Venus Williams: “I think I played well when it mattered. Her style of game was completely different than the first three players I played” - UBITENNIS
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Venus Williams: “I think I played well when it mattered. Her style of game was completely different than the first three players I played”

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TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – 26th of January 2015. V.Williams d. A.Radwanska 6-3, 2-6, 6-1. An interview with Venus Williams

 

Q. After falling behind an early break in the third set, what was your mentality? What were you telling yourself?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Honestly, I don’t know. I just felt like in the third set I was trying to get back to the form that I was in in the first set. I didn’t do a lot wrong in that first game. It was just overhit some, missed an easy one that would have definitely helped my cause. It was frustrating but I stayed focused and I wanted to just continue playing like I did in the first game because it was really the right way to play.

Q. Do you think your mentality was any different today in the third set than compared to a year ago? Were you more positive, more confident?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I guess so. I don’t know. A year’s a long time. But obviously just executing on a lot more points a lot more consistently. I think a year ago I had a lot more trouble with putting a lot of good points together. That comes with just being able to play, playing consistently. For a while there I think I was just kind of on and off tour a lot. That starts to take a toll no matter how many matches you’ve won. So I think just being able to build that momentum up, play matches, start to play a lot of good points in a row has been a difference.

Q. Because of the opponent, because of the occasion, does it feel like the biggest win for you in a while?

VENUS WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I mean, I guess from the outside looking in, I guess it could look like that. But for me I’m just really focused and poised right now. I feel like I’ve been here before, so it’s not like I’m jumping up and down for joy, Oh, shoot, what is this? I’ve never done this. Yes, I’ve done this. This is what I’m always going into each tournament thinking I want to do, even when I fall short. It’s definitely not the first time. I guess that’s how I feel.

Q. Does it feel overdue?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Things take time. Of course, I want to be playing deep in all my events. Everybody wants that. But it really just doesn’t happen every time for everyone. Now is my moment and I want to keep this moment going all year and then next year too. But that will take work.

Q. Three Americans into the quarterfinals. There are two Williamses in the quarterfinals. That’s happened over 20 times. Comment on Katrina being president of the USTA and three African American women in the quarterfinals.

VENUS WILLIAMS: I definitely think that’s for another outsider looking in because I just think about if I’m winning or not. Definitely I want the Americans to do well. We’re always rooting for each other. But at the end of the day that’s so out of your control. I hadn’t thought of the tournament that way at all until you mentioned it. I was thinking about my progress and what things I could do for my game. Of course, rooting Serena on as well. So that’s unfortunately how I look at it a lot of the times.

Q. Do you feel your performances affect people and are an inspiration?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely. I think all of us touch lives in ways that we never dreamed of growing up as kids. You just want to be No. 1 in the world, you want to win a major. You never think about the people you inspire from your efforts and your attitude. Yes, that’s been my experience in my life and most professional players I think it’s their experience as well.

Q. How happy were you with the way you played tonight, the quality of your tennis?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think I played well when it mattered. Her style of game was completely different than the first three players I played. The first three players I played tried to blast me off the court. This was the first time there was any sort of rhythm at all. The way she hits the ball is so different times, especially for a player like me, you feel like, Wow, why am I not hitting more winners? That’s not just always the answer. It’s definitely a balance between being aggressive and being patient and being smart because the way she plays is very deceptive. Not everyone plays that way. Definitely a good win against her.

Q. Do you see similarities from what you’re seeing in Madison, between her game and Lindsay’s game?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Definitely. Lindsay used to just hit a clean ball. She was so fun to watch play. I loved watching her play. Of course, didn’t love watching her hit those clean balls against you. That was a part of it as well. I thought she brought a lot to tennis. I think she should actually get more credit. People don’t always mention her name. But she was an amazing player. Yeah, definitely some similarities. Madison hits a clean ball, goes for it. So it looks like it’s a good match.

Q. With your recovery between matches, the off days, nowadays are you able to do in your off days what you were able to do five or six years ago or have you had to tweak your off days to maximize your energy levels for your matches?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, I don’t do as much as I used to. I definitely don’t get around. I just hang out and rest a lot. So no dinners, no shopping. I just hang out and enjoy the peace and tranquility of my room.

Q. Still fun?

VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I amuse myself. That room is bouncing, bumping. But, no, I just try to really stay focused on preserving my energy.

Interviews

“We Hope to Convince Federer to Play”: the Presentation of the 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

Director Zeljko Franulovic talked about next year’s tournament, scheduled from April 9-17

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Stefanos Tsitsipas - ATP Montecarlo 2021 (ph. Agence Carte Blanche / Réalis)

The 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters will take place from April 9-17, so it’s difficult to guess what the pandemic situation will be in six months. At the moment, however, the prevalent hypothesis is that all spectators will need a Covid Pass or to bring proof of a negative test before being allowed in the Montecarlo Country Club at Roquebrune, France. If some players will refuse the vaccine, then they will need to be tested regularly in accordance to the rules devised by the French government.

 

Other than that, there will be no surprises when it comes to the event’s logistics, since the Country Club has already added a new players lounge and a new press room in the past few years. In 2020 the tournament was cancelled, while in 2021 it took place behind closed doors (while still being televised in 113 countries); the last edition staged with a crowd, in 2019, sold 130,000 tickets, constituting 30% of the total revenue – another 30% came from the sponsors, 30% from media rights (a number that tournament director Zeljko Franulovic hopes to see increase) and 10% from merchandising.

While it’s early days to know whether the tournament will operate at full capacity, Franulovic has made it clear that the organisers are already planning to provide a better covering for the No.2 Court, whose roof has not been at all effective in the past in the event of rain.

The tournament’s tickets can be bought on the official website of the event, but Franulovic has already vowed to reimburse immediately every ticket “if the government and the health authorities should decide to reduce the tournament’s capacity.”

Ticket prices have increased by 2 to 3 percent as compared to 2019, ranging from £25-50 for the qualifiers weekend, £32-75 for the opening rounds, £…-130 for the quarterfinals and semifinals, £65-150 for the final, £360-1250 for a nine-day tickets. Franulovic claims that the prices are in line with those of the other Masters 1000 tournaments.

Finally, Franulovic supports Andrea Gaudenzi’s decision to create a fixed prize money for the next decade. While tournaments like Madrid and Rome are trying to increase their duration from 8 to 12 days, the Monte-Carlo director has claimed that he prefers to remain a week-long event, especially because his is not a combined tournament. As for the players who will feature, Franulovic hopes to convince Roger Federer to participate: “I’m certain that he will give everything he has to be able to stage another comeback on the tour, ma no one knows where he’ll play. However, I think that on the clay he should opt for best-of-three events like Monte-Carlo and Rome rather than the French Open.”

For this and more information, you can watch the video above.

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Editorial

EXCLUSIVE: How The ATP Plans To Make The Tour More Welcoming For LGBT Players

The governing body of men’s tennis has received praise for taking a proactive approach to the topic with the help of a leading LGBTQ+ organisation and a top research university.

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Guido Pella during a Men's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Manuela Davies/USTA)

During the first week of the US Open, there was an abundance of rainbow-theme flags and wristbands worn by both players and fans to mark the tournament’s first-ever Open Pride Day.

 

The event was part of the USTA’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic platform which aims to make tennis more inclusive. Unlike the women’s game, there are no openly LGBTQ+ players on the men’s Tour and there have been few historically, even though various players have spoken of their support for anybody on the Tour who decides to come out. Including Stefanos Tsitsipas and newly crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who were questioned about the topic following their second round matches. Meanwhile, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime revealed that there is an ongoing survey related to LGBTQ+ issues being conducted by the ATP.

“Recently I’ve started doing a survey inside the ATP about the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “It’s important these days to be aware of that and to be open-minded and the ATP needs to do that, in today’s time it’s needed.

“The reason we don’t have openly gay players on the ATP Tour, I’m not sure of the reason, but I feel me, as a player, it would be very open, very welcome. Statistically, there should be some, but for now there’s not.”

In response to Auger-Aliassime’s comment, UbiTennis looked into the work currently being done by the ATP alongside two other parties. Their decision to venture into LGBTQ+ representation on the Tour is part of their recent commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of their players and staff. Last year, in May, they formed partnerships with Headspace and Sporting Chance.  

The survey currently being conducted by the ATP started after the governing body of men’s tennis reached out to Lou Englefield, the director of Pride Sports, a UK organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+phobia in sport and aims to improve access to sport for all LGBTQ+ people. Through their connection, they contacted Eric Denison, a behavioural science researcher at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences. Denison was the lead author of the Out on the Fields study, the first international study on homophobia in sport and the largest conducted to date.

“I have been personally impressed with the initiative of the ATP and their desire to find ways to mitigate the broad impact of homophobic behaviour (in particular), not only on gay people, but on all players.” He told UbiTennis during an email exchange.

“We know of no other sporting governing body in the world that has been proactive on LGBTQ+ issues, and has taken a strong focus on engaging with both the LGBTQ+ community and scientists to find solutions.”

Denison says the norm has been for sports bodies to address this issue after they have been either pressured to do so or if the LGBTQ+ community got the ball rolling themselves. Incredibly, research conducted as part of the Out On The Fields initiative documented 30 separate studies which found sports organisations ignored discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ people in sport.

Monash University has supplied the ATP with a series of scientifically validated questions, which they are using to ‘look under the hood’ at the factors which supports a culture where gay or bisexual players feel they are not welcome. The methodology is similar to a study Denison conducted in 2020 that focused specifically on the team sports rugby union and ice hockey.  

“We suspect that tennis isn’t inherently more homophobic than other sports, or traditionally male settings. Instead, there is a disconnect between people’s attitudes towards gay people (e.g. the recent pro-gay comments by top players) and their behaviour, specifically their use of homophobic banter and jokes,” said Denison.

“This behaviour, which is largely habitual, creates a hostile climate for young gay/bi people who drop out or hide their sexuality. This means gay/bi players are invisible in youth tennis and leads to the downstream problem of no professionals. The banter/jokes continue because people think it is harmless.”

The hope is that players will also agree to be interviewed by the researchers for them to get a better understanding. All of the results will then be used by Pride Sports and Monash University to recommend evidence-based solutions. It is unclear as to how long the study will take or when the findings will be ready. 

Former top 100 player Brian Vahaly is one of the few players to have been both openly gay and played at the highest level of the men’s game. However, he didn’t fully come to terms with his sexuality until after retiring from the sport at age 27. Speaking to UbiTennis earlier this year, Vahaly shed light on the potential barriers for gay players.

There were a lot of homophobic jokes made on Tour. It’s a very masculine and competitive environment,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of gay representation, except for the women’s Tour. With me not having the personality of an outspoken advocate (for LGBTQ+ issues), certainly not in my twenties, I needed some time to understand myself. To me, in tennis I didn’t feel like there was anybody to talk to or anybody that was going through anything similar.”

The ATP has spoken with Vahaly about their initiative and he has become ‘quite involved.’ Through their discussions, he got acquainted with Denison for the first time. As a professional, Vahaly peaked at a ranking high of 64th in the world and won five Challenger titles. After retiring from the Tour, he has served on the USTA’s board of directors since 2013. 

“I am happy to hear that the ATP is finally taking action to address this issue.  I’m impressed they are taking a thoughtful, data-driven approach to make a meaningful difference here,” he told UbiTennis. 

The ATP aims to make the men’s Tour more welcoming to potential LGTBQ+ athletes playing either now or in the future. For those who question if such an initiative is important in 2021, you only have to look at the younger demographic.

Sportsnet quoted CDC data from 2019 which showed that 26% of American LGBTQ+ teenagers aged 16 or 17 has contemplated suicide, five times more than those who identify as straight (5%). Among those teenagers who heard homophobic terms, 33% self-harmed and an additional 40% considered doing so.

More than 2000 players around the world currently have an ATP ranking.

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2020 Tokyo Olympics, Djokovic on the heat and the new scheduling: “I’m glad they listened to us”

Speaking to Ubitennis, the world number one describes the work that he, Medvedev and Zverev (among others) have done to obtain better playing conditions

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So far, the tennis tournament at the 2020 Olympics has made headlines less for the match-play than for the difficult conditions in which it has been taking place due to the heat and the humidity. In the women’s draw, for instance, four players have been forced to retire during their matches: the last one has been particularly shocking, as Paula Badosa was taken off-court on a wheelchair after collapsing late in the first set of her quarter-final match against Marketa Vondrousova. Luckily, these issues appear to have finally caught the attention of the International Tennis Federation: starting tomorrow, no match will be played before 3pm (7am in the UK).

 

Part of the credit for this (still belated) decision goes to the lobbying and the complaints of the players, as world N.1 Novak Djokovic explained while speaking to Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta in Tokyo: “I’m glad the decision was made to reschedule tomorrow’s opening matches at 3pm. Today we went to speak to the supervisor – when I say ‘we’ I mean myself, Medvedev, and Zverev, along with the team captains. I have spoken to Khachanov and Carreno Busta as well, so the majority of the players who will feature in the quarter finals was of the same opinion.

“Of course I would have wished for this decision to be made a few days ago, but it’s still a good thing,” he added. “Nobody wants to witness incidents like the one that occurred to Badosa.

“The conditions are really brutal. Some people might think that we are just complaining, but all resistance sports (and tennis should be included among them) are taking place later in the day because the combination between the heat and the humidity is really terrible.”

He then concluded: “I’ve been a professional tennis player for almost 20 years and I’ve never experienced such hard conditions for so many consecutive days. It may have have happened once or twice in Miami or New York, but just for one day, whereas in Tokyo the situation is like this every day. I think that this decision will benefit the fans as well, because playing later allows us to play our best – these conditions were just draining for us.”

Article by Lorenzo Colle; translated by Tommaso Villa

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