TENNIS US OPEN – 5th of September. C. Wozniacki d. P. Shuai 7-6, 6-3, RET. An interview with Peng Shuai
Q. First off I want to say, how are you feeling now?
PENG SHUAI: Feeling better. Yeah. Safe now.
Q. I’m glad to see it. I can only imagine how painful it was. It was hard just to watch you. If you can, just talk about the experience.
PENG SHUAI: Well, it’s really tough match and then Caroline always bring a lot of ball back. She’s like really like tough, the energy, you know, and to play — when we finish first set already maybe one hour or 50 minutes and the heat is really hot. I just try to fight, and my body is getting more and more hot and it start cramping. It’s really painful right there, yeah.
Q. Then you went off the court and I guess you were evaluated and determined that you were healthy enough to go back out and try. Talk about that experience that you were feeling better and felt like you could maybe compete and you realized you couldn’t?
PENG SHUAI: No, actually went first because they tough to move me out to, you know, to get the treatment outside the court. It was only like few minutes in there. And then I think they check my temperature. And then everything — because the doctor, she said to me, You are not able really go out to fight, compete, because look is not really well. I said, No, no, no, I don’t want to give up. I want to try one more time. Yeah. And then I come back. I know it’s not going to be maybe — I know I’m not gonna stay maybe too long, but I just want to try, you know. I just wanted to challenge her one more time. Yeah.
Q. How disappointing is it? You were playing so well in this tournament. Obviously a big breakthrough tournament for you. How disappointing was it not to be able to complete the match?
PENG SHUAI: I think is many good things what I started and what I did it for like whole this year my tennis, but also with my fitness. But also I saw also many thing I need to improve that. And then how I what’s like in the match, in my fitness, in my body. And then always like learn, you know. And then also keep going, looking forward.
Q. What was the moment that you realized that you had to retire? When did you realize that you had to retire from the match?
PENG SHUAI: I think was the moment I come back on the court. How you say, I could not really control maybe like myself, my body already. And with the moment I think the doctor saw that, and then it just like — I don’t know. I didn’t like — I cannot say already. I think see saw that and then have to no choice. I want, but I could not.
Q. But did you say, I default or did they tell you you had to default?
PENG SHUAI: I couldn’t not remember, actually. I don’t know in the moment, because already for me was tough for me to breathe. Was cramping. I don’t know. Maybe they talk to me or they telling me or asking me. Already I could not heard it. So in the moment everything, maybe yes or no, yes or no, I don’t know.
Q. They said that you said, I have to default. They said you told them.
PENG SHUAI: Okay. Maybe. I don’t know. Sorry. Really honest to say, because after the court the doctor ask me, Do I know what’s going on? Because I was cramping there. Because my body is really hot and it could not really breathe. I think in the moment I could not cling to remember everything. Maybe. Maybe they more clear than me. So, yes.
Q. Were you feeling anything else other than cramping? Were you dizzy? Were you nauseous? Was it just the physical muscles?
PENG SHUAI: I think it was the physical because today is really humid and hot. And then like my body is not like from like — maybe I got from I parents when I’m born. It’s not like the strong, my physical like everything. So also from like what I does in the practice and just the lot of fitness and then try to improve with everything. Like I think I was going to improve that, but I need to like keep going like doing more, because now the compete more stronger than before. Yeah.
Q. Was this the same thing that happened to you in Australia?
PENG SHUAI: Oh, that was like worse yet. Different opponent. But the heat is over 40, so is not like really natural. So is like also really tough, yeah. But good things I finished it. Here is more humid. And then it just — I tried. I tried to just like give my body all energy on court. Yeah.
Q. Actually I think for you you must have very complicated feelings about 2014 US Open, because you had victories and also you had sort of injuries. China media has very high remarks of you. How do you see yourself?
PENG SHUAI: Well, it’s really good almost two weeks. Is lot of new experience to me. A lot of challenger. And then is really happy this time I make some like — you know, I did some like usually a lot of time the player and I make this time. This almost two weeks I feel like I play really good, and then I just maybe need to believe more like to myself. And then give me a lot like energy. Keep going fight and work, and then looking forward. Yeah.
Q. For you on the court the main physical problem was the cramping?
PENG SHUAI: Yeah. Yeah, because I think when it start cramping, it’s like your body a little bit out the energy. You just keep going try and fight. I think it’s with the cramping, yes.
Q. All over the body or mostly in the legs?
PENG SHUAI: Start from the leg.
Q. And then did it go…
PENG SHUAI: The front, the back, and then it was my back. Horrible. (Smiling.)
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
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.
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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