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
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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
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”
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”
Filip Krajinovic To Skip Australian Open If Required To Quarantine For More Than Five Days
The world No.34 says he ‘sees no reason’ why vaccinated players should have to go through a long quarentine in Australia.
The second highest-ranked Serbian player in men’s tennis says it would be ‘unacceptable’ for organisers of the Australian Open to require players to quarantine for more than a week if they have been fully vaccinated.
Filip Krajinovic has become the first player to publicly state that they will not be prepared to travel to Melbourne at the end of this season if they have to go through strict quarantine measures once again. All the players who participated in this year’s Australian Open were required to be quarantined in a designated hotel for 14 days upon arrival in the country. During their stay they were allowed to use training facilities but that was the only time they could leave the premises unless there was an emergency.
There is no final decision regarding the travel requirements for the 2022 tournament but there are concerns that unvaccinated players may not be allowed to enter the country. The Victorian government recently issued a mandate ordering all essential workers to be vaccinated, including athletes. However, the regional government will not have the final say concerning tennis players arriving in the country with the national government being the ones in charge of that decision.
“They are very rigorous there and honestly, if I have to be in quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne, I will not go to Australia,” Krajinovic told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“I was vaccinated, I did everything in my power to protect myself and the people around me, so I really see no reason to sit there for 14 days in a room.’
“If they (the organisers) say that after arrival I need, say, five days to be in isolation, that’s OK for me, but anything beyond that is unacceptable to me. With the season ending late, I will have 20 days to get ready and go. Charter flights will be organized again and the last one is planned for December 28 for the players and that is the final date when I can go to Australia. I will see what the final decision from Melbourne will be, so I will cut what is the best thing to do.”
Earlier this week Victoria’s Sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to be vaccinated because it give them ‘the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open.’ It is expected that if unvaccinated players are allowed to attend, they will be subjected to stricter restrictions. This might include a longer quarantine period upon arrival and limitations of where they can go during their stay.
“Last year, all of those players had to do their 14 days of quarantine. Right now there looks like there will be different rules for people who enter this country who are vaccinated as against unvaccinated and I don’t think the tennis will be any exception to that.” Pakula told the Sports Entertainment Network (SEN).
“In terms of what rules apply for people to enter Australia, whether unvaccinated people are allowed in at all, I don’t the answer to that yet. That’s going to be the subject of discussion at national cabinet and among the federal cabinet … those rules are not set by state governments.” He added.
Krajinovic is currently ranked 34th in the world and has a win-loss record this season of 18-18. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells he reached the second round before falling in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev. His best run so far this year was at the Hamburg Open where he reached the final.
“When we look at the whole of 2021, I played one final, one semifinal, there were good victories, but also worse results,” the 29-year-old commented.
Krajinovic is currently without a coach but is currently in ‘negotiations’ with somebody without elaborating further about who that person is.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Simona Halep cruises through to the second round with a straight-set win over Anastasia Potapova in Moscow
Andy Murray battles past Frances Tiafoe in a marathon match in Antwerp
Jenson Brooksby upsets Reilly Opelka to boost his chance to qualify for the Next Gen Finals in Milan
Ekaterina Alexandrova moves into the second round at the Kremlin Cup after Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to injury
Kim Clijsters Still Capable Of Top-Level Wins, Says Former world No.1 Murray
REPORT: Unvaccinated Players Set To Be Banned From Playing Australian Open
Injured Roger Federer Says The ‘Worst Is Behind Him’ As He Targets Comeback In 2022
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Roger Federer Says ‘Revolution’ Needed To Help Next Generation Of Tennis Players
Roger Federer Eyes Laver Cup Captaincy Role Post-Retirement
US Open, Steve Flink: “Djokovic’s loss had more to do with fatigue than pressure”
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Wimbledon, Flink: “Djokovic Will Beat Zverev in the Final”
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