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”
Novak Djokovic Confirmed For Olympics But Del Potro Pulls Out After Medical Advice
The Serbian will be bidding to win gold in Tokyo later this year for the first time in his career.
This year’s Olympic tennis tournament has been given a boost after officials confirmed world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be playing at the Games.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion had been contemplating whether to play at the event or not amid ongoing COVID-19 conditions. Djokovic previously said he would reconsider travelling to Tokyo if fans weren’t allowed to attend. Since that comment, organisers have given the green light for up to 10,000 domestic fans to attend Olympic venues. Although foreign fans are banned from attending this year due to the pandemic.
Amid questions over Djokovic’s participation, the Serbian Tennis Federation has told Sportski Zurnal that he has pledged to play. It will be the fourth time the 34-year-old has represented his country in the Olympics. So far in his career, Djokovic has only won one medal which was bronze back in 2008. He also finished fourth in 2012.
“Novak has confirmed his desire to participate in the Olympic Games and we have already sent a list with his name on it to the Olympic Committee of Serbia. It will be forwarded from there,” the Tennis federation told Sportski Zurnal.
As it currently stands Djokovic is on course to achieve the calendar ‘golden slam.’ A rare achievement where a player wins all four Grand Slam titles, as well as the Olympics, within the same year. In singles competition the only person to have ever achieved this was Stefi Graf back in 1988.
“Everything is possible, and I did put myself in a good position to go for the Golden Slam,” Djokovic said after winning the French Open
“But, you know, I was in this position in 2016 as well. It ended up in a third-round loss in Wimbledon. This year we have only two weeks between the first round of Wimbledon and the finals here, which is not ideal because you go from really two completely different surfaces, trying to make that transition as smooth as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“So obviously I will enjoy this win and then think about Wimbledon in a few days’ time. I don’t have an issue to say that I’m going for the title in Wimbledon. Of course, I am.”
Del Potro’s comeback delayed again
There is less positive news for Juan Martin del Potro, who was the player who beat Djokovic to win a bronze medal back in 2012. The Argentine hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since June 2019 due to a troublesome knee injury. Back in March the former US Open champion said playing at the Olympics again was motivating him during his rehabilitation.
However, since then progress has been slower than what Del Potro would have liked. As a result, he has been advised not to play in the event and continue his recovery.
“Delpo won’t be able to play the Olympics Games. The knee rehab is going well according to the doctor’s plan but he suggested Juan Martin to go on with his rehab process and training, and skip Tokyo 2020,” a statement from Del Potro’s communication team reads.
Since 2010, the former world No.3 and two-time Olympic medallist has undergone eight surgeries.One on his right wrist, three on his left wrist and four on his knee. He has won a total of 22 ATP titles so far in his career.
The Olympic Tennis event will start on July 24th at the Ariake Coliseum.
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Vasek Pospisil dispatches James Ward in Eastbourne
Vasek Pospisil is into the second round at Eastbourne.
The Canadian won his first match on grass of the year beating the local favourite James Ward.
Vasek Pospisil is through to the second round of the Viking International ATP 250 in Eastbourne after beating the Brit James Ward in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 13 minutes on court number two.
“It was a good match, I played pretty well, I thought I served well and he is a tough opponent on grass because he has a tough first serve but I was pretty sharp and played well when I needed to and happy to get the win”.
It was the Canadian who had the first chance to break at 1-1 and he got the early break and that one break was good enough for him to serve out the first set.
The second set was much of the same and actually was identical to the first with the world number 66 getting the break to take a 2-1 lead but faced a breakpoint when consolidating the break.
Again that one break was enough for him to serve out the match and book his spot in the next round. This is Pospisil’s first win since the month and after the match, he spoke about how the last couple of months have been for him.
“It was good I just took a break from the tour just to refresh the mind and the body and I hadn’t seen my family in nine months so it was a good reset and I felt I needed a break to kinda be excited about touring and the covid conditions and now I’m back and I am happy to be back and I am playing well so it was a nice break.”
Pospisil will now face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the next round after the Spaniard beat the Swede Mikael Ymer in straight sets 7-5, 6-1.
Daniil Medvedev Searching For Confidence Boost Ahead Of Wimbledon
The two-time Grand Slam finalist says he is not the same player as he was two years ago when he last played Wimbledon.
When it comes to playing on the grass this year Daniil Medvedev admits that the biggest issue for him might concern the mental side of the sport as opposed to the physical side.
The world No.2 kicked-off his grass swing last week in Halle where he was stunned in the first round by Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the Tour in 2020, that was the first time the Russian had played a match on the surface in almost two years. Short on matches, Medvedev is back in action this week in Mallorca after taking a wildcard into the tournament.
“I like to play on grass, I just need to get some confidence in my game on the surface, because we didn’t play [on it] for two years. Two years ago, I was not the same player as I am right now,” Medvedev told atptour.com. “It is tough for me to say where I see myself, but I know I can play very good on this surface. I just need to find the right balance.”
Since he last played at Wimbledon, Medvedev surged on the ATP Tour by winning six titles with all of them being on a hardcourt. Furthermore, he also reached the final of the US Open in 2019 and the Australian Open this year. He is the first player outside of the Big Four to be ranked in the world’s top two since July 2005.
Despite his previous success on the grass, Medvedev admits he remains wary about playing on the surface and the conditions he may face.
“When I started playing on grass, I played in Challengers and even in [ATP] Tour tournaments on the outside courts, not on the central courts, and I can tell that the central courts are quite slow,” he said. “Especially the match I played with Gilles Simon at Queen’s [Club], we had rallies of 40 shots every second point. That is what makes it a little bit tougher.
“When I practise on practice courts, I feel like I am playing so good as the ball is so fast. Then I come onto the centre court to play the match, and the ball just stops after the bounce, and you have to adapt your game, so it can be tough. But I know I can play really well on grass.”
In Mallorca Medvedev has a bye in the first round. His opening match will be against either South Africa’s Lloyd Harris or France’s Corentin Moutet.
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