TENNIS 2014 ROLAND GARROS – 30th of May 2014. C. Suarez-Navarro d. T. Townsend 6-2, 6-2. An interview with Taylor Townsend
Q. How would you reflect on your week in Paris?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I think it was an amazing week. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Well, a win would have been better.
But I really learned a lot this week. I’m so happy and so fortunate that I had this opportunity, and I earned this opportunity.
I’m just looking to go to the next tournament, learn from my mistakes here. And I’m excited to get on the grass.
Q. Could you talk about just over the past months, over the past year or so, how your game has improved. You seem to have really stepped up.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Well, I have just been working a lot on my mental game. I haven’t changed much in my game at all.
I have just really learned how to play the game. I have become more of a student of the game, and my coaches have really helped me understand about the game of tennis.
Having Zina in my corner really has helped me a lot, because she has played and done all of this. So it’s a lot easier for me to kind of listen and grasp it, because she’s done this.
I mean, I’m just learning how to be a student of the game and learning how to play and embracing my strengths and trying to strengthen my weaknesses.
Q. First Grand Slam main draw of your life. Sum it up for us. Most fun you’ve ever had? Give us something about it.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Yeah, it’s the most fun I’ve had (smiling).
I have had a really good time just embracing the moments and, you know, the pressure and everything. It’s awesome. I really had a great time and experiencing this. And, I mean, I couldn’t asked for a better first Grand Slam and a better opportunity to show the world what I can do.
So, I mean, I have had a great time and I’m really looking forward to the next couple of tournaments.
Q. Even some of the French fans were chanting your name. Did you hear that? What do you think about that? What’s it like being on a bigger stage like that?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Well, it’s nice now that people are cheering my name, because they were cheering the other girl’s name (laughter).
It was nice to have that support, especially here. The people are so supportive, and I really have had a great time playing in front of them.
I did realize that I do like big stages, I like big courts, I like playing in front of a lot of people, so that’s good.
But I really enjoyed it. I’m really glad the people embraced me and were cheering for me today.
Q. You mentioned a few times this week about how you learned to believe in yourself and your talents and whatever. Had you gone through a period where you were doubting that a little bit or wondering whether you turned pro too soon? You seem very into that point.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Well, I wouldn’t say I was doubting I was turning pro too early. I mean, I think I did it at the perfect time.
But like anything, going from one level to the next is not an easy task at all. There are a lot of things I had to learn. There are a lot of things I had to learn about myself. There were a lot of things I had to learn about the game that I didn’t know and that I wouldn’t have known, just because I hadn’t been playing pro tournaments and I hadn’t been on the tour and I hadn’t played against people like this and on this level.
So it was new. But there was a point in time I mean, I just really had to kind of learn about my game and how to work it and how to use it and play on this level, because it’s totally different than juniors. So I think that that was not so much doubting myself, but just believing in what I could do and that I can compete on this level.
Q. Can you tell us something about your background? What tennis means for you in your life? How difficult maybe was it to get to this level where you are now and how good it is to be here now?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Yeah. Tennis means the world to me. I mean, it’s helped me through a lot of situations, tough times, good times, bad times in my life. But tennis has always kind of been my backboard. That has really just been there. I can just go play and spend hours on the court and do whatever.
But, I mean, getting here, it’s been a long road. It’s been a tough road. But I have learned a lot about myself, and, I mean, as a person. That’s kind of translated on the court and learned about myself both as a person and a player.
I really embrace that. It means the world to me to be here, just the fact that I said that it feels different, that I earned the right to be here. I earned the wildcard through my hard work and through my sweat and, you know, ups and downs in the matches. And I was faced two match points down in the semifinals I had to win that match in order to get the wildcard.
Just tons of things going through my head there. It’s a different level. But I had to do it.
It means the world for me to be here, and to have this opportunity and capitalize on it, and I’m looking forward to it continuing in the future, and hopefully I can keep this going.
Q. You mentioned the expenses. Just how expensive is it coming up from through the junior ranks? What’s it like when you actually begin to make money to help pay off that?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: Well, it’s tough. I knew the pro circuit would be more expensive just because, you know, you have to travel. I mean, tennis is an expensive sport. You have to travel, you have to get racquets, you have equipment, you have a lot of things that you have to upkeep.
Well, also, you have to get to the tournaments, you have to get food. There are just a lot of expenses that you have.
That’s been since we have been playing National Open, I know it’s a different level, but it’s still expensive for anybody.
When I first started making money, I was like, Whoa, that’s mine? I was excited. My mom was like, No, no, no, (laughter).
But it was interesting, but, I mean, I’m really glad that I’m able to kind of learn about all of this stuff. And also, with just being young and making my own money, it’s like something you have to grasp, but at the same time, it’s through my hard work. So it’s like, Taylor, you earned this.
Embrace it but at the same time be smart with it and understand that a lot of it is going back into your tennis, so you can continue to travel and do the things that you need to do to make it to where you want to go so I can make more money.
‘We Try To Fix Each Other’ – Aryna Sabalenka On Turbulent Relationship With Coach
The world No.11 speaks to Ubitennis about the reason why she departed and then reunited with her mentor.
2019 has been a roller coaster season for Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka both on and off the court.
The 21-year-old has claimed a trio of titles on the WTA Tour with all of those occurring in China. Overall, she has won 39 out of 61 matches played, as well as winning the doubles title at the US Open with Elise Mertens. On the other hand, she has also lost her opening match at seven tournaments this year and failed get back-to-back wins in three out of the four grand slams she played in.
Sabalenka is currently guided on the tour by Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov. A former top 20 player on the ATP Tour who retired from the sport in 2017. They have been working together for more than a year. It looked as if the partnership had come to an end back in August when both announced on social media that they are ending their collaboration. Sabalenka wrote ‘Thank you for everything and all the best in your future.’ However, the two soon changed their minds after.
“After the US Open, I realized that there was a problem, too many things off the court was diverting my attention from the game and this helped me to win something and find certain sensations.” Sabalenka told Ubitennis.com earlier this month in China.
“I realized how stupid it was to give Dmitry the blame for my failures, so I found a way to recover my relationship with him .”
The mixed season experienced by Sabalenka is one she hopes will help her in the long term. She ends 2019 inside the world’s top 20 for the second year in a row. Becoming one of only four players under the age of 21 to do so on the women’s tour.
“I hope that all this can help me start the next season in a more… intelligent, more experienced way.” She explains. “There is a bit of disappointment with what happened in these months, but at the same time I said to myself, ‘ok, you finally understood’. This means you can work on it and move on. Every player spends moments like that and usually always learns something, I hope it can happen to me too.”
Despite still being a relatively newcomer in the world of coaching, Sabalenka isn’t the first player Tursunov has coached. He had previously worked with compatriot Elena Vesnina and guided her to the 2018 Australian Open doubles finals. During that same year, Vesnina also reached the finals of tournaments in Indian Wells and Madrid under his guidance.
There remains a question as to what the future has in store for Tursunov’s latest partnership. Was their brief break a blessing in disguise or is there more trouble ahead for their working relationship?
“I hope to continue working with Dmitry.” Sabalenka stated.
“We tried to ‘fix’ each other a few things and this helped me stay positive. The intention is simply to move forward because our collaboration is very good and working great, I don’t want to lose him as a coach. If things are going so well, why should I look for someone else?’
“We tried to solve all the problems we had and I think we did it quite well.”
Sabalenka closes out her season with three wins over top 10 players. Defeating Kiki Bertens twice and Ash Barty once.
From Serena Williams’ Return To Strycova’s Rise: Coaches Shed Light on Their players At Wimbledon
On the eve of women’s semi-finals day at Wimbledon, the coaches working behind the scenes share their thoughts.
WIMBLEDON: On Thursday the four women taking to Center Court to play their semi-final matches will not be the only nervous people in the stadium. Watching from the sidelines will be their coaches. Who are tasked with the responsibility of trying to guide their players to grand slam glory.
24 hours before the matches took place, the mentors of Elina Svitolina, Serena Williams and Barbora Strycova spoke with the media. The latest initiative by the WTA, who has increasingly conducted more media sessions with coaches. Something the ATP Tour is yet to do. The only person missing from the session was Daniel Dobre. Dobre, who is the coach of Simona Halep, declined the invitation. Worried that he may jinx the former world No.1 if he spoke. Shortly after Dobre spoke in public at the French Open, Halep lost.
Svitolina’s British asset
Being British Andrew Bettles knows Wimbledon very well. He is a former junior player who once featured in the boy’s draw. Unfortunately for Somerset-born Bettles, he admits that he was ‘not good enough’ to embark upon professional tennis. However, he has always made an impact on the WTA Tour at the age of 26.
“It’s amazing. Growing up Wimbledon has always been so special. To be around it is amazing for me personally.” Said Bettles.
“I wasn’t a good enough player, but the coaching side always fascinated me. I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing coaches, and I’ve been lucky that Elina has given me this opportunity to be her coach.”
A former hitting partner to Ana Ivanovic, he was eventually promoted to the coach of Svitolina, who has become the first woman from her country to reach the last four of a grand slam. Svitolina will play Halep in her semi-final match and leads their head-to-head 4-3.
“It’s always been a good match-up.” Bettles previewed. “I think the key is to be aggressive and kind of maybe take a bit of control from the baseline. Then see if she can dictate the point.”
“The grass is playing pretty slow so it is about being more aggressive. The Grass is a leveler, but you can use it to your advantage as well. “ He added.
Whilst he may still be considered a newcomer to the world of coaching, Bettles has already proven that he knows what he is doing. Guiding his player to the WTA Finals title last year.
“I think because we are similar ages we get on very well. I can understand what she is going through and we are good friends. It’s not like I’m the boss. We talk things through and work things out together.” The Brit commented about their partnership.
Five facts about Bettles
-Graduated from Boise State University in 2014 with a degree in English Lit
-He was Boise State University’s No.1 singles player
-A former national champion in juniors
-Worked with Ivanovic between 2015-2016, before joining Svitolina’s team in 2017.
-During a very brief time on the Futures tour, he peaked at a high of 917th and won $5,968 in prize money.
Patrick Mouratoglou is undoubtedly one of the most well-known coaches in the world of women’s tennis. He has been guiding Serena Williams on the tour after working with a wealth of players on both the men’s and women’s tour.
It has been a turbulent season for the Mouratoglou-Williams team. Injury issues with Williams’ ankle and knee has hampered her training sessions and tournament schedule. Wimbledon is only the sixth WTA tournament of 2019 for the 37-year-old.
“I think she is in a good place at the moment. I think she is happy.” The Frenchman said ahead of Williams’ match against Strycova.
“She has been pain-free for three weeks and feels so much lighter.’
“When you focus on your pain so much because you’re in pain, it is difficult to prepare well for tournaments. You have to adapt to that pain to play tournaments.”
Williams has undoubtedly been gathering in momentum as the Wimbledon tournament has progressed. She has dropped two sets in five matches played. Scoring wins over seeded players Juia Georges in the third round and Carla Saurez Navarro in the fourth. In the quarter-finals, she edged her way past Alison Riske. One of the most in-form players on grass this season.
“In the last match (against Riske) you could see that she was able to raise her game when necessary, which was one of her trademarks. Everything is positive.” Said Mouratoglou.
“She started really slow in the tournament in terms of the level of play. I think the second round match was a key moment. I said afterward (to Serena) that it was the first time she was really struggling with her game and she dug deep and the next two sets were so much better. She felt her game better.”
Quietly confident of more success on Thursday at The All England Club, Williams’ mentor says her game is suited for the grass.
“Serve and return are two of her biggest assets. On the grass when you have those two things you have a big advantage and that is probably why she has had so much success on that surface.”
The American has won more matches (106) and more titles (8) than any other active player on the surface. This year is her 16th main draw appearance at Wimbledon.
Five facts about Mouratoglou
-Started coaching at the age of 26
-Previously coached Marcos Baghdatis (2005-06), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2006-08), Yanina Wickmayer (2010), Aravane Rezai (2009-2010), Laura Robson (2010-11), Jeremy Chardy (2011) and Grigor Dimitrov (2011-12)
– 84% of Williams’ time as world No.1 has been under his guidance
-Founder of the prestigious Mouratoglou Tennis Academy
-Also works as a TV commentator
The late bloomer
At the age of 33 Strycova is relishing in her best ever run at a grand slam tournament. Whilst not being the most powerful player on the tour, she counteracts speed with the use of slice, as well as the serve and volley. Reminiscent of how the game used to be played in the past. Strycova’s play proved too much for her opponent in the previous round.
“When you are playing against a player like (Johanna) Konta, who is more powerful than you, you have to find a way to eliminate that and play something different.” Explained coach Lukas Dlouhy.
“Hopefully we can find some tactic for Serena as well.”
Dlouhy is one of two coaches working with the Czech. The other is David Kotyza, who used to collaborate with Petra Kvitova. Strycova is also an accomplished doubles player and is currently ranked third in the world.
“We started 18 months ago together with Barbora. Some tournaments David goes to and some tournament I am going to.” Dlouhy commented about the setup.
“We just have to make a right schedule and that’s it.’
“We are working together so there are no disagreements.”
Refusing to give any details about the game plan for the upcoming match, which is likely to be similar to the one she used against Konta, Strycova’s mentor believes Williams can be beaten. Even though she hasn’t won a set in their three previous meetings on the tour.
“When you have a 0-3 record against Serena it’s tough. But she’s trying and she wants to win. She isn’t just going there to participate.” He said.
“It different because she was younger and had a different type of game. Now she is at the top of her game.’
“Serena has won everything, but she has days when you can beat her. So hopefully we can find out a way about how to do it.”
Known for her sometimes fiery attitude on the court, Dlouhy admits that it isn’t always easy to work with the former top 20 player. However, the positives outweigh the negatives.
“She has a lot of emotions. So some days it is tough to be in her box. Otherwise, she’s a good girl. She’s working and doing everything right. It’s enjoyable to be with her.” He concluded.
Five facts about Dlouhy
-A former world No.5 in doubles
-Played hockey as a teenager, but chose to focus fully on tennis at the age of 15
-Won 10 ATP doubles titles, including the French Open and the US Open in 2009.
-Growing up his tennis idol was Yevgeny Kafelnikov
-Earned more than $3 million in prize money during his professional career.
The women’s semi-finals will get underway at 13:00 on Thursday. The first match will be Svitolina against Halep followed by Williams’ clash with Strycova.
EXCLUSIVE: ITF Presidential Candidate Dave Miley Talks Olympics, Money And Trust Issues
Ubitennis speaks to the man bidding to become one of the most powerful people in the world of tennis.
WIMBLEDON: A mile away from the venue of the Wimbledon Champions is an elegant cafe. Spotless inside, plenty of waiters and a hint of traditional decoration. A suitable venue for the launch of the latest political campaign in the world of Tennis.
David Miley addressed a room full of media to officially kick-off his candidacy to become the President of the International Tennis Federation. Backed by Tennis Ireland, the former ITF administrator has vowed to revamp the organization, marred in recent months by Davis Cup changes and the controversial transition Tour. His pledges include implementing a chairman to ensure greater accountability within the organization, introduce a brand new ITF world Championships and holding a summit of world tennis in 2020.
“I believe tennis is very fragmented at the moment and is not very healthy. The ITF has a perception that it is quite weak and I want to change that.” Miley said during his presentation.
“My manifesto is underpinned by two things. What’s good for tennis and what is good for the nations of the ITF.”
Speaking with confidence, Miley wasn’t phased by any question asked by those watching him. Ranging from the controversies surrounding the fairness of the ITF Presidential process to managing the billion-pound tennis market. After his question and answer session, Ubitennis spoke directly with the man aiming to dethrone David Haggerty later this year.
It is the future of tennis’ involvement in the Olympic Games that is raising concerns. At present, there are strict guidelines for players wanting to play in the event. In order to be eligible, they must participate in three ties during an Olympic cycle. This is reduced to two ties depending on the length of service or the zone group round-robin criteria as specified in the eligibility rule. Although there are exceptions. As a consequence, some of the world’s top names will not be able to feature unless they submit an appeal.
“I think the ITF is the governing body of tennis and it is very important that they encourage people to play the Davis Cup and Fed Cup,” Miley told Ubitennis.
“I don’t think it is unfair for the ITF to say you have to play a certain amount of Davis or Fed Cup ties to qualify.’
“The ATP can say these are mandatory events you have to play. So why can’t the ITF say in order to play the Olympics you have to meet certain requirements?
“Asking players to play in the Davis or Fed Cup a couple of times within four years isn’t too much.”
Critics could argue that if this policy was removed, more big names would be attracted to play in the Olympics. However, Miley points out that this isn’t the issue with the four-year extravaganza. It is with those less developed tennis nations.
“I believe the problem with the Olympic Games right now is that many nations currently don’t feel that they have a chance of qualifying and as a result, they don’t get any assistance from their Olympic committee.”
To combat this issue Miley, who is a former player himself, wants to resurrect the qualifying tournaments. Something that was used for both the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Tennis competitions.
“If there was a qualifying tournament taking place with 64 men and women a couple of months before for maybe six places. This would be a way of involving more nations into the Olympic movement.” He explained.
“Of course you need to work with the IOC, ATP, and WTA. We need to find a way for more players to feel like they have a chance.”
Big money, tough control
A key figure within the ITF for 25 years, the Irish-born candidate has big ambitions. His aim as president is to double the value of The Global Tennis Market within a decade. Its current worth is in the range of $22.5 billion, according to Miley’s election manifesto. The idea is then more money can be given to federations in order to grow.
On paper, it sounds like a simple idea. However, how can Miley guarantee that any potential surge in money issued to nations will be distributed to the appropriate areas?
“You can’t micromanage from the ITF what happens at national associations.” He admits.
“What you can do is try to facilitate good practice. If you see countries where they are doing a good job like Norway, Canada, and Australia. They are increasing participation and having good results. We need to share that.”
In order for this to happen, one idea is to issue tougher rules concerning what Federations do. Although the governing body of tennis will never have enough power to control what happens completely.
“The ITF needs to give strong guidelines about the practice for federations to develop tennis in their own countries, but it is up to the federation to do it.”
Building trust and a future
Some would question why anybody would want to take over at the ITF after what has been a turbulent past few months. In January the ITF Transition Tour was launched with an estimated value of $2 million being spent on research etc. It wasn’t long before players and coaches, including Toni Nadal and Magnus Norman, erupted with anger. Posting videos calling for the changes to be removed as an online petition attracted thousands of signatures. Six months later, the ITF backed down.
“What happened with the transition tour was that there was a lack of respect with (the lower level) players. I was one of those players and you need to respect these people have a right to play. I believe we can find a way to involve the top coaches in order to make the pathway more effective.”
There is undoubtedly a trust issue that has arisen. Especially concerning the lower ranked players. There will be no easy solution, but one suggestion is the creation of a player council. Following in the footsteps of both the ATP and WTA. Quite a risky idea given the political turmoil that continues to affect the men’s game.
“I want to set up an ITF player council which has current players. 12 players from both singles and doubles who meet up twice a year during the practice week of a grand slam.” He outlies.
“At the same time at the entry level, we need to send people to places such as Egypt and start listening and talking with players. That is how you get the trust back.”
One of the most striking facts from Miley concerned tennis participation in America. During the era of the Williams sisters, nearly 8 million fewer people played tennis in 2016 than in 2009. Falling from 24 million to 16.7 million. So how does Miley plan to turn this around?
In his opinion, it lies with fitting in with the present. Formats such as Fast 4 or Tie Break Tens are ones he thinks could be a solution. Shorter matches to fit in with people having less time in their everyday lives.
“Lifestyles are changing, especially in the developed market. So when lifestyles change, you need to adapt the product. For example people with less free time, you need to implement formats that are punchier.” Miley argues.
“The job for the future is to adapt competitions and caching to the lifestyles. At the professional level, we need to be conscious of the customer and be ready to adapt.’
“I like what the ATP has done with the Next Gen in Milan. They are experimenting a bit. At the same time, we need to protect the integrity of the sport.”
The election for the ITF presidency will take place in September. During that time Miley has vowed to travel to 45 countries. Quite an ambitious target, but one he is committed to.
Regardless of if he wins or now, few will ever question Miley’s commitment to tennis.
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