TENNIS US OPEN – 3rd of September 2014. S. Williams d. F. Pennetta 6-3, 6-2. An interview with Serena Williams
Q. You seemed to be operating in the fullness of your gifts tonight. What was different about the match? You seemed extremely focused and powerful and everything we’re accustomed to from your game.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, tonight I was just trying to do what I have been working on in practice. She was playing really well and she was playing, you know, very aggressive. So I had to just step up my level of game, as well.
Q. After the slow start, how much did all the matches you played this year and the time you put in help you sort of get out of that sluggish beginning?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It definitely helped. I was thinking that, you know, I’m down two breaks? But I was — you know, I felt like it’s not the end of the world. You can just win one game at a time. That’s all I tried to do.
Q. Flavia says it was a match of great level. Do you agree with that? She thinks she plays well, too.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think she played really well. I think every time I play her she gets better. This is definitely the best she’s played me. I really had to step up my game. You know, I really had to step up my game. That’s why I was down Love-3. She came out really strong and really hard. It was a very, very good game for her.
Q. How do you feel about playing Makarova? Talk a little bit about the lefty factor, the spins and stuff like that. Are you a little concerned about this match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. I have played two lefties already and I often practice with Varvara. She’s a lefty. I think that’s been good for me, so I’m ready for the lefty. I think it will be a good match. She’s beaten me before. I am obviously going to go in there and just try to do the best I can.
Q. How good l Serena Williams have been if she was left handed?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Gosh, I always ask my dad why wasn’t I a lefty? Even when I was younger I wanted to be lefty. I could have been really good. (Smiling.)
Q. How many slams?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. Who knows? I don’t know. But lefties are just so cool. I just love lefties. Maybe it’s just a hangup I have. We’ll never know.
Q. What do you remember most about the match you referenced when you lost to Makarova, and what are your thoughts about the specifics of playing her?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, Makarova moves well. She doesn’t care who she plays, she gives 100%. Those types of players are often difficult to play because it makes them better. Like I say, she moves well. She has that serve that can hit — that can go out wide or you never know where it’s going to go. She’s has a great backhand and she’s improved her forehand. It’s going to be interesting for me to do the best that I can, because, you know, she has a lot of momentum going into this match as well.
Q. You talk a lot about being more relaxed at this tournament and everything is kind of gravy. You don’t really need to win anymore, but how do you turn off the pressure?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, it’s so easy now because it’s almost a joke for me because I have done little to no winning in the majors. And now I thought, Take it as a joke. Oh, my God, I’m past the fourth round. Woo. Like, Yeah, I was joking. I better play doubles just in case I don’t make it past the second round. At least I have a backup plan. I think that definitely has been able to help me to relax, as well. You know, and also realizing that I don’t have to win anymore. Everything now is just extra. So then that also helps, as well.
Q. Do you enjoy being high profile?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I understand Makarova, especially when I was coming back. It was like I was definitely more low profile. I called myself a dangerous floater. It’s fun almost because no one expects anything from you and you have no pressure and you can just play so well. But you have to be able to — if she continues to win, you know, she won’t be low profile. I think for more of a top player, she’s beaten so many top 10 players, she’s definitely not low profile for us. So once we step on that court we just know that she’s a player, you know, that you cannot take lightly.
Q. What are the one or two losses that you learned the most from in your career?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I have to think about it. Definitely I learned a lot from one this year. I’m not ready to talk about it yet, but definitely learned a lot from that. But I don’t know. I learned a lot from — in 1998 I played Sanchez in the French Open, and I really believe I should have won that match. I was up, and, you know, I didn’t take a chance. That’s life in general. Sometimes you have to take chances.
“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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