ATP Champions Tour: 4 stars of the past in the spotlight for 2 memorable days - UBITENNIS
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ATP Champions Tour: 4 stars of the past in the spotlight for 2 memorable days

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TENNIS – The ATP Champions Tour, the circuit which reunites the past tennis legends, makes its return to Italy six years after the last time Rome played host to the tournament in 2008 during the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. From Milan, Diego Sampaolo

Ivan Lendl talks about his less known nightmare, Christophe Freyss

Four tennis legends John McEnroe, Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic and Ivan Lendl will be in the spotlight for two memorable days of tennis in Genoa on Friday 17th October and in Milan on Saturday 18th October.

The “Grande Sfida” tennis event will feature two semifinal matches, Ivanisevic vs McEnroe and Chang vs Lendl in Genoa On Saturday the winners will face off in the final, while the losers of the two Genoa semifinals will fight for the third and fourth place.

The Milan leg of the ATP Champion’s Tour follows the events in Delray Beach (13-22 February), Stockholm (11-14 March) and Knokke Heist in Belgium (14-17 March). One more leg will be contested in Rio de Janeiro (27-30 November) before the season-ending Masters in the Royal Albert Hall in London (3-7 December)

The four tennis stars met the media representatives during the press conference in Milan on Thursday afternoon.

John McEnroe won 7 Grand Slam titles (four US Open and three Wimbledon), 3 Masters, 77 ATP Tournaments, and played 108 ATP finals. He came to the fore on the International stage in 1977 when he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon at the age of 18 starting from the qualifying round. It’s the best result ever achieved by a qualifier in a Grand Slam tournament. In 1980 he lost the Wimbledon final against Bjorn Borg in one of the best matches in tennis history. One year later he beat Borg taking the re-match at Wimbledon. In 1984 Big Mac came close to winning the Roland Garros final against Ivan Lendl but the player from Ostrava recovered from two sets down to win in the fifth set after a epic match. However McEnroe enjoyed the best year of his career in 1984 when he clinched 17 tournaments and lost just three matches.

McEnroe ended his career in 1992 at the age of 33, when he won the doubles title at Wimbledon with Michael Stich. At this age Roger Federer is still ranked second in the World Ranking and still has some chances to end the year first in the ATP Ranking.

“Tennis was totally different 20 years ago. Now players have access to more advanced technologies and have better opportunities to play at the top for a longer time”, said McEnroe

Genoa will host the event in the mid of a tragic week for this city badly hit by the devastating flood. Five hundred spectators who will attend the Genoa event will be invited to attend the Milan afternoon. “Many crazy things are going on in the world. We would be happy if we managed to give some joy to Genoa with our tennis matches”, said McEnroe.

The same feeling is expressed by Michael Chang. “We hope to offer the opportunity to make people smile and enjoy themselves. This is a similar situation to 1989 when my win was the opportunity to put a smile on the Chinese people after what happened at Tienanmen in the mid-Sunday of the French Open”, said Chang

McEnroe returns to Milan where he won four editions of the Indoor ATP Tournament (1979, 1980, 1981 and 1985).

“I have in common the same emotions with Italian people. We always played in front of big crowd in Italy. Italian fans had a lot of passion for tennis and gave us a lot of energy. We played with a lot of energy and we used it positively.”, said McEnroe.

The four legends, who will highlight the Milan event this weekend, are still very popular stars many years after the end of their careers. McEnroe was surprised to see a lot of journalists in the press conference room. “I did not expect to see so many people at this press conference. Normally only few people come to our press conferences, even if they are paid!”, said McEnroe

In Friday’s semifinal Lendl and Chang will renew their rivalry 25 years after their memorable fourth round match at the Roland Garros in 1989. Chang, then a 17-year-old rising star, rallied from two sets down to beat three-time French Open champion and reigning Australian Open winner Ivan Lendl 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 after a four- hour and 37- minute epic battle despite leg cramps.

“I have had many opportunities to talk about tennis, training and golf with Ivan but we have never talked about that Roland Garros match. I have always had a great respect for Ivan. We played a unique match that doesn’t happen often”, said Chang.

Chang went on to beat Stefan Edberg in the Roland Garros final becoming the youngest ever male player to win a singles Roland Garros title at the age of 17 years and 4 months.

In the semifinal of the 1992 US Open Chang lost against Stefan Edberg after 5 hours and 26 minutes in the longest match in the history of this tournament. He also won the Davis Cup with the US team in 1990.

“I feel blessed and thankful for what I achieved during 16 years on tour. I have accomplished many great things in my career. I was not the biggest guy out there or the most imposing but I played very smart tennis and I had the ability to move around the court very well”, said Chang.

Lendl won eight Grand Slams and 94 ATP titles. The only Grand Slam trophy he never won was Wimbledon where he played two finals in 1986 and 1987. He stayed at the top of the Ranking for 270 weeks. Lendl returns to Milan where he won the Indoor tournament three times in 1983, 1986 and 1990.

“I came for the first time to Italy at the Avvenire and Bonfiglio Junior Tournaments. I remember playing the Davis Cup match in 1979 against Italy.”, said Lendl

“What makes me proud of my career is my longevity. Playing against John McEnroe was always very difficult, so it was a good day when I managed to beat him”, said Lendl

Ivan Lendl by Diego Samapaolo

Ivan Lendl by Diego Samapaolo

Lendl coached Andy Murray from 2012 until March 2013 guiding the Scotsman to the US Open title, the Olympic gold medal in 2012 and to the Wimbledon triumph in 2013.

Chang could meet Ivanisevic in the final on Saturday. They have had an amazing success last September when Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori, who are coached respectively by Ivanisevic and Chang, reached the US Open Final. Cilic beat Nishikori at Flushing Meadows and the Milan final could be an opportunity for Chang to take a “re-match”.

“Not many people expected that Marin Cilic could win at the US Open but he has always believed that he could do it. The combination Goran – Marin worked very well and ended with the win at the US Open. When you work hard, everything pays off”, said Ivanisevic

“We have not had many Asian players. Outside of myself Nishikori is one of the first Asian top players who did very well particularly this year. This is one of the reasons why I decided to take this coaching position, to be able to help him reach the next level. It’s fun to see him progress”, said Chang.

Ivanisevic reached his first Grand Slam final in 1992 at Wimbledon where he lost against André Agassi in five sets. He reached his career high in 1994 when he was ranked World Number 2. After losing two more Wimbledon finals against Sampras in 1994 and 1998, Ivanisevic finally clinched the first Grand Slam Trophy at the Wimbledon All England Club in 2001 when he beat Patrick Rafter. Few people would have expected his win as he started the Tournament as a World Number 125 and received a wild card from the organizers.

“I am happy with my achievements during my career. I played against amazing players like Boris Becker, André Agassi and Pete Sampras. I was blessed to play against this great generation”, said Ivanisevic

Ivanisevic returns to Milan where he won two editions of the Milan Indoor Tournament in 1996 and 1997. “I have a great memory of Italy. I have often played with some Italian players like Omar Camporese and Andrea Gaudenzi in doubles matches. I have always had a good relationship with Italian players and I hope that Gianluigi Quinzi (2013 Wimbledon junior champion) will continue the tradition of tennis in Italy in the future”

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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