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
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”
Liam Broady On Why He Wore Rainbow Laces During His Australian Open Match
Following his first round defeat, the Brit spoke about why he believes it is important to speak out in support of the LGBT community.
It is sometimes the small gestures which go a long way and Liam Broady showed that during his first round match at the Australian Open.
Taking to the John Cain Arena for his night-time clash against Nick Kyrgios, the qualifier embarked upon a situation he had never experienced before with a boisterous crowd cheering on their home player. At times the atmosphere resembled that a football match with fans drinking beer and chanting Christiano Roinaldo’s ‘siu’ celebration. The reason as to why they were doing that particular chant was unclear.
Broady ended up falling 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, to Kyrgios who will next play the formidable Daniil Medvedev. Throughout the match the world No.128 was wearing rainbow laces and he did so for a special reason.
“I just kind of wanted to send the support. I know obviously within men’s tennis — is it a taboo? I don’t think it’s really a taboo, but I’ve seen questions before about why there aren’t any openly gay men on the tour, and I just wanted to kind of voice my support in that kind of general area,” Broady explained during his press conference.
“And the LGBTQ community, I mean, a lot of those guys have given me a lot of support throughout my career and have been there since day one, so I kind of wanted to give a thank you in my own sort of way.”
The Rainbow Laces initiative was created by LGBT charity Stonewall and initially marketed specifically towards football’s Premier League before later expanding into other sports. The idea is to get players to wear rainbow laces in order to raise awareness of LGBT representation within sport.
Tennis is renowned for having some of the most formidable LGBT athletes over the years with the likes of pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who were among some of the first to speak openly about their sexuality. However, on the men’s Tour it is somewhat different. There are currently no openly gay players and only a small handful in the past. Although most of those players, such as Brian Vahaly, came out after retiring from the sport.
“I saw that the first openly gay footballer just came out in Australia (Josh Cavallo) a month or two ago. And it’s difficult, right? I mean, it’s a big thing to do and at the end of the day in the 21st century, it’s pretty rubbish that people don’t feel like they can be openly gay. It’s quite sad, really,” Broady continued.
“Hopefully I will help raise awareness for it and if there are people in the locker rooms and you kind of, you don’t want to force them to come out, you know, especially if they don’t want to. It’s their choice.’
“So you just got to try and support in the way you can and just let them know that everything’s okay.”
It is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out about LGBT rights. In 2018 he criticized Margaret Court who likened gay-rights activists to Adolf Hitlef in terms of what she claims is ‘propaganda.’ Court has a history of making anti-LGBT remarks despite insisting that she has nothing against gay people.
Broady says he doesn’t personally know of any gay player on the Tour. Although if there was, he assumed that it would be known because the sport is a ‘pretty leaky ship’ when it comes to having private details revealed online.
On Monday the Australian Open will launch their first ever Pride Day at the tournament.
Australian Open: Pablo Carreno Busta Through But Fabio Fognini Stunned
Busta has booked his place in the second round at Melbourne Park for the sixth year in a row.
On day one of the Australian Open, Spanish ace Pablo Carreno Busta sealed an efficient straight-sets win to take his place in the second round.
The Spaniard was no match for Argentinian qualifier Tomas Etcheverry coming through 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).
The 30-year-old from Giron sailed through the opening set that included two breaks in the fourth and sixth game.
Etcheverry, who won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open, improved in the second set.
However, it wasn’t enough as Carreno-Busta flicked through the gears breaking his younger opponent in the third and seventh game to seal the set.
In the third, the 2017 and 2020 US Open semi-finalist took an early break of serve, only to be pegged back by Etcheverry who forced a tie-break.
It wasn’t to be for the 22-year-old though as Carreno-Busta turned up the heat with some big groundstrokes to move into round two.
Next up for the world number 21 is Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor who thrashed a poor Fabio Fognini in straight sets.
The out of sorts Italian was beaten 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
Having lost in the first round of the US Open in September, the former world number world number is nine is in danger of slipping outside the top 40.
Having shown much promise to win a first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo back in 2019, the husband of former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, looks desperately short of motivation and confidence.
Fognini is yet to go beyond the fourth-round of a major, and at 34 time is running out for him to mine the potential that made him one of the sports best juniors growing up alongside Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
Elsewhere, former Australian Open star Lucas Pouille, was knocked out in round one by fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet.
Wildcard Pouille has endured a glut of injuries since making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park three years ago.
The 27-year-old has now fallen to 159 in the world.
Pouille made a bright start to take the opening set 6-3, but his lack of fitness and confidence soon showed, as he lost the following sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Czech Jiri Vesley, also slumped out to American wildcard Stefan Kozlov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
He will face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini next.
Cameron Norrie Puzzled By Australian Open Defeat
It was a bad day at the office for the British number one.
Cameron Norrie is finding it hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong for him in his first round match at the Australian Open.
The 12th seed could only win seven games against Sebastian Korda as he crashed out 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, after just over 100 minutes of play. It is the third time in four appearances that Norrie has fallen in the first round at Melbourne Park but last year he did manage to reach the third round. Against his American rival, he hit 29 unforced errors compared to 23 winners and was broken five times.
“I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and I was just slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss,” Norrie said during his press conference.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on.’
“Any time I had a chance to kind of come back, he (Korda) served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me. I didn’t play well in any big points today.”
It has been a far from smooth start to 2022 for the 26-year-old who also suffered disappointment at the ATP Cup earlier this month. In the team tournament he lost all three of his singles matches to Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Zverev is the only one of the trio currently ranked higher than him.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Norrie’s latest defeat is the fact he seemed perplexed about why he played the way he did. Asked by one journalist if he was possibly suffering any lingering affects from catching COVID-19 during the festive period he replied ‘No, I think I prepared as well as I can, and I felt fine physically, fine mentally.’
Norrie was one of the breakthrough stars last year on the ATP Tour when he raced up the world rankings. He featured in six Tour finals across three different surfaces and won the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The stellar season earned him a place at the ATP Finals as a reserve and he even played two matches following the withdrawal of Stefanos Tsitsipas due to injury.
“I don’t know why I played the way I did today. I was feeling good physically,” he said. “Yeah, I played a lot of matches (last year) but this is what we (tennis players) are paid to do and just not good enough. I just need to raise my standards, practice, matches, and execute a lot better.”
Of course, credit has to be given to Korda, who is making his debut at Melbourne Park. The American had a far from ideal preparation for the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 which forced him to withdraw from two warm-up events.
21-year-old Korda has now beaten a top 20 player on six separate occasions. He will play France’s Corentin Moutet in the second round.
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