US Open 2014 – Eugenie Bouchard: “Definitely proud of how I have come such a long way in a short time” - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Eugenie Bouchard: “Definitely proud of how I have come such a long way in a short time”

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TENNIS US OPEN 2014 – 24th of August 2014. An interview with Eugenie Bouchard

 

Q. There are over 12 or 1,300 players in the draw aged 20 or under. You and Madison Keys. Do you think that’s cyclical, or is there something about seeing this crop of players and you all sort of pushing each other and spurring each other on?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think it’s a natural evolution. As the great champions get a bit older there will be some new ones coming up. I think there is a good group of us coming up. For sure, we probably motivate each other a little bit, as well. I think it’s just so interesting to have great champions who are still playing so well but are getting older, to see them play against the young guns who are going out with nothing to lose. I think it makes very interesting tennis.

Q. Is there a little more pressure playing in North America, playing this Grand Slam in North America?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t see more pressure just because it’s in North America. But, you know, definitely know there are expectations and pressure, you know, to do well. But that’s, you know, something I have to get used to and something I felt since Wimbledon and just part of the process.

Q. Are you expecting more of your Army to come down from Canada?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t think the Australian version of the Genie Army is coming. I don’t know if there is a New York version. We’ll see.

Q. You talked a little bit about how your life has changed a lot since reaching the Wimbledon final. I mean, for people that really can’t comprehend what that would be like, in what ways has it changed? Is it people recognizing? What have these last few weeks been like for you?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: They have definitely been, you know, busier weeks. I took some time off after Wimbledon though, which was necessary, and definitely, you know, tried to be normal a little bit for a few weeks, which was actually very nice. But for sure, you know, just being recognized a lot more, just feeling a lot of eyes on you no matter what you do, and feeling, you know, the expectations and pressure when it comes to tennis. Yeah, but it’s a position I want to be in. I want to be climbing up the ladder like that. I want to be, you know, the one that people want to beat and to get to that position. I just feel like I’m on my way to the place I want to be. I’m not there yet. Still a lot of work to do.

Q. The hard court leadup like you had, what do you tell yourself mentally? Obviously maybe it wasn’t as good as it could have been. How do you handle that mentally?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I’m not worried too much about my leadup to the US Open. I have looked back, and before all the slams I have had different leadups and have done well in them. You know, not to say, you know — you never know what’s going to happen is my point. I don’t think there is a magic recipe of what you can do before a slam to guarantee a win because you can never guarantee the result. It’s unfortunate. I would have liked to play more matches, for sure. I would have liked to have just more time on the court, but I haven’t been able to do that. Just a little bit unfortunate, but I’m feeling better this week. I’m spending a lot of time on the court, so I’m looking forward to playing my first match.

Q. What are your thoughts specifically on your first-round match?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well, I have played Govortsova before. Played her two years ago, but that’s so long in tennis years it’s almost irrelevant. I’m just so grateful to be here at a Grand Slam, and, you know, playing tennis and doing what I love. I’m just going to go out and be so excited to play a match. I haven’t had that many matches on the hard courts this summer, so I’m really going to just see it as such an opportunity. I’m going to just try to go for it and try to play my best tennis and, you know, keep a positive attitude.

Q. Given the lack of that many hard court matches, how does that affect your mentality when you go out for the first time here?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: It won’t affect me, I don’t think. Maybe it’s not the ideal leadup you want, but I don’t think there is, you know, a specific way you want to lead up to a Grand Slam that’s perfect, that will guarantee results. I’m going to go in knowing maybe I haven’t played as many matches as I wanted to, but I have been hitting the practice courts recently and getting a lot of practice matches and I am going to go in swinging from the first round. It’s important for me to go in and go for it. Whether I have played ten matches or not, I still have to fight and battle no matter what. That’s what I’m going to do.

Q. For recreational players that want to train like a professional athlete, what are a couple of your favorite exercises to do in the gym and what are a couple where you say, Oh, my God, that was terrible?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I think tennis is interesting because you need everything. You need to, you know, have good flexibility. I spend a lot of time stretching. You need cardio for those long points. So I would do probably, you know, bike intervals and things like that. But you also need the strength. I work out with my fitness trainer and we do strength programs. That’s why I think tennis is so hard. You need kind of every aspect of it. Even then you still get on the court and you still need to be kind of like tennis fit, match fit, which you can only get from playing. You need a good combination of everything.

Q. Are you at all surprised just how quickly you have arisen up the ranks? I am sure you always expected to get in the top 10, but to be unseeded last year and now a Top 10 seed, are you surprised how quickly that has come in one year?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I wouldn’t say surprised. Definitely proud of how I have come such a long way in a short time. But, you know, I have dreamed out of this path that I’m on, and so in my head it’s kind of a step in the journey. It’s something I have envisioned already of what I’m doing. But it is a little crazy to think like two years ago I was in the juniors here and I lost like second round juniors. Definitely happy to be doing better than that.

Editorial

EXCLUSIVE: How The ATP Plans To Make The Tour More Welcoming For LGBT Players

The governing body of men’s tennis has received praise for taking a proactive approach to the topic with the help of a leading LGBTQ+ organisation and a top research university.

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Guido Pella during a Men's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Manuela Davies/USTA)

During the first week of the US Open, there was an abundance of rainbow-theme flags and wristbands worn by both players and fans to mark the tournament’s first-ever Open Pride Day.

 

The event was part of the USTA’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic platform which aims to make tennis more inclusive. Unlike the women’s game, there are no openly LGBTQ+ players on the men’s Tour and there have been few historically, even though various players have spoken of their support for anybody on the Tour who decides to come out. Including Stefanos Tsitsipas and newly crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who were questioned about the topic following their second round matches. Meanwhile, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime revealed that there is an ongoing survey related to LGBTQ+ issues being conducted by the ATP.

“Recently I’ve started doing a survey inside the ATP about the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “It’s important these days to be aware of that and to be open-minded and the ATP needs to do that, in today’s time it’s needed.

“The reason we don’t have openly gay players on the ATP Tour, I’m not sure of the reason, but I feel me, as a player, it would be very open, very welcome. Statistically, there should be some, but for now there’s not.”

In response to Auger-Aliassime’s comment, UbiTennis looked into the work currently being done by the ATP alongside two other parties. Their decision to venture into LGBTQ+ representation on the Tour is part of their recent commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of their players and staff. Last year, in May, they formed partnerships with Headspace and Sporting Chance.  

The survey currently being conducted by the ATP started after the governing body of men’s tennis reached out to Lou Englefield, the director of Pride Sports, a UK organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+phobia in sport and aims to improve access to sport for all LGBTQ+ people. Through their connection, they contacted Eric Denison, a behavioural science researcher at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences. Denison was the lead author of the Out on the Fields study, the first international study on homophobia in sport and the largest conducted to date.

“I have been personally impressed with the initiative of the ATP and their desire to find ways to mitigate the broad impact of homophobic behaviour (in particular), not only on gay people, but on all players.” He told UbiTennis during an email exchange.

“We know of no other sporting governing body in the world that has been proactive on LGBTQ+ issues, and has taken a strong focus on engaging with both the LGBTQ+ community and scientists to find solutions.”

Denison says the norm has been for sports bodies to address this issue after they have been either pressured to do so or if the LGBTQ+ community got the ball rolling themselves. Incredibly, research conducted as part of the Out On The Fields initiative documented 30 separate studies which found sports organisations ignored discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ people in sport.

Monash University has supplied the ATP with a series of scientifically validated questions, which they are using to ‘look under the hood’ at the factors which supports a culture where gay or bisexual players feel they are not welcome. The methodology is similar to a study Denison conducted in 2020 that focused specifically on the team sports rugby union and ice hockey.  

“We suspect that tennis isn’t inherently more homophobic than other sports, or traditionally male settings. Instead, there is a disconnect between people’s attitudes towards gay people (e.g. the recent pro-gay comments by top players) and their behaviour, specifically their use of homophobic banter and jokes,” said Denison.

“This behaviour, which is largely habitual, creates a hostile climate for young gay/bi people who drop out or hide their sexuality. This means gay/bi players are invisible in youth tennis and leads to the downstream problem of no professionals. The banter/jokes continue because people think it is harmless.”

The hope is that players will also agree to be interviewed by the researchers for them to get a better understanding. All of the results will then be used by Pride Sports and Monash University to recommend evidence-based solutions. It is unclear as to how long the study will take or when the findings will be ready. 

Former top 100 player Brian Vahaly is one of the few players to have been both openly gay and played at the highest level of the men’s game. However, he didn’t fully come to terms with his sexuality until after retiring from the sport at age 27. Speaking to UbiTennis earlier this year, Vahaly shed light on the potential barriers for gay players.

There were a lot of homophobic jokes made on Tour. It’s a very masculine and competitive environment,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of gay representation, except for the women’s Tour. With me not having the personality of an outspoken advocate (for LGBTQ+ issues), certainly not in my twenties, I needed some time to understand myself. To me, in tennis I didn’t feel like there was anybody to talk to or anybody that was going through anything similar.”

The ATP has spoken with Vahaly about their initiative and he has become ‘quite involved.’ Through their discussions, he got acquainted with Denison for the first time. As a professional, Vahaly peaked at a ranking high of 64th in the world and won five Challenger titles. After retiring from the Tour, he has served on the USTA’s board of directors since 2013. 

“I am happy to hear that the ATP is finally taking action to address this issue.  I’m impressed they are taking a thoughtful, data-driven approach to make a meaningful difference here,” he told UbiTennis. 

The ATP aims to make the men’s Tour more welcoming to potential LGTBQ+ athletes playing either now or in the future. For those who question if such an initiative is important in 2021, you only have to look at the younger demographic.

Sportsnet quoted CDC data from 2019 which showed that 26% of American LGBTQ+ teenagers aged 16 or 17 has contemplated suicide, five times more than those who identify as straight (5%). Among those teenagers who heard homophobic terms, 33% self-harmed and an additional 40% considered doing so.

More than 2000 players around the world currently have an ATP ranking.

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2020 Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic on the heat and the new scheduling: “I’m glad they listened to us”

Speaking to Ubitennis, the world number one describes the work that he, Medvedev and Zverev (among others) have done to obtain better playing conditions

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So far, the tennis tournament at the 2020 Olympics has made headlines less for the match-play than for the difficult conditions in which it has been taking place due to the heat and the humidity. In the women’s draw, for instance, four players have been forced to retire during their matches: the last one has been particularly shocking, as Paula Badosa was taken off-court on a wheelchair after collapsing late in the first set of her quarter-final match against Marketa Vondrousova. Luckily, these issues appear to have finally caught the attention of the International Tennis Federation: starting tomorrow, no match will be played before 3pm (7am in the UK).

 

Part of the credit for this (still belated) decision goes to the lobbying and the complaints of the players, as world N.1 Novak Djokovic explained while speaking to Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta in Tokyo: “I’m glad the decision was made to reschedule tomorrow’s opening matches at 3pm. Today we went to speak to the supervisor – when I say ‘we’ I mean myself, Medvedev, and Zverev, along with the team captains. I have spoken to Khachanov and Carreno Busta as well, so the majority of the players who will feature in the quarter finals was of the same opinion.

“Of course I would have wished for this decision to be made a few days ago, but it’s still a good thing,” he added. “Nobody wants to witness incidents like the one that occurred to Badosa.

“The conditions are really brutal. Some people might think that we are just complaining, but all resistance sports (and tennis should be included among them) are taking place later in the day because the combination between the heat and the humidity is really terrible.”

He then concluded: “I’ve been a professional tennis player for almost 20 years and I’ve never experienced such hard conditions for so many consecutive days. It may have have happened once or twice in Miami or New York, but just for one day, whereas in Tokyo the situation is like this every day. I think that this decision will benefit the fans as well, because playing later allows us to play our best – these conditions were just draining for us.”

Article by Lorenzo Colle; translated by Tommaso Villa

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Mats Wilander Exclusive: Matteo Berrettini Will Win A Grand Slam

UbiTennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta speaks to the former world No.1 about Berrettini’s historic win at Wimbledon.

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Matteo Berrettini (ITA) celebrates as he beats Hubert Hurkacz (POL) in the semi-final of the Gentlemen's Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 11 Friday 09/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Florian Eisele

Swedish tennis great Mats Wilander has praised Matteo Berrettini for his run to the Wimbledon Final during a one-to-one interview with UbiTennis.

 

25-year-old Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to reach the final of the Grand Slam after beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-4. Throughout the clash he was impressive behind his serve where he fired 22 aces and won 86% of his service points. This year he is unbeaten on the grass and is currently on a 10-match winning streak following his triumph at Queen’s last month.

“Breaking the first game of the fourth set is to me the sign that we all look for in players. Whatever happens in the third (set) should not matter and he came straight back,”Wilander tells UbiTennis.
“That’s my indication that he will be one of the best players in the world. He will win a Grand Slam one hundred percent, for sure, if he stays healthy.”

Wilander’s bold prediction centres around Berrettini’s game on both grass and hardcourt. However, he is less optimistic about his chances on the clay at present until his backhand becomes more powerful.

As to why the former world No.1 has so much confidence in Italy’s top player, he says it is his ability to not expose his weaknesses during matches. Drawing parallels between him and Roger Federer. The player Berrettini comprehensively beat in straight sets earlier in the week.

He knows how to hide his weakness and most great players know how to hide their weaknesses. Roger Federer is the perfect example. His backhand compared to the serve and the forehand. He stays alive with the slice and he comes over (to the net) sometimes when he has to,” he said.
“I think Matteo has figured out that he can stay alive with the slice. But the difference is that he is willing to slice and come in. He’s also double the size of Federer at the net so it is difficult to pass him.”

It wasn’t until the age of eight when Berrettini started to focus more on tennis after being asked by his younger brother to play more. As a professional he has won five ATP titles since 2018 and is the highest ranked ATP player from his country since Corrado Barazzutti back in 1978. He is coached by Vincenzo Santopadre, Marco Gulisano and Umberto Rianna.

“I would be so encouraged if I was coaching him. For the coach it must be like oh my god we are looking at a player who has (good use of his) hands and hides his weakness though the rest of his game,” the seven-time Grand Slam champion commented.
“I don’t why it has taken him a bit longer (to break through). I know he started a little bit later but I think he’s a natural at the big moments.”

On Sunday Berrettini faces the ultimate test against Novak Djokovic who will be seeking his third consecutive Wimbledon title and sixth overall. He has lost to the Serbian twice before on the Tour, including the French Open earlier this year. The Italian enters the final as the underdog but Wilander thinks he shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I think he has a good chance, I really do because that serve (of his) is different and he has a different forehand. He is not afraid to stay alive,” he concluded.

UbiTennis’ full interview with Wilander can be listened to below

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