to the heavier conditions.
However this didn’t effect the world number 111 who went for the high-percentage shots and put Nadal under serious pressure.
Narrowly surviving a double break scare, Nadal eventually found his rhythm and confidence on serve but couldn’t pressurise his opponent on return.
Ivashka’s big hitting and big serving troubled Nadal as he was able to blast winners past the world number three and took advantage of Nadal’s lack of match-play.
Another break in the ninth game sealed the opening set for Ivashka in 53 minutes.
There was more to like about Nadal’s game in the second set though as he played a cleaner set of tennis, mixing his shots up.
Ivashka failed to deal with Nadal’s angles and heavy spin as in this set the Spaniard didn’t miss many shots.
In the end Nadal’s consistency was too much as a break in the opening game and fifth game sealed a comfortable set of tennis.
The final set produced both players playing solidly well throughout the set with Ivashka showing flashes of occasional brilliance as he target the down-the-line shots.
Despite Ivashka’s big-hitting, Nadal did what champions do and wore down the Belarusian before breaking when it mattered most for a 4-3 lead.
Keeping his cool and troubling the world number 111 with his energy and aggressive showcase of tennis, Nadal eventually closed out the match in 2 hours and 21 minutes.
A valiant effort by Ivashka who played some of the best tennis of his career but the king of clay prevailed to set up a third round meeting with either Kei Nishikori or Cristian Garin.
In other results Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev moved into the last 16 with 6-0 6-2 and 6-4 6-3 wins over Jaume Munar and Federico Gaio respectively.
No Questions For Hurkacz: Who Is To blame? Fans Blast Reporters, But Is It Really Them?
Hubert Hurkacz goes to the interview room but nobody is connected. A social media storm ensues, but not many people know how things really work
Among the funny videos published by Tennis TV last Tuesday on their social media accounts, there is some footage from Hubert Hurkacz’s press conference after his successful debut in Monte Carlo against Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano.
No journalist was connected with the press conference (let’s remind everyone that even the few journalists present onsite in Montecarlo are required to use video conferencing to talk to players, due to the ATP’s COVID-19 protocol), nobody asked questions to the Miami Open champion, who was able to fulfill his press obligations in less than a minute recording a vocal message in his native language for the Polish press.
The ATP did not appreciate having to submit the player to a press conference where no questions were asked, especially because it happened twice on the same day: Dusan Lajovic, too, was taken to the interview room after his defeat against Daniel Evans, but no questions were asked.
And it almost happened the same also to Fabio Fognini: at the start of his press conference, only Ubaldo Scanagatta and Alessandro Stella from Ubitennis were connected online. As some of you may know, Fognini does not talk to Ubitennis and has been doing so for several years, but in order to avoid another debacle, the ATP moderator invited Ubaldo to ask a question and Fognini felt compelled to respond.
Of course, social media users were quick to blame the accredited media addressing all sort of insults towards those journalists present in Montecarlo (although very few were actually present at the Country Club, but not many people knew that) who they believed were guilty of snubbing Hurkacz’ press conference, probably because they were not very familiar with press conference procedures.
Before I move on to explain what has happened, just a few words from me: I have not decided to write this piece as a justification for journalists, neither to complain about the problems we face while doing our job. Nobody is forcing me to do what I do, I’m here by choice and I am happy to do what I do, but I would like to explain that sometimes things are not as black-or-white as they may appear at first.
Every media accredited to a tournament is entitled to request an interview with a player on a day when this player is scheduled to compete: the request has to be submitted in writing to the ATP Communication Manager in charge, normally by email, as early as possible during the day. It has to be specified when we want to talk to the player (normally, after their match, or their last match if they play more than one), if we are requesting a one-on-one interview or a press conference for multiple media to attend, and if we want to talk to the player regardless of the result of the match or only if they win.
Evidently, someone had requested to talk to Hurkacz, but then decided not to take part in the press conference. This should not happen, but let’s see how events may have unfolded.
Usually, at the end of the match, an ATP Communication Manager approaches the player, explains to him (or her, in case of WTA tournaments) the requests that have been received and agrees on a time for the media commitments. In case journalists are present on-site, a public announcement is made in the media room about the agreed time for the interview or press conference; since now most reporters are working remotely from home, there is a WhatsApp chat where all the interview times are noted, and a reminder is sent right before the player walks into the interview room.
In this case, no announcement for the time of the interview had been made, and the only message sent on the chat was the one advising that Hurkacz had already arrived in the interview room.
Since last year, all of us who cover tournaments year-round have had to get accustomed to a new way of working, as did many other workers all over the world. While we are present onsite at a tournament, we live and breathe the event, we spend hours and hours in the media room and we are totally absorbed by the tournament. Now that we are watching matches on TV and we work remotely from home, the full immersion effect has gone, and we all need to balance the coverage of tournaments with the tasks of our everyday life. For example, at tournaments journalists can usually avail of a cafeteria to have their meals; at home, I don’t have a cafeteria, if I want to eat, I need to cook my meals myself, and sometimes also go to the supermarket to get groceries. This requires time, and in tournaments where matches start at 11 a.m. and go on until way past midnight (like the Miami Open, for example), this means we sometimes have to find some time to get away from the PC and attend the more mundane tasks of everyday life.
Not receiving any kind of forewarning of when a press conference may take place is incredibly inconvenient, because it does not allow us to plan our work and schedule the breaks to take care of everything else, from doing laundry to walking the dog. Especially because or job is not just attending press conferences, it’s also writing or talking about them, and, from time to time, if possible, watch some tennis matches.
Most certainly whoever had requested the player and then realized they would not be able to attend the press conference, should have contacted one of the ATP Communication Managers to let them know. Maybe there was an emergency and they could not send a message in time, but it’s really good practice to do that. When covering tournaments onsite, we would need to be present “in the flesh” for the interviews we had requested, and if it so happened that we were stuck on a court attending another match, we would normally go out of our way to notify the Communication Managers of our delay. In today’s environment, there may be other mishaps occurring: a sudden call from the boss, a last-minute deadline popping up: this is our job after all.
Some of you may say: but why don’t you take shifts as it happens in many jobs that require extended duty hours? Yes and no. First of all, it’s not that easy to plan shifts not knowing when matches start or end (and interview times are tied to when matches end), with possibly some rain delay thrown into the mix as well. But there are also external problems: not every person in our (virtual) newsroom has access to virtual interviews or to the WhatsApp chat. Tournaments can decide whom to admit at their discretion, and as far as the Rolex Montecarlo Open is concerned, our deputy editor Alessandro Stella, the only representative for Ubitennis in addition to our CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta , was refused accreditation for this year’s tournament because priority had to be given to French or Monaco media.
Ubaldo, who has probably spent as much time at the Monte Carlo Country Club as the custodian, received his confirmation letter just the week before the tournament, and it was only his insistence on being able to delegate some of his staff to attend press conferences that allowed Alessandro Stella to gain access to the virtual interview room. At the beginning of the season, the ITWA (International Tennis Writers Association) requested that generic credentials be given to specific news outlets instead of specific people, in order to allow more flexibility in covering the event, but the request was rejected and referred to the individual tournaments’ discretion.
Therefore, Ubitennis was refused access for lack of space (virtual space, that is), despite the site can boast over 40 million page views a year, it’s comfortably the most important tennis website in Italy (or possibly Europe) and on a “normal” year approximately 35% of spectators for the tournament would come from Italy, to the extent that a launch press conference for the tournament dedicated to Italian media is held each October in Milan. What I am trying to say is that if access is being so constrained, you can’t really complain too much if there aren’t enough people to ask questions at all press conferences, especially during a very busy Tuesday when, due to the rain cancellations on Monday, there were many matches taking place at the same time.
That goes to say that there have certainly been responsibilities on both sides for the mishap at Hurkacz’ (and I’m guessing also Lajovic’s) interview, but maybe there was no need to give so much visibility to a fairly innocuous incident. We are all working in a new environment, we are all adjusting and we can all make mistakes. What is important is that we evaluate those mistakes with the right attitude.
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