TENNIS US OPEN – 29th of August 2014. M. Lucic-Baroni d. S. Halep 7-6, 6-2. An interview with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
Q. It’s nice to have you back in this room.
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Thank you so much. It’s been a little while.
Q. Just talk about knocking off the No. 2 seed. It’s a great accomplishment. Talk about your form of late.
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I mean, it’s amazing. I finally been able to play the tennis that I love the way I love to play. You know, being really aggressive and consistent at the same time. Yeah, I mean, I keep playing better and better each round. Today was against one of the best players in the world. She’s amazing. I expected a really tough match. I didn’t think about anything except following the tactics and playing the way I was supposed to play. I was able to do that; it’s incredible.
Q. Just looking at how you were playing going up to qualifying, there was no way to think you’d be able to come here and do this. What have you found since you obviously started hitting your stride in the qualifying phase and getting better and better every round here?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Well, I mean, until you make consistent results nobody know how hard you working, nobody knows what you’re doing. I have been putting in the hours all these years, but, you know, I always end up battling few injuries. Started playing better in Doha. I got injury and another injury and all these things. Until you make results, it looks like you’re kind of half there. I have been working really hard. And now finally being able to do it consistently, it’s starting to show in results. Yeah, so it feels great finally.
Q. What were those injuries?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Earlier in Doha, my back just blocked, gave in. I was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t finish my match. Then in Indian Wells I got a herniated dick in my neck. That made huge problems for my shoulder. Before Wimbledon I couldn’t play for a week. It’s been one thing after another, and then again after Wimbledon I didn’t play for three weeks. So, yeah, this summer my preparation was just playing matches and, you know, playing in tournaments and kind of getting through all these little things. Finally, you know, getting some confidence here winning some matches.
Q. Is that what you meant by every painful movement is so worth it, or did you mean something else?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I mean, everything. Every thankful moment on the court, you know, that you run your butt off until you can’t breathe. Then you do some more. You do that day in and day out. Today, you know, after five matches, however many matches I played so far, you know, I was still able to — six? I’m still able to move great and feel great physically and strong. So, yeah, I’m so happy.
Q. I know this is difficult, but if you had to sum up your personal journey at this point, how would you recap it for us?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Well, that’s not an easy questions.
Q. I know it’s not.
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Well, I mean, I’m a little bit emotional now. Sorry. (Crying.) It’s been really hard. Sorry. After so many years to be here again, it’s incredible. I wanted this so bad. So many times I would get to, you know, a place where I could do it. Then I wanted it so bad that I’m kind of burned out. And I apologize again. Yeah, I’m so happy.
Q. How difficult was it to control those emotions when it came time to serve out the match?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: It was really easy. Right now it’s hard (laughter). I was really good. I was so good on the court. You know, I knew what I had to do and I was able to do it. And then just after it’s been — whew, it’s been really tough. Talking about it is really tough. You know, it’s surprising to be here in a way because it’s been so long. But I worked so hard for this. I knew what I had to do, and I was able to do that on the tennis court, which is, yeah, amazing.
Q. It’s only been 15 years since you got to the second week of a slam. It’s not that long.
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: I know, right? I feel good about the fact I’m 32 and I’m still here. After so many matches I feel fit. I feel strong. I still have a few years to catch up to Kimiko, so I’m good.
Q. What are you going to remember about your last fourth-round Grand Slam run 15 years ago?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: It was a long time ago. I mean, I remember it was really exciting, but back then it was so normal. I was so young and I was so good and I was winning so much that it wasn’t — even though it’s exciting, it wasn’t really a big deal. It was just a natural progression. And now it’s just amazing. Every round is amazing. Every round I look forward to. I mean, in a way I know I sound like and I feel like a little kid, like this is the first time ever happening. I don’t know, I love the feeling. I’m really happy.
Q. Do you see it as sort of two different careers?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Yeah. I mean, in a way, yeah. Obviously you could say that after a long break this definitely looks like a second career. But, yeah. I missed it when I didn’t play and I still enjoy it now.
Q. What were you doing when you didn’t play? And how serious was the financial situation?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Well, I mean, it’s really uncomfortable for me to talk about it. Obviously that was the main reason why I didn’t play. It wasn’t any lack of desire or anything. It’s just circumstances were such. Yeah, I still played with my brothers a lot. I was still in tennis a lot. I was still, you know, waiting for my opportunities and things like that.
Q. Any of those sort of old memories come back when you were watching Catherine Bellis this week, the fact she was doing so well so young?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Yeah. I was watching her last night. It was kind of cute. I was remembering — it was a little bit different. Still you’re watching a little kid, and for me it was just so normal when I was 15 playing here. I actually needed a wildcard. I was 15 in the world and I needed a wildcard because of the rules, which was crazy. I already belonged. I was already here. Yeah, you’re just such a little kid. You don’t know what’s happening. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, too. I was having so much fun watching. I was remembering, you know, I was feeling like an adult at 15 when I played here, but, yeah, it’s just — she’s just a little girl. It’s amazing. Amazing thing to do.
Q. Did you have any close calls qualifying here?
MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI: Oh, yes, I did. In the very first round I was down 4-2 in the third against a very good American player. She’s actually of Croatian descent. Yeah, very good lefty. Yeah, she just was bombing everything. I was kind of running around thinking, What’s happening here? I’m going to go first round home. And then in the third round again I battled 5-2 in the third set. Kind of the same thing. So, yeah, I earned my way again into the main draw.
“We Hope to Convince Federer to Play”: the Presentation of the 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters
Director Zeljko Franulovic talked about next year’s tournament, scheduled from April 9-17
The 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters will take place from April 9-17, so it’s difficult to guess what the pandemic situation will be in six months. At the moment, however, the prevalent hypothesis is that all spectators will need a Covid Pass or to bring proof of a negative test before being allowed in the Montecarlo Country Club at Roquebrune, France. If some players will refuse the vaccine, then they will need to be tested regularly in accordance to the rules devised by the French government.
Other than that, there will be no surprises when it comes to the event’s logistics, since the Country Club has already added a new players lounge and a new press room in the past few years. In 2020 the tournament was cancelled, while in 2021 it took place behind closed doors (while still being televised in 113 countries); the last edition staged with a crowd, in 2019, sold 130,000 tickets, constituting 30% of the total revenue – another 30% came from the sponsors, 30% from media rights (a number that tournament director Zeljko Franulovic hopes to see increase) and 10% from merchandising.
While it’s early days to know whether the tournament will operate at full capacity, Franulovic has made it clear that the organisers are already planning to provide a better covering for the No.2 Court, whose roof has not been at all effective in the past in the event of rain.
The tournament’s tickets can be bought on the official website of the event, but Franulovic has already vowed to reimburse immediately every ticket “if the government and the health authorities should decide to reduce the tournament’s capacity.”
Ticket prices have increased by 2 to 3 percent as compared to 2019, ranging from £25-50 for the qualifiers weekend, £32-75 for the opening rounds, £…-130 for the quarterfinals and semifinals, £65-150 for the final, £360-1250 for a nine-day tickets. Franulovic claims that the prices are in line with those of the other Masters 1000 tournaments.
Finally, Franulovic supports Andrea Gaudenzi’s decision to create a fixed prize money for the next decade. While tournaments like Madrid and Rome are trying to increase their duration from 8 to 12 days, the Monte-Carlo director has claimed that he prefers to remain a week-long event, especially because his is not a combined tournament. As for the players who will feature, Franulovic hopes to convince Roger Federer to participate: “I’m certain that he will give everything he has to be able to stage another comeback on the tour, ma no one knows where he’ll play. However, I think that on the clay he should opt for best-of-three events like Monte-Carlo and Rome rather than the French Open.”
For this and more information, you can watch the video above.
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.
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.
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
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