US Open 2014 – Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina

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TENNIS US OPEN – 6th of September 2014. Makarova – Vesnina d. Pennetta – Hingis 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. An interview with Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina

 

Q. Congratulations. Very long games on your serve to hold in the third set. Just what were your nerves or emotions during those?

ELENA VESNINA: Yeah, we had really long games on both of our serves. It was really difficult to win all these games, because Flavia and Martina, they start playing better. They started hitting a lot of down the lines. They kind of changed their games a little bit on our serves, so it was really important to hold that serve. On Katya’s serve we change a little bit tactics on the very big game and it worked. We hold that serve, and after that it was easy, a little bit easier.

Q. First set seemed to be all Pennetta and all Hingis. You found something in the second and third sets. What did you find?

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, I can say that I was so nervous at the beginning. Elena just tried to keep me up. Then after the first set we were just really fighting, fighting every point, just go for it, go for it. They have a break and we were losing with the break. But still we were just really like motivated and really wanted to…

ELENA VESNINA: Stay with them.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Yeah, stay with them, just keep going, keep going. We broke them a little bit.

ELENA VESNINA: Like before the match we were talking with Katya that we will have chances on their serve because they don’t have big serve like Serena or Venus. They don’t have that much free points on their serve. So even we were down with a break we were losing set, we were still thinking that it’s not over. We could still get this break back. I think we really stick together on that tough moment, and we kind of took a risk on some points and played more aggressive than we were playing at the beginning. We kind of put pressure on them, and it worked.

Q. What does this mean to you? What does did mean to your country?

ELENA VESNINA: It means a lot to win a Grand Slam. (Smiling.)

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Yeah, that’s a great feeling. It’s second Grand Slam for us. We have been in the final of the Australian Open, and actually in third set we were twice serving for a match. We were leading 5-2.

ELENA VESNINA: Same situation: 5-2 serving for the match.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: And here — I was serving there at 5-2 and like today, so I just really was thinking that this is not gonna happen again. So we just finish it. It’s a great emotions. So happy.

ELENA VESNINA: Yeah, it’s a big win for us and for our country, as well, I hope.

Q. Let’s go back to that win over the Williamses. How big was that? How much of a confidence boost does that give you for the rest of the tournament? Did you feel you could beat anybody after that?

ELENA VESNINA: I saw Serena this morning in the locker room. We had lockers next to each other. I saw her and she said, Are you playing final today? I’m like, Yes. She looked straight at me in my eyes, she’s like, Go for it, because you really deserve it. I was like, Ah, thank you. That win, of course, gave us confidence, because beating Serena and Venus at home with their crowd and on the big stadium when everybody was for them, it’s really kind of exciting win for us.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: And the match was so close. We were like leading 4-1 and they were leading 5-4. In the tiebreak, yeah, in the second set was 6-4, so it was so close match.

ELENA VESNINA: And very hot day.

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Condition, yeah.

ELENA VESNINA: It was really hot.

Q. What was it like playing against Hingis? With all the winning she’s done in her career, she’s already in the Hall of Fame, most players don’t play against players in the Hall of Fame. What does that mean?

ELENA VESNINA: She’s a legend. What can we say? She’s a legend. We were watching her matches when we were — she’s not, I mean, old. We are not saying we were watching her matches when we were little kids. I was watching her matches and I really loved the way she was playing. She’s a great champion. We lost to her in Miami final, and, I mean, I’m impressed how she was able — you know, she didn’t play so long. She came and she’s competing with best teams in the world. I mean, she still has so much into her pockets, you know. She still can get so much variety and so many good shots, so many thoughts in her mind. You see that on the match. I mean, it’s difficult to play against her because you know she has so much experience, she’s very confident, and she won everything. Yeah, so that was really important for us to believe in ourself and don’t even think we’re playing against Hingis, you know.

Q. Just walking off the court, but how does this compare to the win at the French Open last year?

EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, this match was — I don’t want to say harder, but still three sets, you know, like more tight. French Open we were playing so many times against Errani-Vinci, and that time was first time we beat them. Here also very interesting match. I think I have especially kind of the same emotion after the match point. It’s a great feeling, and it’s Grand Slam. I don’t know, like you want to keep this moment, you know, just right after the match point.

ELENA VESNINA: Just want to enjoy it. When we won the French Open it was our first Grand Slam, obviously. Of course we were like so super happy and exciting, and now I think it’s even harder to win another title, you know, because it’s not easy. You know, when you win one Grand Slam you think, Okay, it’s going to be so easy for us and we are going to win another one. We are playing so god together. That’s not true. We were losing with Katya like final of Australian and then French Open and Wimbledon we lost like second and third round. We were thinking, Oh, my God we are top-10 player and we are gonna play on all Grand Slams like semifinal, final, and we will have title. It’s such a high competition right now women’s doubles teams. Every single match is so tough. All teams practicing doubles. All teams working together. It’s big prize money for doubles. Each team knows what they are going for. Of course it’s a Grand Slam. Who doesn’t want to win a Grand Slam? It’s a dream of your life. It’s just something that you will tell your kids, I don’t know, about that win. (Smiling.)

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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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