TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – 1st of February 2015. N.Djokovic d. A.Murray 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0. An interview with Andy Murray
Q. Can you describe how your emotions were going as it ran away from you near the end?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, obviously had opportunities in the first three sets. Then the fourth set, I mean, obviously I need to watch it back to see if I played badly. I mean, he was just ripping everything. Returns he was hitting on the baseline, this far from the line all the time. Once he got up a break, he just loosened up and was just going for his shots. I couldn’t recover. So the fourth set wasn’t as frustrating to me. The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he, like, fell on the ground after a couple of shots. It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit. That’s what I’m most disappointed about, not so much the fourth set because I think, especially at the end of it, he was just going for everything, and it was going in. But the third set was more frustrating for me.
Q. Do you think he went for broke at the end because he was afraid of a fifth set, that he thought he couldn’t last a fifth set?
ANDY MURRAY: No, I don’t think so, because he was moving unbelievable at the end of the third set, sliding and chasing everything down. I think it was just more that once he got up he loosened up a bit, and then was just going for his shots. Maybe if he started to miss a couple, then you kind of rein it back a little bit. But he wasn’t missing, so he just kept going for it.
Q. Is it a legitimate tactic to maybe make your opponent think you’re injured and then come back flying?
ANDY MURRAY: No, it’s not legitimate. Like I have no idea what the issue was. He obviously looked like he was in quite a bad way at the beginning of the third set and came back unbelievable at the end of that set. Then obviously the way he was hitting the ball in the fourth and moving was impressive. So, yeah, I don’t know exactly what the issue was for him.
Q. Do you think it was a deliberate element to it? At the start of the second and third, looked like he was buckling under.
ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know. I don’t know. I have no idea. I mean, it’s obviously what he thinks. I would hope that that wouldn’t be the case. But, yeah, if it was cramp, how he recovered from it, that’s a tough thing to recover from and play as well as he did at the end. So, yeah, I’m frustrated at myself for letting that bother me at the beginning of the third set, because I was playing well, I had good momentum, and then just dropped off for like 10 minutes and it got away from me. So that’s the most frustrating thing because I thought I obviously had opportunities in the first set. I couldn’t quite get them. I managed to sneak the second. Then obviously was that break up in the third. So, yeah, there was definitely opportunities there.
Q. Why do you think you let it get to you this time?
ANDY MURRAY: What do you mean ‘this time’?
Q. You played him before. You’ve played lots of matches where it looked like he was hurt. This one seemed to rattle you more than usual.
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I don’t know exactly. I think, like I said, the way he was moving at the end of the third set, he obviously started playing much better again. That contributed to some of it, as well. But I don’t know. Maybe it was the situation that you know if someone’s cramping in the final of a slam, with such a long way to go, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Yeah, maybe, like I said, I dropped off for 10, 15 minutes there, and he got back into it. That was it. I don’t know exactly why it was the case, but I’ve never really experienced that in a slam final before. Maybe the occasion was something to do with it. I don’t know.
Q. Is it a lesson you can learn, maybe next time you play him, the same thing happens, you won’t notice?
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, in all matches you concentrate on your own end of the court. That’s just a basic thing to do. Sometimes when you play, like here and the US Open, because they have replays after every single point, you’re often waiting before you serve whilst they’re showing the replay. It’s very difficult to not be aware of what’s happening down the other end. But, yeah, I play enough matches to be able to handle that situation better. That’s what I’m saying. For me, that third set was what was disappointing because I feel I could have done a bit better.
Q. Any positives you can take from this fortnight to kick on for the rest of the year?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, there’s been a great couple of weeks compared with where I was a couple of months ago. It’s like night and day really. Playing way, way better in almost every part of my game. Moving better. Physically I feel better, more confident, more belief. I was a lot calmer, like, before my matches. Mentally I felt much, much stronger than I did at the end of last year and during the majors really last year. So, yeah, for me, I mean, a lot of positives. I wouldn’t want to come away from here feeling negative about the way that I played or reaching a slam final. Novak has won five times here now. There’s no disgrace obviously in losing to him. So, yeah, a lot of positives for me to take from it.
Q. 80 days since the ATP World Tour Finals. How pleasing is it to be here having achieved so much in such a short space of time with the work you’ve done with Amélie?
ANDY MURRAY: Yes, it’s pleasing to be back playing close to my best. And, yeah, it does show that, you know, I still feel like I can make improvements in my game. I still think I can get a few percent better over the next couple of months. My job now is to try to maintain this sort of level and form and the way that I was trying to play throughout the event, try to maintain that for the next few months and not sort of have dips in form. I want to try to be more consistent this year, yeah, and play better in more events. Yeah, that’s what I want to do the next couple months.
Q. If it wasn’t physical, was it mental that you lost 12 games out of the last 13 or what?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I said I got distracted in the third set. Definitely got distracted in the third set. Then the fourth set, look, like I said, I need to watch it again. I feel like at the end of the fourth set — he played fantastically well definitely after the first few games of the fourth set. Yeah, he was going for everything and hitting the lines. Yeah, there’s not much you can do in that situation. But, yeah, I definitely got distracted in the third set, so that would be a mental thing, yeah.
Q. Are you quite content you’ll be back to action soon rather than taking a long break through February?
ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought ahead of this event yet. I’ve spent like two and a half days at home in the last two and a half months, so I’m looking forward to getting back and spending a bit of time at home with my friends and family and my dogs and being away from the tennis court and the gym for a few days when I get back. Because it’s been a busy few months with quite a lot of travel. Yeah, obviously this event, the slams do take a lot out of you physically and mentally because of the length of the matches, and then also the length of the event, as well, and the preparation that goes into them. So I’m looking forward to a few days away from the court now.
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.
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.
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
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
Mats Wilander Exclusive: Matteo Berrettini Will Win A Grand Slam
UbiTennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta speaks to the former world No.1 about Berrettini’s historic win at Wimbledon.
Swedish tennis great Mats Wilander has praised Matteo Berrettini for his run to the Wimbledon Final during a one-to-one interview with UbiTennis.
25-year-old Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to reach the final of the Grand Slam after beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-4. Throughout the clash he was impressive behind his serve where he fired 22 aces and won 86% of his service points. This year he is unbeaten on the grass and is currently on a 10-match winning streak following his triumph at Queen’s last month.
“Breaking the first game of the fourth set is to me the sign that we all look for in players. Whatever happens in the third (set) should not matter and he came straight back,”Wilander tells UbiTennis.
“That’s my indication that he will be one of the best players in the world. He will win a Grand Slam one hundred percent, for sure, if he stays healthy.”
Wilander’s bold prediction centres around Berrettini’s game on both grass and hardcourt. However, he is less optimistic about his chances on the clay at present until his backhand becomes more powerful.
As to why the former world No.1 has so much confidence in Italy’s top player, he says it is his ability to not expose his weaknesses during matches. Drawing parallels between him and Roger Federer. The player Berrettini comprehensively beat in straight sets earlier in the week.
“He knows how to hide his weakness and most great players know how to hide their weaknesses. Roger Federer is the perfect example. His backhand compared to the serve and the forehand. He stays alive with the slice and he comes over (to the net) sometimes when he has to,” he said.
“I think Matteo has figured out that he can stay alive with the slice. But the difference is that he is willing to slice and come in. He’s also double the size of Federer at the net so it is difficult to pass him.”
It wasn’t until the age of eight when Berrettini started to focus more on tennis after being asked by his younger brother to play more. As a professional he has won five ATP titles since 2018 and is the highest ranked ATP player from his country since Corrado Barazzutti back in 1978. He is coached by Vincenzo Santopadre, Marco Gulisano and Umberto Rianna.
“I would be so encouraged if I was coaching him. For the coach it must be like oh my god we are looking at a player who has (good use of his) hands and hides his weakness though the rest of his game,” the seven-time Grand Slam champion commented.
“I don’t why it has taken him a bit longer (to break through). I know he started a little bit later but I think he’s a natural at the big moments.”
On Sunday Berrettini faces the ultimate test against Novak Djokovic who will be seeking his third consecutive Wimbledon title and sixth overall. He has lost to the Serbian twice before on the Tour, including the French Open earlier this year. The Italian enters the final as the underdog but Wilander thinks he shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I think he has a good chance, I really do because that serve (of his) is different and he has a different forehand. He is not afraid to stay alive,” he concluded.
UbiTennis’ full interview with Wilander can be listened to below
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