Australian Open: What the players said 17th January 2015 - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open: What the players said 17th January 2015

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TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – Seven top stars talked to the media on the eve of the Australian Open which starts on 19th January in Melbourne Park. Here is a summary of what Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Rafael Nadal, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep said a few hours before their debut. Diego Sampaolo

AO 2015: Interviews, Results, Order of Play, Draws

Schermata-2015-01-17-alle-16.24.03-420x248Roger Federer (four time Australian Open champion, 17-time Grand Slam champion):

What is about this Grand Slam compared to the other three ?

Melbourne is smaller than the other three cities. Everything is pretty convenient here. It’s really well organized. Not saying that the other ones are not but this one seems just like it’s very nice and relaxed. The weather helps. It seems to be always rather quite nice. I guess the three courts with the three roofs are something special for the players. You can see that the tournament can still go on regardless of the weather. It’s just good to know for all of us. You are not so dependant on the weather as a top guy, which is good. Many good things to talk about this event.

Do you feel any different coming into Melbourne this year compared to last year ?

Clearly things are calmer this year. Last year I felt good but I was not quite sure having the new raquet, having gotten through the back issue, having gone through the off-season. I needed matches to see how it was going to cope. I came here with Stefan Edberg who helped me out. There were many changes that took place in the six months leading to the Australian Open. This time around I have played so well. I was able to win Brisbane last week. It makes me feel more secure this year coming into the Australian Open.

Did Stefan Edberg do a bit more in terms of time than you expected ? Do you have any idea how much he is going to do with you this year ?

He might have done a couple of weeks more, but nothing significant. It was the time we spoke about. We will probably do something like 10 weeks this year. He will be here for the tournament. Severin is clearly doing most of the work. I am excited that Stefan is willing to do another year with some weeks for me”

How close are you now to your career best form ?

I would hope that over the years I have always improved. I am serving more consistently and I am stronger than I ever have. The raquet has helped me with that. My backhand is working better than it has in the past as well. The question is confidence, forehand, movement. When I won almost almost everything, everything was so gold that nobody was even questioning anything. I had to adjust my game a little bit over the years. I feel I am playing very well. If it’s the best ever, I am not quite sure. I am definitely very pleased how things have gone now in the last six months.

You won more matches and played more matches than anybody else on the men’s tour last year. Do you expect to play as full of a schedule this year ?

Possible I will reassess the situation after the Australian Open when I go on holiday. I need a break after this because the year end was short. Usually you start the Australian Open without knowing where your game is at. This year I did not take that much time off. I got right back into practice and I played some exhibitions. When I picked up the raquet again, I felt good. The back problem has gone away. As I played so many matches, I did not have enough practice. I came out of it a bit tired but that’s normal.when you practice hard. It was important for me not to overtrain when I came to Brisbane to maintain the freshness. The bigger break is going to come after the Australian Open. That’s when I am really going to decide how much I play, where I am going to play even though I have a rough idea how it’s going to go.

You practiced with David Goffin in Dubai. He said that he learned a lot about you prepare for a competition. What made it interesting for you to practice with him ?

I saw him when he was coming up when I played him in the fourth round at the French Open. I was very impressed how he played then. I think he had already gone through six matches before he played against me. He ran out of gas at the end. I was able to take advantage. Would he have been fresh and everything, maybe I would have lost that match. He might have gone through some ups and downs, some injuries, some loss of confidence. I gave him a lot of confidence. He had an incredible last six months. I was impressed with his work ethic. He is really a nice guy. On the court you see how calm he is. In practice he is very serious, but he is still a fun guy to hang around. I am impressed how well he was practicing. It was good fun to practice with him. I think he is definitely got top 10 potential.

Schermata-2015-01-17-alle-16.28.19-420x274Andy Murray (2012 Olympic champion, 2012 US Open champion and 2013 Wimbledon champion):

Talk about how the preparation has gone, how you are felling coming into Melbourne

Last year was toughbecause I prepared fairly well but mentally it’s quite tough sort of going into your first slam and playing long five set matches. You don’t know necessarily know how your body is going to respond. That’s not the case this year, which is good. My preparation and training over in Miami and in Dubai went very well. Practice this week has been good. I am looking forward to getting started

How fit are you feeling ?

I feel in good shape. I trained well in December. I changed some of the things I was doing in my training. I worked hard in the off-season. My body feels good”

Who do you see as your biggest threat in the tournament ?

There are a lot of top players here. Stan is the defending champion. He will be confident with that. It will be a new experience. It will be interesting to see how he handles that. He finished the end of last year with the Davis Cup and started the New Year with the win In Chennai. I am sure he will be confident. Then there are the obvious suspects, the same names. If you add some of the younger guys that have been coming through the last year or so with Nishikori, Dimitrov, Raonic and all these guys. There are also a lot of guys who can make big improvements in the off-season if they have five or six weeks training to work on things and get physically stronger. It will be an interesting tournament. The Australian Open normally throws up a few surprises. It will be fun to watch”.

Schermata-2015-01-17-alle-16.49.56-420x271Grigor Dimitrov (Wimbledon semifinalist in 2013):

You have been asked a lot about the changing of the guard. Does it feel the season with Nishikori, yourself and Raonic, you are getting closer to the top guys ? After your defeat against Roger in the Brisbane semifinal last week, do you feel the gap is still a bit there ?

I am not going to lie. It was a tough match that I lost last week I did not perform the way I wanted to. That does not mean that I am discouraged to keep trying and keep believing that any of us is going to make it through. On the other hand the year has just begun. Anything can happen at the Australian Open. Hopefully everything goes in a positive way”

Have you set some specific goals for your game for the start of the season ? Have you worked on something specific ?

I have worked a lot in the off-season. There is nothing specific that I would like to say because obviously now I have had a pretty good 2014. We knew what was working for us and knew what we needed to focus on. At the same time I have put a lot of work in the off-season on and off the court.

How important was your performance here last year ?

It was a major thing for me, It gave me a lot of confidence. It gives me like a boost. That confidence gives you the feel that you can perform on a high level. When I had to come up against better guys, I was able to win quite a few tournaments. All that is a good factor.

Did you replay that tough loss to Rafa much ?

It took me awhile to get over it, especially having a set point in the third set, missing that shot by just a few inches. But at the same time I think I took it really positive. I took that loss as a win even though it wasn’t the case. I was performing at a high level throughout the whole season. I think I finished it on a good note.

It seems that courts are faster this year. Do you feel this and do you live it ?

I don’t think that they are faster than last year. The Margaret Court is one of the best arenas I have actually played on for a very long time. It’s a tremendous experience to get out there and practice on that court. It’s always fun to get out there and play. I am not thinking so much about the surface out there because the whole environment puts you in a good vibe to perform at your best. It feels every time you get on that court you are already in the quarters or semis. It’s a great feeling to have. I think the whole surrounding is great. The roof, it just shocks me how you can do that in a year’s time. It looks almost identical to Rod Laver. I think it’s a great court.

f_170115_interviews_04-420x280Rafa Nadal (Australian Open champion in 2009, nine-time Roland Garros winner, 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon winner and 2010 and 2013 US Open winner):

Do you feel it’s getting better and better with your practice ?

I am doing a lot of practice and doing the things that we believe we have to do to recover our level. It is true that having a Grand Slam that early in the season after injury like this is not the ideal thing but we are here. I have worked a lot since 10th December. I have worked a lot in the last couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi and Doha, then here this week. I am calm and happy with the way I did the things. I need to play better than what I am doing. I need to spend hours on court competing. The only way to make that happen is to be on the tour and that’s the only way I can come back to my best level.

You have had to do this a few times before because of injuries. Does it help now that you have done this before, you know what it’s like coming back after a break ?

Every time is different. Every feeling is different. Every time you come back, you have the doubts, you have the feeling that you are far away from your best. At the same time you know the only thing you can do is to play with the right attitude and try to have the right schedule to play matches, to play weeks in a row. It’s the only way to find the positive feelings and the confidence back. When you have put all the things together, it makes your game better again.

Who do you think is the favourite for the tournament ?

I think everybody thinks the same names. Novak finished the season great. He is a fantastic player. He is in his favourite surface. Roger is the same story. He had a great season last year. He finished well. Andy is playing well. The rest are always there. There are a few more players that are always going to have the chances. I don’t consider myself one of the favourites here. This year is a different story. I would be lying if I say I feel that I am ready to win the tournament today. If I am here in a press conference in one week, maybe I will say another thing because I will have the feeling That I play few matches. If I am able to win that couple of matches, then probably I will have little bit more rhythm and more confidence.

f_170115_interviews_03-420x280Maria Sharapova (Australian Open champion in 2008, Roland Garros champion in 2012 and 2014, Wimbledon champion in 2004 and US Open champion)

You couldn’t ask for a better start to the season. What caused the change and logic of playing warm-up tournaments before the Australian Open, because you weren’t used to do it ?

I started my career playing a little exhibition tournament in Hong Kong. When that was cancelled, doing a tournament was the next option.I had been meaning to play Brisbane for many years. This was my only second time there. It was a great start. It was a good few matches for me. I felt quite good. You never know how things are going to shape up after the off-season. You obviously want to transition the things that you worked on and bring it onto the court. But I played quite solid. I did the right things. I had a tough final against Ana Ivanovic, which was good for me to have. A victory at a tournament I never won before was extra special

Have you worked on something different in the off-season, something you wanted to change in your game, different goals ?

I was happy to be in one place for the whole month of December. I didn’t travel much. I did a few around the world in November. It was actually great to settle down. My team came down all through the holidays for those many weeks. It felt good to kind of creat a base for this upcoming season. Last year my off-season,a lot of it had to do with rehab and getting myself healthy. This year I felt like I could really train and push myself a little bit more physically. I wanted to feel that I was ready and fit for the beginning of this year, try to be as healthy as possible towards all of it”

You have a shot at the Number 1 position. Is it still a big motivation for you to be back as Number 1 in the world or is winning Grand Slams at this time of your career more important ?

That was a question that was nice not having to answer in December. Obviously Number 1 is a ranking that every single player wants to grab and works so hard for. There’s a lot of players that have an opportunity to get there and I am one of them. I am determined to do that. By doing that you need to win more matches than the person that’s in the first place. That’s the goal.

What is the best game you remember here in the Australian Open ?

I have a lot of good games. The game that sticks out is my victory. Winning a championships is a big moment, especially a Grand Slam. It was my third Grand Slam in my career. I thought throughout the two whole weeks, it was some of the best tennis that I played. I had one of the toughest draws in a Grand Slam. I actually thought the final wasn’t my best match throughout the tournament. I came through a lot of challenges. It’s tough to choose

Are you thinking about the Olympic Games in Brazil ?

Of course. It’s quite a special occasion. It’s very special to me just because I grew up with that culture. The meaning of the Olympics being so special. I had a great experience in London. It was a great experience in London. It was my first ever Olympics. I would definitely love to have a similar, maybe even better experience in Brazil

Schermata-2015-01-17-alle-16.39.16-420x273Ana Ivanovic (French Open champion in 2008)

You reached the final in Brisbane last week. How do you feel coming into this tournament compared to this time last year ?

Last year actually I also had quite a good start. I felt this year the level was a little bit different. We played a very good match in the Brisbane final. It was really high level for the first tournament of the season. I am definitely feeling good coming into this week. Last year I didn’t really do as well as I hoped for. I really want to take it one step at a time and enjoy because I think my tennis is at a different level than it was last year.

In Brisbane, it looked like there was some back strapping. How are you feeling physically ?

Yeah, a little bit. You always have pains, especially at the beginning of the season. No matter how hard you work in the off-season, matches are a completely different story. It takes time to get that match fitness. It’s a little bit different kind of movement. I had one week to recover. I feel fit

Did you feel like the off-season was different because of the IPTL (International Tennis Premier League), everyone sort of coming together in Asia ?

It was definitely different. I was really happy to be part of that innovatin sort of thing. To compete in a team for so long, with different sort of people from different countries, different kind of environment, it was very special. It definitely brought some fun into the off-season. But it was hard to do all the travelling to be honest. I travelled a lot last season. That added a little bit to it. I still enjoyed it. If I had the choice again, I would do it all over again.

You said you want to do better at the Slams. How do you do that ? How do you do better ?

There is a variety of things. Confidence, preparation, everything comes to play. I think it’s a lot to do with confidence. It takes time for certain things to fall into place. Last year I really felt I made big steps towards winning more matches ,beating top players. These kinds of things you have in place in order to do well at the big events. I feel like I am ready for the next step. I feel comfortable in my team. I feel I can communicate with them more. Last year at some points it was not the case. Then the US Open was just a fresh start with my new team and my new coach. It takes time to get used to it. Now I feel I can communicate with them more and they can help me

If it comes down to confidence, do you take confidence from Brisbane ?

The last couple of months of last season were great. The Brisbane Tournament gives me confidence. I have lots of tough matches. I had all kind of challenges there. I definitely feel ready for this week”

2430626-halep-672x372Simona Halep (Roland Garros finalist in 2014):

How were you feeling after having to withdraw from Sydney ?

I am feeling good now. I am almost now like hundred percent recovered. I have two days. I slept very well. I ate very well.I feel prepared to start this tournament. I still have time, two days more, to feel like hundred percent”

How different was your off-season ? You changed coaches. Was there something you wanted to work on ?

I just improve in my game more and more. I did in my serve very well in the off-season, as well as in my forehand. I am moving better than last year. I am working hard every hard. I changed coach because I wanted to change something and I did. I think it was a great idea. I always took my decisions and it worked very well. I think I took a very good decision”

You posted a lot of pictures on Facebook of training in the snow and ice back home. How difficult is it to transition to warmer weather ?

I have three weeks already here because I played in Shenzhen, It wasn’t too hot there. I like to train in snow, when it’s cold outside. I just had my own preparation at home because many players are going where the weather is better or it’s very hot in the USA and other places. But I preferred to stay at home, stay close to my family to recharge my batteries. I feel good at home. I was practicing 20 days in the snow and I was running a lot.

You have made huge strides since a year ago. What surprised you most about most about your season, how successful you were ?

I am not surprised that I had big results last year because two years ago I just started to win some titles. I have more experience than before. I was improving a lot in my game. I am much stronger. My game is complete now. I believe in my game. I was a little bit surprised with the finals in the French Open because I didn’t expect that I could play the final after just one quarter final in Grand Slams. I had nothing to lose there. It was my favourite tournament because I won there as a Junior and I feel very well there. I was trying everything on court. Everything went in the right way at that tournament. I felt very well. Sometimes it is very good to be close to your home because more people can come to watch you and can support you. It was a perfect tournament for me. That’s why I think I played the final. Then I had the second best result in Singapore. I played well as well there. I cannot say that I was surprised but I was still very happy in the end of the year that I did a few big results”

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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