US Open 2014 – Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta - UBITENNIS
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US Open 2014 – Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta

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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 Martina Hingis and Flavia Pennetta

 

Q. So many opportunities in the third set. I don’t know, thousand break points. Makarova first, Vesnina after. Pity.

FLAVIA PENNETTA: Yeah, just a little bit.

MARTINA HINGIS: No, you can’t normally slip away so many opportunities, of course. I mean, it’s a little disappointing that, you know, served well sometimes; sometimes we didn’t go for it enough. Yeah, we definitely had our chances, but when we look back starting the tournament, if you ask me to sign a paper that I’m in the finals, I would probably accept it with my eyes closed. When you’re that close of course you want to win. We beat them before. It’s not like we didn’t have a chance. We showed that we can beat the best doubles teams out there today again, but I felt like the juice ran out a little bit at the end. To push a little bit more, to have a little bit more energy like we had in the beginning of the tournament, I think at the end it was a little bit they were closer, they were more aggressive. Yeah, they pushed more.

Q. What was it like for you being back in a Grand Slam final? What was that feeling like? Do you feel the same?

MARTINA HINGIS: Well, I mean, it’s amazing. I mean, like last year I lost here in the first round to Errani-Vinci. A year later I’m a year older.

FLAVIA PENNETTA: In the final.

MARTINA HINGIS: And I make the finals. So of course I’m really happy. Still a great tournament. That’s not going to take anything away from that. Hopefully we will have more opportunities in the near future. We’ll go to Asia and try to do our best there, and then next year there is again four Grand Slams.

FLAVIA PENNETTA: I mean, for be here after just four tournament in the final is a good result. We just play I think four tournament together, so, I mean, everything is working pretty good. Today we had our chance, but we didn’t make it. I think we had to push a little bit more in the second set, but they play a more aggressive in the 3-2 and they go for the shot all the time. They had also a little bit of lucky, I think, in the important moment. But, I mean, this is matches. Tennis is always like this.

Q. You mentioned how hard it had been for you to find another partner after Gisela. Do you think you two can stay together for a while now? Australia?

FLAVIA PENNETTA: I hope so. Finish this year and then we gonna see what happened next year.

Q. You’re full-time player again? I mean, you want to play all the tournaments or only…

MARTINA HINGIS: No.

FLAVIA PENNETTA: Not all.

MARTINA HINGIS: Not all, but definitely the selected, the smarter ones, the good ones, and the ones you feel good. Today I don’t have to prove nothing to nobody, but definitely there is so many nice tournaments still this year. It hasn’t finished yet. There is, yeah, next season. I’m looking forward to it already now.

Q. It’s better if you stay, because for us, for Italians, it means Pennetta is going to play longer.

FLAVIA PENNETTA: They are scared that I am stopping.

MARTINA HINGIS: Oh, well, I’m keeping her out here hopefully next year, yes.

Q. For Flavia it was a big tournament, great tournament: quarterfinals singles; final in doubles. Which one of the two do you think surprised you more in a way? What was the bigger surprise, to make the quarters in the singles or to make the final in doubles?

FLAVIA PENNETTA: I think the final in doubles more than quarter in singles.

MARTINA HINGIS: She’s been in the semis here last year.

FLAVIA PENNETTA: No, not for that. Just because, I mean, like I say, we didn’t play a lot together. Definitely the draw was really tough from the first match. And the day when we saw the draw, we look each other and we say, Oof, again. I think we play really, really good. Every matches was high level, so… Bad luck for tonight. Still a little bit bitter.

Interviews

Tennis Like “The Godfather”: Seven Families Fighting For Power (Video-Interview With Mary Carillo)

Ubaldo Scanagatta, Steve Flink and Mary Carillo look into their crystal balls and discuss the future of tennis. The chances of seeing tennis played at Flushing Meadows in 2020 and how the fight at the top will shape the sport in the near future

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This new interview by chief editor Ubaldo Scanagatta sees two A-list guest talk tennis with him: recurring guest start Steve Flink, one of the very few journalists to be inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame is joined by former pro player and award-winning TV analyst Mary Carillo, who has been Top 50 in singles during the ‘70s and won the mixed doubles title at Roland Garros in 1977 together with John McEnroe.

 

This is the second performance for this ‘trio’ that debuted in 2016 on Tennis Channel with a very lively round table. Social distancing rules have now forced this second gathering to be moved to a video-conference, with Ubaldo hosting from his house in Florence, Italy and the two Americans being in their respective residences of New York and Naples, Florida.

The wide-ranging conversation started from the memories of that 1977 French Open, just a few weeks before John McEnroe reached the semifinals at Wimbledon starting from qualifying, and went on to cover the possibility that the US Open is going to be played as planned, the new Italian-powered leadership for the ATP and their plans to join forces with the WTA and the Majors (just like Billie Jean King wanted to), Agassi’s reactions to Djokovic’s idea of letting his body heal itself and a risque parallel between tennis’ governance and “The Godfather”.

 

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ATP

Uncertainty, Anxiety And Optimism: What It Is Like To Work In A Sport That Has Come To A Standstill

From travelling the world for tennis to self-isolation with an uncertain future, Ubitennis sheds light on those in the tennis industry directly affected by COVID-19…

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Just three months ago tennis coach and tactical analyst Mike James travelled the globe providing his expertise on the ATP Tour.

 

The founder of Tennis Data company Sportiii Analytics is working with the team of former world No.1 junior player Miomir Kecmanović, who reached the semi-finals of the New York Open in February. James’ job is to provide relevant data to Kecmanović based on the matches he played and travelled to the Doha Open in January.

“The year started well. I was out in Doha with the team. Miomir made the semi-finals, he beat (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga, (Marton) Fucsovics and it was a really good tournament. He lost to (Andrey) Rublev, who has been on fire this year,” James reflected.
“The last tournament I was involved with was Acapulco and he had a great win against Alex de Minaur before losing to the champion Rafael Nadal.’
“He has had a good year in the sense of making good progress with his development and analytical side.”

Relishing in his job on the Tour, it all started to come crashing down on March 9th. A date that triggered the beginning of the longest suspension of play in the history of modern tennis. In what had originally been thought to be a serious health threat in China alone, the coronavirus swept through the world in devastating fashion. It is no longer safe to travel to certain areas as experts continue to research into a remedy to contain the previously unknown virus.

In light of the serious health threat, it was only a matter of time before the global sport of tennis would suffer. At first Indian Wells was cancelled, then Miami, then all events until April and now the suspension has been extended to at least July 13th. Leading the lower ranked players anxious about how they will make ends meat over the coming weeks. Some have already returned back to studying and others have embarked upon the online coaching.

James isn’t a pro, but he is one of the hundreds of behind the scenes workers affected by the suspension. At a glance, some would think tennis starts and stops with the player, but there’s much more to that. There are their physios, coaches, hitting partners and so on. In most circumstances, if the player cannot generate any income, their support staff will not get paid. The exceptions are those making big money at the top.

“My role is predominately based on playing matches on the Tour. So when he (Kecmanović) is not playing, there is not too much for me to do,” James explained.
“I am doing a lot of work behind the scenes with the game development and helping support him. But obviously there is a limit to how far that can go when he is not playing.”

Leicester-based James is not immune to the hardship despite his credentials. His previous role was supporting Magnus Norman for team Stan Wawrinka and other players he has worked with include doubles specialists Ante Pavic and Tomislav Brkic.

Fortunately, he and other British coaches has been given a lifeline by the British government and their pledge to support self-employed people like him. Although in other countries, it is a very different situation.

“Tennis coaches, physios and players are a self-employed entity. So everyone has their own individual case,” he explains.
“I’m from the UK and our government has been amazing in supporting self-employed people and furlong 80% of my last tax return.’
“I’m doing some online consultancy and a few other things to keep me busy, but the reality is my main income comes from the professional Tour.”

From worldwide travel to virtually house confinement

James pictured with Magnus Norman (left) and Jonas Arnesen (middle)

Like most of the world, James finds himself in lockdown waiting for the pandemic to reach a point where he can soon return back to everyday life. When that will be is unknown. Coming to terms with the prospect of being told what you can and can’t do it tough for anybody regardless of their job.

Perhaps the biggest issue a person may encounter at this time is their mental health. In one survey conducted by the American Psychiatric Association, 36% of respondents have said the pandemic has had a serious impact on their mental health. These findings will differ between countries and even sports, but the issue remains very much a serious factor in all forms of life.

“Personally, I am going through positive and negative moments of emotion,” James commented on his own circumstances.
“The positive thing is that we are all in this together and the coronavirus is not discriminated against in any walk of life.’
“Originally when Indian Wells was cancelled there was a mini panic in my household. Everybody around me was saying why was I getting so upset and anxious. I was aware then that I could see into the future and the domino effect that could be happening.”

The tennis community appears to be uniting in order to support each other through these times. For example the top 100 players on the ATP Tour have their own WhatsApp group, but it is secret as to what they discuss. James himself is also seizing the benefits of technology.

“I’m over-communicating with everybody at the moment, I’m speaking on WhatsApp, Zoom, Houseparty and everything I can do to communicate with guys around the Tour,” he said.
“Everybody is trying to feed off each other in regards to what the Tour will look like when we come back. I think that will be down to the length of time the Tour is away will affect what the Tour looks like when it comes back.”

As to when the sport will come back, it is very much a case of the unknown. The United States Tennis Association recently published a statement saying they intend to host the US Open as scheduled later this summer. Something that former players such as Amelie Maureasmo and Janko Tipsarevic have doubts about.

James also shares the view that the current July deadline of tennis returning will not happen. At present there has been more than one million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to John Hopkins University. More significant for tennis, is that America is yet to reach its peak of the epidemic. A country that is currently scheduled to host no fewer than six ATP events between July-September.

“Do I think it (the tour) will be back on July 13th? No, because of the current situation. I think if it gets postponed until September and if the first tournament is the US Open, the issue with the tennis tour is that it can’t start back at 25 or 50 percent capacity with tournaments because it would affect the rankings too much,” he believes.
“The tennis tour has to start back fully – ITF’s, Challengers, main Tour. If that doesn’t happen then basically the Tour can’t start back. So my concern is maybe 2020 is now finished.”

The LTA lifeline

On Friday the British Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced a £20 million aid package to support players, venues and coaches around the country with the help of grants to players outside the top 100 (as long as they don’t have an existing governing grant). Britain has 11 male players in the world’s top 400, but only three of those are in the top 100 – Dan Evans (28), Kyle Edmund (44) and Cameron Norrie (77).

Support staff like James are also set to benefit from the scheme that aims to maintain the standard of British tennis throughout the ongoing crises.

“What the LTA did was unprecedented from any federation. I think it is an amazing gesture with them (the LTA) putting £20M back into the game. Supporting coaches with £4 million set aside. That will hopefully support somebody like myself, but I don’t know yet how much I could receive.”

It is understood that the ATP and WTA are also coming up with their own plans as to how they can help compensate players who have lost earnings. It is unclear as to if this will extend to anybody else working in the sport.

There is also another element to all of this. The Tour has been able to grow over the years due to their sponsorship deals, but with the economy taking a battering there could be more problems ahead.

“Tennis is a global sport and massively relies on sponsorship. From ATP 250s down. On the WTA side, it is even more. If there is a global meltdown the first thing companies stop doing is putting money in sponsorships. The longer this goes on, the more it will change the way the tennis tour looks.” James warns.

Light at the end of the tunnel

James pictured with Tomislav Brkic (left) and Ante Pavic (right)

Six weeks have already passed since the last ATP Tournaments were played. During the last weekend of February Nadal triumphed at the Mexican Open and Novak Djokovic was triumphant in Dubai. Undoubtedly those involved in the sport are now suffering mentally, physically and financially. But can it be possible that the devastating pandemic could have a silver lining for the future?

Tennis is a unique sport due to the way it is structured. No fewer than seven bodies are involved in the sport. Each with their own objectives and agenda. A situation that has previously proved problematic when it comes to reaching a mutual agreement. So it may be that COVID-19 ironically unites them once and for all.

“I want to say that it will be different for the better and I think if the organisations actually communicate and come together during this period and create more solidarity. I believe tennis could come out in a much better way,” James says with optimism.

So what could the future of the Tour look like? That depends on who you ask with various personalities in the sport having their own view. As for James, how the sport changes will depend on how long the Tour suspension lasts for.

“I think in regards to prize money, International travel, rankings, Tour structure that could all very well change. But this all depends on the length (of the suspension).” He said.
“If the whole year is written off there are a whole lot of people behind the scenes who have got to look at what 2021 looks like and how we get tennis back. Which is the most important thing.”

With people fighting for their health around the world, it all seems very trivial to consider what may happen to a sport in the coming weeks.

At the time of his despair, James does see the bigger picture. Whilst he resides at home, somebody close to him is in the midst of the covid-19 battlefield, providing him with a stern reality check.

“My wife is a nurse and they are on the front-line. The job they’re doing is unbelievable.” He said.
“I think I’m quite fortunate to be at home, safe and waiting for this to ride out.’
“You have to stay positive and over-communicate with people.”

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Interviews

(VIDEO) Exclusive: Why Rod Laver Wanted To Kill Martin Mulligan at Wimbledon

Martin Mulligan, three-time champion in Rome, reminisces about the match point he had against Rod Laver in 1962, the year of Rocket’s first Grand Slam. At the end of his playing days, he became a Fila manager (after previously working for Diadora), and got to know Borg, McEnroe, Pietrangeli, Hopman. Now he advocates for changes in the calendar, for which he proposes a model akin to that of F1.

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At least two stories would be incomplete without mentioning Aussie-turned-Italian Martin (or Martino, as Gianni Clerici used to call him) Mulligan: that of the Internazionali d’Italia, which he won thrice (once every two years starting in 1963), and that of the Fila brand, picked over Diadora in 1973. He had hung up his racquet, and was working for both companies, advertising Diadora shoes and Fila outfits. After a while, both companies started to produce the missing element in their respective collections, forcing Martin to choose the latter and to move to San Francisco to monitor the American market – he still lives there, and still collaborates with the Biella sports brand, founded in 1923.   

 

However, we said that the incomplete stories would be “at least” two, since as a player (he was born in Marrickville in 1940, and will turn 80 on October 18) he earned a privileged spot in the saga of the second Grand Slam in Pre-Open tennis history, completed by Rod Laver in 1962 (he would repeat the feat in 1969, after the start of the Open Era). Not only did he play Rocket in the final of the Championships (on the very first occasion that the Queen was in the stands, no less!), but he also went less than inch from stopping Laver’s run in Paris, just a few weeks prior: up 4-5 30-40 in the fourth set, Martino countered an aggressive second serve with a passing shot down the line (as he’d done all afternoon), and could only look on as Laver hit a winning cross-court volley. Mulligan would then lose that set with a 10-8 score (no tie-breaks back then), without earning any more match points, before capitulating for 6-2 in the decider. “Oh Martin, what did you do?” is Ubaldo Scanagatta’s taunt to this day. You can watch the rest of their conversation in the video below, recorded before the cancellation of Wimbledon:

Mulligan’s maternal grandparents were born in Orsago, in the province of Treviso (near Venice), before moving to Australia at the onset of the 20th century. Martin would then take the reverse journey, coming back to his ancestral home to train and to earn a Davis Cup spot, something that he could have never achieved in Australia, where too many great players prevented him from breaking into Harry Hopman’s team. In Italy, he fulfilled his dream, starring in the 1968 team that lost the zonal tie against a Spanish team that could boast players like Gisbert, Santana, and Orantes with a score of 3-2 (Mulligan scored both points, winning a singles rubber after the tie was already decided along with the doubles, partnering Pietrangeli, who lost both singles against Santana and Gisbert, who was in turn the best player in the tie, having upset Martin too in the first rubber) – notably, Martin is the only foreign-born player to ever feature in an Italy Davis Cup team.

Throughout the interview, Mulligan recalls his early days working with Fila, when he tried to recruit a young John McEnroe for a company that already had Bjorn Borg as its showpiece. The plan was to deliver a test racquet to Martin, who would have checked it before passing it on to John, who was very faithful to his Wilson arsenal – however, “there was a delay in the delivery, and we were forced to send Mac the racquet without passing by my examination in San Francisco first.” That was the fatal error, since John’s surname was spelled with an “a” on the racquet. Not only wouldn’t McEnroe sign for Fila if his life depended on it, but, in Ubaldo’s recollection, he also yelled something along the lines of, “there’s no way they can make good racquets, they can’t even spell my name!” The original quote, which is slightly (and predictably) more colourful, can be heard in the video.

Ubaldo and Mulligan pictured together at Wimbledon

Mulligan also got quite honest while discussing today’s players – “They ace and then immediately go for their towel, there’s no need for that!” – and the game’s governing bodies: “The ITF should be in charge of tennis but their ineptitude in past years favoured the ascent of the ATP and of the WTA. There should be one big tournament per month at most. Moreover, there are far too many second-tier events.” He doesn’t hide his nostalgia for a time when life wasn’t this fretful, and yet people filled the Foro Italico to the brim anyway, cheering on their fellow countryman Martin Mulligan, who was able to defeat none other than Manuel Santana in four sets. It was 1965.

Text translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa

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