TENNIS US OPEN 2014 – 27th of August 2014. M. Sharapova d. A. Dulgheru 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. An interview with Maria Sharapova
Q. It was not an easy one today, especially the first two sets. What was the main issue?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think it was a combination of everything. She played really well. Although I started off really good in the first couple of games, didn’t take the opportunity to go up 3-0. After that she started getting a little bit of a rhythm. It was difficult. Obviously the conditions were tough. You start in the sun; you finish under the lights. It was a very long match. Overall I felt like in the end I was in much better shape than she was and I could have played another few sets. Mentally that helped me a lot.
Q. Does your routine that you have behind the baseline, is that a way to get you focused? You developed that over the years.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I’ve had that routine for a long time. Everything is very quick. You go from point to point. You’re playing in front of thousands of people. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little bit of a quiet moment with yourself. That’s the reason I started doing it. Whether you’re having a good run with a few games and you want to keep that going and keep that going and keep yourself motivated or you need a little pick-me-up, regain focus if you’re down.
Q. Can you tell us something about your cooperation with Sven Groenefeld.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It’s been a great partnership so far. We met this time last year. At the time I was still going through injuries so I didn’t quite know when I would be back. But I was very interested in working with him because of his experience. He’s been on the tour for many, many years. He’s coached against me. A lot of good things. Positive attitude that he brought to practice, to the environment. He’s a leader but listens to everyone in the team, which is very important. At this stage in my career, I’m quite happy with the team that I formed.
Q. He’s quite energetic in the box. Do you like that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t think he was like that before. I think I just make everybody energetic (smiling). I don’t think they have a choice.
Q. Do you come away from a match like today focusing more on what maybe didn’t go right at the beginning or being pleased with how you finished?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think you always expect yourself, no matter who you’re playing, the conditions, you always want to play well, win the match easy. Sometimes it’s good to kind of look back and think in these types of situations, conditions, all of that. It’s really good to get through, put yourself in a really tough position, but then you’re able to find a way to get back and finish really strong.
Q. Big-picture question. You’ve had all these years on the tour competing. One challenge after another. Successful in the business world. What is the best part of being Maria Sharapova these days?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think the best part this day is that I’m healthy enough to compete at this level. That’s the most important thing for me, looking back at this time last year. You seem to forget that I was in New York, I was in a hotel room, I was going to a few different doctors, I was getting a few different opinions, different machines, different MRIs, and different treatments. It’s so easy to forget that you get yourself back in such a great position in your career where you win a Grand Slam, you’re playing the US Open, which you missed last year. So a lot of positives. Yet I get to do other great things in my career and set up my life for when I’m finished with tennis.
Q. Michael Jordan was here yesterday to see Roger Federer play. Roger said he was a huge inspiration for him as a child. When you were growing up, who were you looking up to in the same way?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, actually I met Michael Jordan a few years ago randomly, unexpectedly, at an airport. Usually I don’t get very star struck, but he’s such a powerful person and athlete. I think he has that aura about him. It’s very special. He’s like, Hey, you’re that tennis player. I’m like, Oh, my goodness, Michael Jordan knows who I am. So, yeah, that was unique (smiling).
Q. Do you think you’re in your best shape at the moment or do you think there’s still room for improvement and recovery?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think physically I’m in a very good position. I think that’s shown a lot in my three-set statistics this year. I think I played more at this point in the year than I have in all of my career. The numbers are quite high, and I’ve been able to recover quite well. I don’t think that’s something that I would have been able to do and recover from as quickly as I’m able to today. But I think that takes a lot of work and obviously commitment. Whatever it is, hours on the court, hours in the gym, it’s just finding that combination to get yourself in that good shape.
Q. Mentally, it struck me you had a long wait after the second set, and then you had a long wait while she had a medical timeout. You seemed to handle it very well. Is that an improvement? Did that used to bother you more?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I think it’s always a matter of just, you know, moving, not stopping and sitting around for five, six, seven minutes. It’s always just kind of getting your body going, resting a couple minutes sitting down. Whether it’s hitting a few serves, doing a few movements or motions, just to make sure that your body and your mind is still active. It’s very easy to have a little bit of a letdown if you’re just sitting around for that amount of time.
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
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
Alex Corretja: “I’ll tell you who can win the gold medal if Djokovic doesn’t go to the Olympics”
The two-time French Open finalist, now working for Eurosport, makes his predictions for the 2020 Olympics
Former world N.2 Alex Corretja, the winner of the 1998 ATP Finals (then known as the ATP Tour World Championships) now works with Eurosport, and, while he won’t be in Tokyo, he will still cover the Olympic Games and provide match commentary in Spanish.
During a brief rendez-vous with Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta, Corretja made a prediction for the men’s singles event at the upcoming Olympic event, which at the moment is slated to feature billboard names such as Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini. Here’s their chat:
EXCLUSIVE: Wimbledon Says No To Replacing Line Umpires With Hawk-Eye, But Others Say Yes
Electronic line calling has become a regular feature in the world of tennis and is set to expand over the coming years. However, such a development will have big implications on the sports tradition, as well as on those working in it.
Wimbledon has always taken pride in its ability to combine tradition with modern technology. Players are required to wear all white, those invited to sit in the Royal Box must dress smartly, and hundreds of people congregate on the ‘Henman Hill’ to watch the play unfold every year. These traditions have made the tournament unique in the sporting world. However, given the growing presence of technology, one of said traditions is under threat.
The use of computer vision systems such as Hawk-Eye has revolutionised the sport in recent years, with more tournaments than ever turning to the technology. Using automated player tracking cameras and intelligent production software, officials can establish whether a ball is in or out with the use of a computer. Its margin of error is claimed to be in the region of 2.2mm but one study argues that the difference could be up to 10mm.
“Hawk-Eye’s goal is to implement our software wherever it is desired or required to ensure that sports are made fairer, safer and better informed by whatever means we can. In tennis, we develop our technologies to meet the needs of the likes of the ATP and WTA for them to use to serve their objectives, if that means we’re at every event, it means that we’re one-step closer to our goal,” a Hawk-Eye spokesperson told UbiTennis.
Ironically the COVID-19 pandemic has been an advantage for those working on such technology. With organisers eager to limit the number of people on court due to the virus, many have gone down this avenue. One of the most notable is the US Open, which used the software on the majority of their courts last year and will use it to replace line umpires in 2021. Meanwhile, this year’s Australian Open was the first major to be played without lines judges.
However, such technology doesn’t come cheap. The exact price is unclear with Hawk-Eye telling UbiTennis they are ‘unable to provide such information at this time.’ One academic paper by Dr Yu-Po Wong from Stanford University estimates the cost of a ‘professional system’ to be in the region of $60-$70,000.
“We are always evolving and developing our technologies to be as accessible as possible, and work with event organisers to support them in making it affordable for their events,” Hawk-Eye states.
“Our Electronic Line Calling System in tennis is a combination of robust software and hardware, and requires highly trained operators. As an example, we often generate revenue for events by opening up opportunities for sponsorship and fan engagement. Hawk-Eye is focused on making our technologies as efficient and streamlined as possible, while we continually work on pushing the boundaries of sports technology.”
The disappearance of lines judges
One of the biggest concerns some have about this technology is the risk it poses to those working at tournaments. Should more tournaments rely on Hawk-Eye or similar, it is inevitable that the traditional use of lines officials will disappear. The New York Times previously reported that the 2020 US Open slashed their number of judges from roughly 350 to less than 100 following a decision to use Hawk-Eye Live on 15 out of its 17 courts.
“Over the past 18 months, we’re proud to have contributed towards the safe and successful delivery of events which otherwise may not have gone ahead during the pandemic. As a technology provider it is never the intention that our creations “replace” or make anyone redundant- as a technology provider that isn’t within our power,” they outline.
Richard Ings was a top chair umpire from 1986 to 1993 before going on to become the director of officiating for the ATP Tour for four years (2001-2005). Like many others in the industry, his pathway into becoming a Tour umpire was via the experience of calling lines from the side of the court.
“I started out calling lines. First at smaller events and then in the finals of major events. I then started chair umpiring. First at smaller events then larger events and gaining my international qualification gold badge equivalent at 19. I was then hired by the MIPTC ad a professional salaried unite at 20,” he tells UbiTennis about his career. “Lines (calling) has been a critical and necessary step in an official’s career path. That’s gone now. Working up the tables to major pro events as a line umpire is now gone. All those major event line jobs have been taken away.”
Ings believes that, as the technology gets cheaper over time, these roles will even start to go at lower-level tournaments at some stage, something he describes as ‘sad’ and an ‘end of an era.’ However, he believes there are positives too.
“The game will still need chair umpires. They won’t need the core skills of calling lines. So line calling experience is not required in this new world. It’s sad, sure, and good people will lose their link with the game as officials. But the quality of line calling will go up. Accuracy and consistency will go up. And that’s what officiating is all about,” he points out.
So is it only a matter of time before every tournament will be switching to electronic line calling?
Wimbledon first tested Hawk-Eye back in 2004 before implementing it on their two premier courts three years later. Now it is currently used on Centre Court, as well as Courts 1, 2, 3, 12 and 18. Ten cameras are built around each of those courts: they capture 60 high-resolution images per second. At least five of those cameras cover every ball bounce. It is said that the Hawk-Eye Live team is made up of less than 30 people.
Whilst there is high praise, The All England Club tells UbiTennis they don’t intend to solely rely on the system just yet.
“Line umpires remain an important element of our officiating set-up at The Championships, and there are no plans to switch to electronic line-calling,” they said in a statement.
Wimbledon’s view is one which is also echoed by the WTA when it comes to the running of their tournaments, although they are monitoring the impact of electronic line calling on what they describe as the ‘tennis community.’
“The WTA supports the use of automated line calling in order to limit the number of personnel at tournaments that are operating during COVID-19, creating a safer landscape for players, staff and officials themselves to work in. The WTA will continue to support live electronic line calling where appropriate for the remainder of the 2021 season while monitoring its impact closely on the tennis community. Line officials are and continue to be an important and highly valued part of the WTA Tour,” the WTA outlined.
Hawk-Eye Live will be used throughout the upcoming US Open series. In May, the USTA, ATP and WTA confirmed the use of electronic line calling at the US Open, ATP Atlanta Open , ATP Citi Open, National Bank Open (ATP Toronto and WTA Montreal), ATP Western & Southern Open, WTA Cincinnati, ATP Winston-Salem Open and WTA Tennis in the Land.
As for the Lines Judges who will be affected, there appears to be no program in motion aimed at redeploying them to another area of the sport. Hawk-Eye says they have no comment on this matter because it is “not an element within our control.”
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