Australian Open 2015: The Day After - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open 2015: The Day After

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TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 – The day after. There is a feeling of emptiness in the air. The press room has been emptied and inside Melbourne Park there isn’t a piece of paper or a can lying around. It’s time to look at a few numbers from the 2015 Australian Open. From Melbourne, Robbie Cappuccio

 

The day after. There is a feeling of emptiness in the air, as if we were waiting for something that cannot arrive. The free trams have disappeared and so have the free shuttle service from the City to the Rod Laver Arena. The press room has been emptied and inside Melbourne Park there isn’t a piece of paper or a can lying around. We Aussies might be a bit rough around the edges, but generally we follow the rules and we have a health respect for our civic duties.

There is no mention of the men’s final on the morning papers as the match finished too late as the papers were already printing, but there re many pictures of Serena, queen for the sixth time in Melbourne. By the way, her speech during the prize giving ceremony (“I went on court with a ball, a racket and hope…”) and Maria’s (“I really love playing against her as she is the best and you want to play against the best…”) were hundreds of times more touching, genuine and interesting than those uttered by Djokovic and Murray (who denounced Djoker’s “simulation” of an injury).

It was an extravagant Slam for the colour of the tennis attire with excesses like Stabilo Boss or Peppa Pig (guess who) plus Mattek-Sands’ usual eccentricity that is in a league of it’s own.

The most significant phrase of the tournament was spoken by Vitas Gerulaitis in 1980, “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row” (referred to Gerulaitis’ encounters with Jimmy Connors), which was adapted for the Berdych-Nadal rivalry, “Nobody, not even Nadal, beats Berdych 18 times in a row”. It was also adapted for the women’s final, “Nobody, but Serena Williams, beats Masha 16 times in a row”.

Newcombe used to say that “you are only as good as your second serve”. If this is true then Murray has to worry as in the final his second serve was travelling at an average speed of 134km/h compared to Djokovic’s 158km/h. What is of bigger concern for the Scot is that both Serena (153km/h) and Masha (150km/h) were serving their second ball faster than him.

Nick Kyrgios’ nickname is “wild thing” and it isn’t just a random pick for him. Proof that he is a “wild thing” came in this tournament as he topped the list for fines. It shouldn’t be condoned, but for someone like me who grew up watching John McEnroe, these indiscretions can be forgiven. By the way the Aussie was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back and will have to take a month off from tennis.

Let’s look at some of the numbers of this record breaking tournament:

  • 49 Nations were represented by the 256 players of the single’s tournaments. In the men’s draw there were 41 different nationalities with 12 of them coming from Spain. In the women’s draw there were 34 nationalities and 16 players came from the USA. 11 Australians reached the second round.
  • 704 participants took part in the Australian Open 2015 considering every tournament that was played, from the men’s singles to the wheel chair events.
  • The fastest serve was recorded by… Marius Copil (ROM) at 242km/h. Milos Raonic made the highest number of aces, 114.
  • In the women’s draw the fastest serve was recorded by, surprise surprise, by Serena Williams at 204km/h. She even recorded the highest number of aces, 88.
  • 703,899 spectators came to Melbourne Park to watch the Australian Open, 18 more than the previous record attendance registered in 2012.
  • The day with the biggest attendance was the middle Saturday with 81,031 fans.
  • There were 650 journalists and photographers. 296 of them from outside Australia representing 44 nations.
  • The Wilson technicians restrung 4763 racquets using more than 57km of string. 71 racquets were restrung quickly during matches. Serena has also the record for the most racquets restrung, 86.
  • 360 umpires and line judges, plus Hawk-Eye, were used in the tournament from 34 different countries.
  • 380 ball-kids were at Melbourne Park for the fortnight. 327 came from the state of Victoria, 25 from the rest of Australia, 20 from Korea, 6 from China and 2 from Singapore.
  • 8412 members of staff, both contracted and voluntary, worked behind the scenes

The Australian Open is a family event. On the last day of the qualifying tournament, Saturday 17th of January, there was Kids Tennis Day with 14500 kids and parents (among them myself with wife and daughter) were treated to a clash between team Dora and team Spongebob. The two teams were formed by the likes of Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic, Victoria Azarenka, Eugenie Bouchard and the Aussie duo of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. But that wasn’t it, more than 7000 kids, with their parents, visited the Disney area during the last three days of the event.

The Hisense Arena was quickly transformed in a small Disneyland where the kids could see characters from Cars, or go to the Frozen inspired world with a pile of snow and a karaoke. What to do to attract the young ones to tennis? Set up a Disney zone and give a free racquet to kids when they walk in and ask for information (just ask, they didn’t have to sign up to anything!) about the Hot Shots program. If you increase the numbers of kids playing it is easier to find the Kyrgios’ and Kokkinakis’ (by the way watch out for Violet Apisah and Destanee Aiava who are both 14 years old, but are competing and beating 17 year olds).

And finally some “digital” numbers. Before the men’s final the ausopen.com site received 13.5 million separate users.

The most clicked player profiles were Madison Keys (212,748), Eugenie Bouchard (198,381), Serena Williams (195,585), Maria Sharapova (176,404) and Ekaterina Makarova (129,614).

Amongst the men Nick Kyrgios was the most clicked (208,863), followed by Novak Djokovic (180,102), Rafael Nadal (159,683), Roger Federer (153,255) and Andy Murray (128,000), that is the Fab Four and… Jimmy Hendrix?

With one big event finished the preparation for another is getting underway. Next to my house work has started for the F1 Grand Prix, so I am off to take my Ferrari flag out of the cupboard.

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[EXCLUSIVE] Brandon Nakashima: “I Love Federer, But My Game Resembles More Djokovic’s”

Nakashima speaks to UbiTennis about his liveliest memory of training with Nadal at Wimbledon. The duels he had with Lorenzo Musetti and Tseng Chun-Hsin, the high praise for Sebastian Korda and Hugo Gaston. Why he doesn’t like clubbing and what his new coach Pat Cash has been advising him to do.

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The latest instalment of UbiTennis’ video series sees Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steve Flink speak with Brandon Nakashima. An 18-year-old American tennis star born on August 3, 2001, who goes by the nickname B-Nak.

 

He is at No.220 in the ATP Rankings (with a career best at 218) and is second-best among those who were born in 2001, trailing only Jannik Sinner. His surname is of Japanese origin, but it was his Vietnamese maternal grandfather who initiated him to the game of tennis when he was three. He is 1.85 metres tall and weighs 78 kilograms. He was born in San Diego, and his father Wesley was also born in California – his parents are both pharmacists. He played for the University of Virginia, where he was the Freshman of the Year for the Atlantic Coast Conference, before moving on to the pros.

Since Delray Beach, in February, he’s been working with Pat Cash, immediately reaching the quarter finals and beating four Top 100 players. His best shot is his two-handed backhand, and his favourite player is Federer. A superb athlete, he is considered the best American prospect. He is self-described as shy, but he actually isn’t that much, once he gets going. He loves sushi, but also admits to having a sweet tooth. Given the status of some of his victims, it can be assumed that he’s already better than his ranking.

VIDEO SCHEDULE

Minute 00:00: Introduction and recap of his highest-profile wins.

03:40: His behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic: “I wear a mask whenever I’m outside. I’ve been trying to stay cautious as much as possible in public areas”. He also appreciates the chance of being able to train at some local private courts.

05:07: The special relationship with his grandfather: “My mom’s dad is from Vietnam. He first started to get me out on the court when I was about three and a half years old, just feeding me balls at a local park and from that time onward I started practicing more and more everyday”.

06:45: Bonding with his main coach, Pat Cash, during the pandemic.

07:38: Cash claims he noticed immediately Brandon’s “extraordinary racquet control” – does he think that this is his best quality too?

08:42: Their first meeting: “We had a couple of mutual friends; at the time I had just turned pro and I was looking for a good coach…”

11:53: His idols growing up: “I always liked to watch Federer play, but I think now my game is more similar to Djokovic’s”.

12:40: The experience of hitting with Nadal: “A couple of years ago I was playing the junior Wimbledon tournament…”

14:36: His thoughts on the best future prospects…

17:20: His transition as a pro aged only 17: “It was crucial on and off the court for me to go to college and to then play a full season at 17 [Editor’s Note: at the University of Virginia], it helped my game and made me mature as a person. I’d advise most players to go to college and get that experience…”

19:45: Recapping his best junior Slam results.

21:25: Developing his game with Pat Cash: “During these training blocks here in California, we definitely decided to work a lot on the transition and net game to add more variety into my game…”

23:55: What are his current plans? “It’s tough to plan tournaments right now since we don’t know when or if they’re even starting…”

25:35: How does he feel about the issue of playing behind closed doors? “It will be interesting, everybody is so used to people watching, so I think most players will find it maybe a little weird at the beginning…”

26:47: His off-court life: “I try to relax and have fun. I like playing other sports, on days off I play golf with friends or relax at home watching TV, just getting the mind away from tennis. I don’t like going to dance or clubs, it never was my type of feeling of going out; I like a more chill state with my friends.”

30:04: His knowledge of tennis history.

31:30: Where does Brandon see himself in 2022/23? “The goal is to keep improving my results and my rankings, and maybe…”

33:20: After the Big Three era, who is his pick to become the next world N.1?

36:10: Pat Cash’s most frequent tip: “I have to train to get ready for the Slams…”

Article written and translated by Tommaso Villa

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Prague set to host new WTA Tournament next August

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Prague will host a new WTA tournament from 10 to 15 August. It will be one of of the WTA tournaments to be held after the coronavirus pandemic. The Prague Open will be held on the Sparta clay court in Prague with a prize money of $ 225.000.

 

The Prague Open will feature the top two Czech players Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova.

Kvitova has won two Wimbledon titles and is currently ranked world number 12. She won a Czech exhibition tournament last May behind closed doors at a time when Czech Republic was already easing measures against the spread of coronavirus.

“The WTA was looking for venues and organizers to quicly prepare for a quality tournament in these strange times. We took advantage of the references we had obtained from the first tournament of the post coronavirus era, which took place on the Sparta courts and turned out to be a  success”, said Ivo Kaderka, Director of the Czech Tennis Federation.

Up to 2000 fans a day will be able to attend the Prague tournament.

“We are already in talks with the top Czech players. We will prepare mobile stands with a capacity of 2000 seats”, said tournament director David Trunda.

Tournament spokesman Karel Tejkal said that the Prague event is not a postponed version of last May’s Prague Open which did not take place because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

“This is a new tournament that is now part of the provisional WTA schedule for this year”, said Tejkal.

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Is It Acceptable For Novak Djokovic To Remain As ATP Player Council President After Adria Tour Fiasco?

Regarded as one of the greatest of all time, Djokovic’s recent antics raises the question as to if he is the right person leading the ATP Tour on a political front.

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Novak Djokovic is a household name and role model for thousands around the world. The world No.1 has won more prize money than any other player in the history of the sport and is known for his charitable donations. However, his recent role in the Adria Tour could have big repercussions for him in the coming weeks.

 

Djokovic founded the Adria Tour that took place in Belgrade, Serbia and Zadar, Croatia before it was cancelled. Over the weekend the worst possible scenario occurred when Grigor Dimitrov tested positive for COVID-19, which forced the final to be scrapped. The following day, three others at the event also tested positive, including Borna Coric. Meanwhile, Viktor Troicki also turned out to be positive, but only played in Belgrade.

More than 40 hours after Dimitrov’s confirmation on Twitter, Djokovic then announced he and his wife also have the virus. The Serbian opted not to have a test in Croatia and instead chose to travel to Belgrade and do so. A controversial decision given the situation, but one he was allowed to do according to regional COVID-19 rules.

“Everything we did in the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. Our tournament was meant to unite and share a message of solidarity and compassion throughout the region,” he said in a statement.
“The Tour has been designed to help both established and up and coming tennis players from south-eastern Europe to gain access to some competitive tennis while the various tours are on hold due to Covid-19.”

The 17-time grand slam champion said that his event was organised at a time when ‘the virus was weakened.’ Yet it was visible to many that the Adria Tour was a ticking time bomb in the midst of a pandemic. A lack of social distancing occurred throughout, players attended parties or functions, and played basketball.

It was stunning watching a video of their press conference that took place last Friday. All players sat shoulder-to-shoulder in a room whilst speaking to reporters. In a way it is a shock (but a big relief) that Alexander Zverev didn’t catch COVID-19. He sat next to Dimitrov throughout as the two shared a microphone. At one stage he took the microphone from the Bulgarian, answered a question, passed it back and then immediately rubbed his eye. Maybe the saving grace in that incident was that he held the microphone in his right hand and rubbed his eye with his left.

“In hindsight, it’s not something that should have gone ahead,” former world No.1 Andy Murray commented about the event. “It’s not surprising how many people have tested positive after seeing some of the images of the players’ party and the kids’ day. There was no social distancing in place.
“I don’t think it has been a great look for tennis. The only positive is that, until it is safe to do so, we have no fans at the event to reduce the risk as much as possible.”

Djokovic always had good intentions for his event and for years he has been trying to bring something like this to the region. I remember speaking to him two years ago during a press conference in Madrid where he said he planned to do such a thing. Although this is not what is under scrutiny.

As the president of the ATP Players Council, Djokovic is held to a higher accountability than most of his rivals. He is the leader of a panel who represents hundreds in the sports and reports their views of the ATP Board when it comes to critical decisions being made. During an era of COVID-19 many players have voiced their concerns over the Tour resuming during a global pandemic. In an unfortunate case of irony for Djokovic, the Adria Tour perfectly illustrated why they are worried.

“Prayers up to all the players that have contracted Covid- 19,” critic Nick Kyrgios said, retweeting a video of the players dancing shirtless in Belgrade.
“Don’t @ me for anything I’ve done that has been ‘irresponsible’ or classified as ‘stupidity’ – this takes the cake.”

The lack of accountability

Djokovic and his team have fully apologised for the incident that has happened, but they have stopped short of taking full responsibility. Incredibly Djokovic’s father Srdjan has accused Dimitrov of causing ‘great damage’ to Serbia, Croatia and his family. It was alleged that the former top 10 player didn’t undergo testing when given the option after feeling unwell.

“Why did it happen? Because the man probably came sick, who knows where. He didn’t get tested there, he was tested somewhere else… I don’t think that’s right. Well, what can we do now… He inflicted great damage to Croatia and to us as a family and to Serbia,” Srdjan told RTL.

Those comments directly inflicting responsibility for the fiasco onto one person is poor to say the least. First, it is unknown as to who at the event contracted the virus first or where. Dimitrov could have even caught it from Coric, who is experiencing no symptoms and is therefore asymptomatic. In Serbia there have been outbreaks of COVID-19 among football teams and recently a national basketball training camp was cancelled. Srdjan like any other parent is defending his son, but his argument to divert the blame solely on Dimitrov is a very weak one.

Goran Ivanisevic, who is Djokovic’s coach and tournament director of the Zadar event, said yesterday that critics were trying to score ‘political points against them.’ At the same time one the most prestigious Serbian sports websites even suggested that Dimitrov deliberately announced his positive test at a time to force the final to be cancelled. The blame game is very much an ongoing theme.

As for Djokovic, in his statement there was no admission that the protocols in force in his events could have been improved or the lack of social distancing was problematic. Without a doubt he regrets what happened, but it is enough of a move from somebody who is a world No.1 heading the Players Council during a worldwide pandemic? To an extent, no it isn’t.

Some will argue that the backlash is typical given Djokovic’s at times unfair treatment in the media by some publications in the past. A valid point, but focusing solely on this incident the criticism was always inevitable. Furthermore, Djokovic isn’t the only person being singled out. The Croatian Tennis Federation is also under heavy fire. The director of the WTA Bol Open, Feliks Lukas, has publicly called for the head of the federation to reign due to his involvement.

It has been suggested that the Adria Tour could have a negative impact on Djokovic’s legacy. I would say that this is very unlikely given his extraordinary achievements on the court. One that thousands of players could only dream of achieving. However, in terms of his ATP Player Presidency, it looks doubtful that he will continue in this role for much longer. Whenever he will inevitably speak out over his colleagues’ concerns about COVID-19 in the future, he will be accused of hypocrisy and rightfully so.

Of course, this opinion of mine is irrelevant, it is the players who are the kingmakers. One journalist has already reported that an unnamed player has already called for Djokovic to resign from his ATP Council president position (UbiTennis can’t confirm this).

Djokovic has done a lot of good during his time as ATP President, but during the time of COVID-19 may be the best option for him is to step aside. Unfortunately, one of the sports greatest athletes of all time has unintentionally cast a very dark cloud on tennis.

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