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”
REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach
The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.
Former top 10 player Grigor Dimitrov has found a replacement following the departure of Radek Stepanek, according to one Bulgarian news source.
TennisKafe.com has reported that the world No.20 is now working alongside Christian Groh. A German-born coach who has worked with a number of top players on the men’s tour. Including Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz. It is his work with Haas that Groh is best known for. During their 24 months together, he guided him from outside the top 200 to 11th in the ATP rankings.
The development comes a month after the 28-year-old stated that he was in no hurry to find a new mentor on the tour. Back in May he ended his collaboration with Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. He made the decision shortly before he exited the world’s top 50 for the first time since 2012.
“I’m not in a panic right now to find a coach. I always think that when I don’t have someone beside me, it’s hard to train. However, in the past months, I have done things myself that I have not done.” Dimitrov told reporters in November.
“You need to have freedom, to find yourself, to become closer to yourself.” He added.
Despite Stepanek stepping away, Dimitrov is still in contact with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi. Agassi is not a coach to the Bulgarian, but has agreed to a sort of consultation role where the two talk with each other regularly.
Dimitrov has experienced a roller coaster run on the tour this season with a win-loss record of 22-21. At one stage he failed to win back-to-back matches at six consecutive tournaments over the summer. However, his form surged during the last quarter of 2019 where he reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and Paris Masters.
Neither Dimitrov or Groh has yet confirmed their new partnership on the tour. Groh has recently been working as a consultant for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Heading into the new season, the first test for the duo will be at the ATP Cup in Australia. As well as playing, Dimitrov is the captain of the Bulgarian team.
Groh’s coaching CV
- 2011: Michael Berrer
- 2012-2013: Tommy Haas
- 2014: Bradley Klahn and Taylor Fritz
- 2015: Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz
- ATP/WTA Players and United States Tennis Federation Player Development since 2015
Since the publication of this article, Ubitennis has received some additional details on Dimitrov’s work with Groh. The editor of TennisKafe.com, Borislav Orlinov, confirmed it was Dimitrov’s manager (Georgi Stoimenov) who revelled the two will be working together. They are currently training in Monte Carlo, but will head to Australia before the New Year.
Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
Only two players have won the award since 2004.
For the past 15 years only two players have managed to get their hands on the prestigious Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, but one player thinks there could be a brand new winner this year.
Diego Schwartzman has lent his support behind world No.4 Dominic Thiem. The award recognizes those who have conducted the highest level of professionalism and integrity on the ATP Tour throughout the season. Established in 1977, Roger Federer has won the honour in 13 out of the past 15 years. The only other player to triumph during that period was Rafael Nadal, who won it in 2010 and 2018.
“I think Thiem can win it, he showed throughout the year a competitiveness and a respect with everyone that was spectacular,” Schwartzman told ole.com. “On top of that he is having great years of his career and this season was even better for the achievements he had.’
“He has a good chance of winning it.” He added.
Schwartzman, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open earlier this year, has also been shortlisted for the award. Along with regular nominees Federer and Nadal. Only once has an Argentinian player won the title, which was José Luis Clerc back in 1981. At that time it was known as the ATP Sportsmanship award before getting renamed in 1996.
“I learned first (of getting nominated) through social networks rather than the official designation that the ATP sends you by mail.” The 27-year-old revealed.
“It is more spectacular than anything for the players I have next to me. It is a very important prize that recognizes a little what you do off the court, not only hitting the ball.”
Whilst he is dreaming of winning the honour himself, Schwartzman is just happy that he has been nominated.
“If I won this award, it would be spectacular. Now I am on that payroll that is very good and represents the values that I try to maintain on a day-to-day basis and that (my coaching teams over the years) have taught me. It is very nice to be recognized for that. “ He concluded.
The four nominees for the Stefan Edberg Award was shortlisted by the ATP. However, it will be the players who will decide the winner. The result will be revealed later this month.
Multiple winners of the Stefan Edberg/ATP Sportsmanship award
Roger Federer – 13
Stefan Edberg – 5
Pat Rafter – 4
Alex Corretja – 2
Todd Martin – 2
Paradorn Srichaphan – 2
Rafael Nadal – 2
Kei Nishikori In Doubt For The Australian Open
Asia’s highest ranked male tennis player is contemplating when he should return to the tour following surgery.
World No.13 Kei Nishikori is refusing to rule out the prospect of skipping the first grand slam event of 2020 as he continues his recovery from surgery.
Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open back in September. A month later he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in a move that brought his season to an early end. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, it is unclear as to when the Japanese player believes he will return to the ATP Tour.
“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.
The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th in Melbourne. Should he miss the grand slam, it will be the second time he has done so in the last three years. Nishikori also withdrew from the 2018 edition due to a wrist injury. In January he reached the quarter-finals and therefore has 360 points to defend next year.
During his time away from the court, the 29-year-old has been kept busy making changes to his team. Recently it was confirmed that he has started working alongside Max Mirnyi, who is a former world No.1 doubles player. Mirnyi, who has won 10 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, will be working full-time with Nishikori alongside existing coach Michael Chang.
“I’m getting closer to retirement. I want to be cured and come back to play good tennis in the second half of next year.” Nishikori stated.
Despite the injury setback, Nishikori has enjoyed success in 2019. Reaching the quarter-finals in three out of the four grand slam tournaments. The first time he has ever done that in his career. He also claimed his 12th ATP title at the Brisbane International. Overall, he won 29 out of 43 matches played.
Nishikori will turn 30 on December 29th.
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