TENNIS – Unhappiness seems to be spreading into the world of ITF tennis, another open letter testifies a lack of attention from ITF to Futures and its players.
Unhappiness seems to be spreading into the world of ITF tennis and more cases of condemning the status of life outside the ATP world are happening. The case that shook the internet over the past few days is an open letter than Tomàs Buchhass wrote to ITF and published on his Facebok page.
“I am addressing the ITF to notify them and express my displeasure as a tennis player for having to take part in a tournament which is played in the conditions in which the Futures of Temuco, Chile, is played,” said the 22 year old Argentine. “Courts were in a pitiful state which are a hazard to the physical well-being of the players, without a restaurant in which to eat; on Saturday, during the first round of qualifications, a ball was lost and there was no replacement; there were matches scheduled on three courts but one had to be discarded due to the disastrous quality of the court, and the matches were put on another court, with the lines hand painted with a line of chalk, which is to say it was impossible for them to be straight or with the correct measurements.”
The first impression that one receives by reading his letter is not much about the critics to the organization of the tournament, but the resignation towards an institution that seems to have forgotten that behind the names that make tennis a worldwide famous sport, there are thousands of athletes struggling to go on, having to cope with bank accounts always in red and who, on top of that, are witnessing the absolute indifference of their association, when something as described above happens.
“To tell the truth, as someone who loves this game, one feels very frustrated because an immense effort is made, not only on my part (player), but also on the part of a whole family who expects the most basic things in order to play in conditions which are acceptable for the sport,” he added later. “I have never seen the ITF take any action whatsoever in the matter, checking and monitoring or with any intention to improve the tournaments.”
Obviously his latter cannot avoid talking about the financial aspect of the life of those who are far from the top of the world, even though, life gets hard quite steadily once you are out of top 100.
“It’s unfair, cruel and little gratifying,” he said. “Only 100 people in the whole world can make a living from this sport. Does it seem right to you? The rest of the field doesn’t receive anything, they increase the prize money of the majors, in which the players receive more and more, and we receive nothing!”
Surely this is not a new theme, it most definitely is something that in the higher spheres of ITF someone must have heard. Last year, another player, South African Keith-Patrick Crowley, started a campaign to promote the change in the distribution of money, so that the prize money of futures could benefit.
“Over the last 15 years the prize money for the Slams has increased by 479%,” he pointed out. “And the challengers and futures have increased by 0%.”
Crowley received great support from the internet and his petition reached a few thousands names, but everything seemed to have been ignored.
“The ATP is run like a business. They are only concerned about the players that can generate more income for them.” He said. “They are only concerned about money and keeping the top guys happy.”
Thanks to his tears of joy for the unexpected qualification to the main draw at the latest US Open, James McGee reached quite some fame and so did his story, published on his blog where he talked about the struggle to live a life following his dream of becoming a top tennis player.
“I remember making the final of a Futures in Madrid in May 2011 and receiving under €500 in prize money,” the Irish player wrote on his blog. “It was atrocious and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the cheque. It was both discouraging and sad to see my hard work earning me very little money. Up to that point, it was my most successful week of 2011 in terms of ranking points but I still lost more money than I made!”
Sadly, there are so many stories like these that are told continuously by tennis players from all over the world. But coming back to the case of Buchhass, he did not stop to these topics, he went further and talked about the contemporary topic of betting.
“It’s a little contradictory that the ITF sends the message that they wish to go against betting, and all those things which stains our sport,” he wrote. “And it makes me sick, as someone who loves the game, to hear that such things exist, that matches are fixed, but afterwards, I see that the ITF has a gambling house as a sponsor.”
But then he added: “That’s where things don’t match. They wish to go against those things which stain the game, but they have ‘official gambling houses’.
“Truth be told, it seems that they’re going the wrong way. They are putting the sport aside and it ends up being an association which only aims for profit.”
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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