Q. The moment really seemed to hit you out on the court there. Was it the No. 18 that really came through to you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, it was definitely the number 18. I have been trying to reach it for so long, since last year. Well, since the beginning of the year. I didn’t really think would I get there. I just felt so good.
Q. What does it mean for you overall to be up there with the other great names?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It means a lot to me. You know, I just could never have imagined that I would be mentioned with Chris Evert or with Martina Navratilova, because I was just a kid with a dream and a racquet. Living in Compton, you know, this never happened before. You know, I just never could have imagined that it could have ended — not ended. I’m just beginning. Well, I’m not beginning, but I could have gotten this far, you know. So it was just — I think it was — and then it was eluding me for three tournaments, I guess. But, still that’s a lot for me. I was like, you know, really excited to get it.
Q. You never lost more than three games per set in this tournament. By the end, every time you win you seemed so excited, almost unbelievable. How do you explain? They are easy matches or not?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, none of the matches are easy. I mean, even today if I would have lost a game I would have been serving for it. Caroline was returning, starting to play a lot better, starting to return really, really well, and then she started serving really well. So we had longer points and we were running back and forth and back and forth. So it definitely wasn’t anything that was easy.
Q. Coming in you downplayed a little bit the fact that this was your last chance at a Grand Slam title this year and that it wasn’t that essential, but I’m thinking that you thought it was pretty important to close out a season without a slam.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah.
Q. Now that it’s over and you’ve done it…
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it feels good. I definitely did not think I was going to win a slam this year. And I even said, I’m ready to start next year already. Let’s put this behind me. Oh, I’m embarrassed. I feel really honored and I feel really good. Just almost lost for words. I’m grateful to win a Grand Slam this year. It feels really good.
Q. Among many other things you’re an incredible student of this game. You’ve spoken eloquently about Althea and Venus and Billie Jean. Today you said it was incredible to be in the same league with Chrissie and Martina. You said, Who am I? Could you just take a moment and in your own mind what do you think your achievement is? Where do you think you belong in this history of the game, if you could share with us that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Um, I don’t think about it so much because I’m still playing. I’m already looking at maybe No. 19. (Smiling.) So I’m not thinking about it so much as — I think once you do you become a little satisfied. I have said this before: I don’t want to become that. I want to continue to rise and continue to play really hard and do the best that I can.
Q. Can you take us back to after Wimbledon and what your mindset was then after another early loss at a Grand Slam tournaments? Did you think at all how you wanted to change things?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, just after Wimbledon I was just so disappointed. Because like I said, I worked so hard. Six hours literally just training, training, training, nonstop. After that, I thought, Well, maybe I shouldn’t train so much because the results aren’t coming. Maybe I should just, you know, try something new. I just went away for a week and a half and I didn’t practice as much. I practiced, but I didn’t practice as long. I made sure I hit every day. At that moment I also realized I just needed to relax a little more. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t have to put pressure on myself, because like I said, I don’t have to win another title. I always have my little 18 bracelet now. I’m good to go. (Smiling.)
Q. Some athletes are really particular. The earlier point about satisfaction, about not keeping their accomplishments around them, like in their house or anything like that. Are you the same way? If so, where do you keep all this?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I’m not that way. I don’t necessarily want to become satisfied by saying I’ve done this or I have done that. But as for my trophies, I definitely keep them around, but not like on display or anything. I’m not that person that just shows off my trophies like that. They’re a little bit everywhere.
Q. You have talked about growing up as a kid in Compton who had a dream and a racquet. What were some of those early dreams you had about playing tennis?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Oh, to win the US Open. Yeah, that was my dream, to win the US Open. Every time I win here it’s just really incredible special moment for me.
Q. Caroline said that perhaps after the first three majors you wanted to prove something to yourself, and that it showed in the way you played this summer and at the US Open. What do you think you have proven to yourself after the first three majors and then the rest of this season?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I think if anything I have proven that I can play a lot of matches. I have played a lot of matches in the past five weeks. I think I have proven I have the discipline to just be able to go in and out and just perform in every match and every tournament that I play and just give 100%. I was doing that so well, so well last year, and I wasn’t able to do it as much. Even though I tried just as hard, I just wasn’t able to do it as well this year. So it was good to get that feeling back.
Q. And then in the success here at the Open, did you prove anything else to yourself?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. I really had no expectations coming into this US Open. My goal was just to get past the third round, maybe the fourth round, because it was just really difficult for me in the majors. My goal was just to win some matches.
Q. So what are your plans for the winnings?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I have a really good uncle that I love a lot. I always say this. (Laughter.) His name is Uncle Sam. I think I’m going to give him a lot of it.
Q. Tell me what the bracelet says on it.
SERENA WILLIAMS: It just has the number 18.
Q. Where does that rank in your jewelry collection?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t really have like a tremendous amount of jewelry, to be honest. Yeah, I don’t really have a lot of jewelry. So this is good. This will be something — I’ll see if I can play with it. I’m not sure if I can. It’s pretty cool.
Q. Caroline is a class act and a good friend. What was it like to come out and play someone across the net that you have feelings for, so to speak?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It’s definitely not easy, you know, but I think we both wanted to win this. We both wanted to do the best that we could. And like I say, I’ve play against Venus, so I think that helped me a lot to be able to — if I can play against her, I can really handle anything at this point.
Q. Many congratulations. You have been such an inspiration for so many young Americans. Where do you see yourself kind of going the next season?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, well, the next season I feel like hopefully I can just be — try to be more consistent and give 100%. I gave my 100% this year, and that’s all I can do. Once I know I tried as hard as I can, that’s all I can do.
Q. Patrick said he doesn’t really need to motivate you that much because you’re very motivated yourself. That you like to play. You like to practice. You still have the belief that you can win more majors. Is that how you feel?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yes, absolutely. I might be too motivated. I train really hard and I never want to stop. Then sometimes I ask Patrick, Is this normal? He says, No, it’s not normal. Because I didn’t think so. Tell me I’m not crazy. He’s like, You are. (Laughter).
Q. You said 18 was a burden, so I will be the first to ask: Are you thinking about 22?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. I am thinking about 19, which I’m kind of disappointed. Hasn’t even been three hours and I’m already — I have already mentioned 19. Oh, gosh. So, yeah, but not 22. I’m taking it one at a time. (Smiling.)
Q. Forgetting about the numbers, what about that mythical title, greatest of all time? To what degree do you hear people saying that and how does it affect you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I have heard it, obviously, but I don’t think about it. Like I said, I’m just a simple individual who just wants to win titles and wants to play tennis. I want to do really well and I love the game. The reason I play is to sit at the end of the day and hold the trophy or stand and hold the trophy. For me, that’s my joys.
Q. How do you think this particular match went? It seemed like the beginning was tough for both of you. How do you think your game developed?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think in the beginning it was definitely a little tough, but I just — and I know Caroline. She did so well and she was fighting so hard. That’s one thing I love about her and love about her game. And also just her spirit off the court. She is just a fighter and she never gives up. I think the match was — I think we may have been a little nervous in the beginning. But, you know, after that we kind of settled down and started playing some good tennis.
Q. Were you playing your best tonight? Second to that, Caroline said that you’re buying drinks. Is she going with you to celebrate?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, we’re gonna hang out later tonight. I definitely will buy the drinks.
Q. Were you playing your best tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I played well. I really do. I feel like to get through that with all the nerves and all the expectations and things that could have happened, I think considering the situation, yes, I think I played pretty good.
Q. What makes her so good as a gal pal?
SERENA WILLIAMS: She’s funny, she’s nice, she’s supportive. She’s just really, really sweet. You know, she’s a sweet person. I think I can kind of take my wall down a little bit with her and I can be who I am. It’s nice when you can do that with someone. Yeah, it makes it really nice.
Q. Roger didn’t make his goal of 18 and 6. Did that impact you in any way? Make you nervous at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Got a little nervous. Thought it wasn’t meant to be for us. At least one of us made it.
Q. Have you ever considered to launch any perfume after winning a Grand Slam, like 16, like a sweet 16? Now is 18.
SERENA WILLIAMS: That’s a good idea. Never thought of it. Legal 18. (Laughter.) Oh, gosh, okay. On that note, thank you very much.
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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