US Open 2014 – Maria Sharapova: “I'm healthy enough to compete at this level. That's the most important thing for me” - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Maria Sharapova: “I'm healthy enough to compete at this level. That's the most important thing for me”

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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.

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EXCLUSIVE: Wimbledon Great Billie Jean King Gives Her Verdict On Jasmine Paolini

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Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss in the Royal Box - Credit: AELTC/Ben Solomon

Billie Jean King has told Ubitennis the game style of Italy’s Jasmine Paolini is ‘perfect’ for the grass as she pays tribute to the 28-year-old. 

King, who won 20 Wimbledon titles in both singles and doubles during her career, praised Paolini just hours before her semi-final match against Donna Vekic. The world No.7 had never won a match at The All England Club until this year but has stormed through the tournament by dropping one set in five matches played. She has beaten players such as former US Open champion Bianca Andreeescu, Madison Keys (who retired at 5-5 in the final set due to injury) and Emma Navarro. 

“I’ve always liked watching Jasmine for a while now, and I got to see her last year at the Billie Jean King Cup,” the 80-year-old told Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta.
“Italy lost to Canada, but I saw her there and she was amazing.
“Finally at 28, she’s she’s doing what I think she should have been doing.”

Paolini is enjoying the best season in her career. She won her first WTA 1000 title in Dubai, reached the final of the French Open and at least the semi-finals at Wimbledon. She is the oldest player on the WTA Tour to reach their first two major semi-finals since 1977, according to OptaAce. 

As for the grass, King says Paolini has a ‘perfect’ game for the surface. Even though the tennis star has previously spoken about her mixed feelings about playing on the surface. 

“On grass. She’s perfect.” King stated. 
“She’s low to the ground, she can volley, she can hit Groundstrokes. Big forehand. Unbelievable.”

Paolini is one of three women aged 28 or older to reach the last four at Wimbledon. Something that last occurred in 2018. As for the reason behind these players coming to top form at a later age, King admits she hasn’t got an explanation. 

“I have no idea.” She said
“I think she’s (Paolini) finally found herself and everybody gets to be their best at different ages.
“This year at Wimbledon, it seems like in the women’s events it’s now that they’re older, they’re doing better. So I don’t get it, to be honest.
“It’s the weirdest Wimbledon ever and I’ve been coming here since 1961!”

King has won an incredible 175 titles during her career in the Open Era. 101 of those were in doubles, 67 in singles and seven in mixed doubles.  

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EXCLUSIVE: Ex-No.1 Nenad Zimonjic Gives His Verdict On Djokovic And The Wimbledon Crowd

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Novak Djokovic might be the headline act when it comes to tennis in Serbia but Nenad Zimonjic also enjoyed his fair share of success in the sport. 

The 48-year-old is a former world No.1 in the men’s doubles which makes him one of only four players from his country to have ever topped the tennis rankings. During his career, he won eight Grand Slam doubles titles with five of them occurring in the mixed doubles. Overall, he won 53 trophies on the ATP Tour, as well as the Davis Cup where he later became the captain of the Serbian team.

Zimonjic has returned to Wimbledon this year to play in the Legends event. He has been keeping an eye on compatriot Djokovic and his bid to claim a historic 25th major title at Wimbledon.

“I think he’s been playing better and better as the tournament progresses.” He told Ubitennis.
“The last match (against Holger Rune), he played the best so far.
I expect him to play even better in the quarterfinal match against Alex de Minaur.”

Whilst Djokovic is gaining momentum, he has unexpectedly taken a swipe at the Center Court crowd following his latest win on Monday evening by accusing some members of being ‘disrespectful.’ Throughout the clash, there were shouts of the words ‘ruuune’ in a show of support for his Danish opponent. However, the world No.2 believes some were using those cheers as an opportunity to take a shot at him. 

Zimonjic, who is a long-time friend of Djokovic that travelled to Monte Carlo and Rome with him earlier this year, is unable to weigh in on this particular argument. However, he defends the British crowd at The All England Club where he made 18 main draw appearances as a professional player. 

“I didn’t get to see the whole match I cannot comment (on Djokovic’s remarks) because I wasn’t there.” He said. 
“But what I can say is that the crowd here (at Wimbledon) is very knowledgeable and really respectful to everybody.
“If there was somebody (being disrespectful to Djokovic) maybe there are a couple of people.
“So you cannot say this about the crowd. I’m sure it’s nothing nothing major.”

Djokovic continues to be a dominant force in tennis at the age of 37 and has no plans to step away anytime soon. However, when he does there will inevitably be a huge gap in Serbian tennis. The country currently has five players in the ATP Top 150 but only two of those are under the age of 25 – Hamad Medjedovic (20) and Miomir Kecmanovic (24). There is also 18-year-old Marko Maksimovic who is currently ranked in the junior top 20 on the boy’s Tour. 

“Hopefully some new, really good generations are coming up. We’ll see what the future brings.” Zimonjic commented. 
“It’s not going to be easy to match any of these results and the standards that he (Djokovic) achieved and all the records speak for themselves.
“Maybe they will never be broken, but, we’ll try to make it as better as possible.”

As for life on the Tour for those players, Zimonjic admits it is tough going due to the demanding schedule which starts from January until November. However, since last year the ATP have agreed to stage their Next Gen finals, which features the eight best players under the age of 21, in December. 

The schedule has been a long-debated subject that goes back to Zimonjic’s days on the Tour. 

“Our season is probably the longest in sport.” He said.
“It’s very demanding on the body, travelling, changing the time zones so you have to be extremely fit, mentally tough, and you need a really strong team around you and family support.
“If this can change, I don’t know. So far they (tennis’ governing bodies) haven’t found a way, but, hopefully, anyway, it got shorter a little bit compared to ten years ago was even longer.
“We had maybe three weeks to prepare for the next to rest and prepare for next season, which was really brutal.
“But the good thing is that tennis is very popular and people are following it.”

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EXCLUSIVE: ‘People Are Dying Everyday’ – Elina Svitolina’s Voice Is Important For Ukraine

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Elina Svitolina (UKR) playing against Magda Linette (POL) in the second round of the Ladies' Singles on No.2 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 4 Thursday 01/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

There was little celebration from Elina Svitolina after she reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon on a grave day for her home country. 

The world No.21 eased to a 6-2, 6-1, win over China’s Wang Xinyu without dropping serve, reaching the last eight of the tournament for the third time in her career. It is a huge boost for the 29-year-old who later admitted she didn’t feel like playing in the wake of a new attack against Ukraine. 

A Russian missile attack struck the country in daylight on Monday which resulted in the deaths of at least 36 people and caused significant damage to the main children’s hospital in Kyiv, according to officials. Reuters News Agency says they have a video showing a missile falling from the sky towards the children’s hospital followed by a large explosion.

“It’s an incredibly sad day today for all Ukrainians. It was really difficult for me to be here (at Wimbledon) in a way and do anything. I just wanted to be in my room, just be there with my emotions, with everything,” said Svitolina.

“Today was one of the days where it was even more difficult because the missile landed on the hospital, the kids’ hospital. Straightaway you see the images and everything that happened there. So many kids lost their lives.”

Svitolina took to the court wearing a black ribbon on her t-shirt in respect to those affected. The gesture was approved by The All England Club which usually has in place a strict all-white policy when it comes to attire. Throughout the war in Ukraine, she has spoken numerous times about the conflict and is an ambassador her the United24 fundraising platform, which was set up by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Evgeniy Zukin, who is the executive director of the Ukrainian Tennis Federation (UTF), spoke to Ubitennis following his compatriot’s latest win at SW19. He stresses the significance of Svitolina and her peers to continue speaking out about the war.

“It is important for Ukrainians to keep informing the world of the atrocities that are now happening in Ukraine,” said Zukin. 

“We know the public in the West is tired of bad news. Only disasters like today when many children were killed bring attention back to Ukraine. But unfortunately, people are dying every day and no less than today.”

Zukin’s words are also echoed by tennis journalist Sergey Kontorchik, who is the founder of Великий теніс України which is known in English as BTU. He is based in Dnipro, a city located in the centre of the Dnipropetrovsk Region which borders Donetsk. As somebody living in the conflict zone, Kontorchik is frustrated by the promotion of Russian and Belarussian athletes in the media whilst his athletes suffer. 

“No one is interested in the mental state of Ukranian players. You saw how hard it was for Svitolina after the match today,” he told Ubitennis from Dnipro on Monday afternoon.

“For Ukrainians, it is hard and it hurts. Our players receive negative criticism for not shaking hands with representatives of these countries. We are pushed to the background, far away, so as to not bring up an uncomfortable topic, the war, which continues to destroy our country.

“It is important to us (Ukrainians) when players talk and remind the world about the war, that Ukraine is still alive and continues to fight for independence. 

“It’s clear many people have forgotten.”

Wimbledon had previously banned Russian and Belarussian players from competing in the tournament in 2022 amid concerns that those governments could use the event as propaganda. The move prompted backlash from the governing bodies who removed the allocation of rankings points that year. The ban was lifted in 2023. 

“I would prefer that (the ban to still be in place) but it is how it is now,” said Svitolina. “I cannot change. We tried every possible way to talk with many organizations.

“For now I just want to raise awareness, to raise funds for people in need, to raise support for the kids through my foundation, through United24. So many ways we can help people and not only focus on the things we cannot control.”

The hope for Svitolina is that her tennis is providing comfort to those back home. Although dealing with her emotions due to the war is tough.

“I think for many Ukrainians they will share this feeling with me. We feel guilt that we feel happy or that we feel good. Not only because I’m in the quarterfinal of the Grand Slam but in everything,” she explained.

“Like you go on holidays, you feel guilty because you’re not in Ukraine. Many people cannot leave the country. Many people are at war. Many people are fighting, and defending our front lines.

“I think we’ve been living with this feeling for over two years. I mean, it’s nothing new. But yes, of course, it’s not a pleasant feeling to have.”

On court, things are going well for Svitolina. She has dropped only one set in the tournament so far, which was against Magda Linette in the first round. 

“She showed in the last year that she knows how to play on grass,” Zukin told Ubitennis about Svitolina. 

“After beating Ons Jabeur (in the third round) she felt confident and played flawlessly today.” 

Svitolina will next play Elina Rybakina. 

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