Li Na turns tour guide for her friend Hingis (Pictures inside) - UBITENNIS
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Li Na turns tour guide for her friend Hingis (Pictures inside)

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Li Na and Martina Hingis

Two-time Grand Slam champion and Wuhan native Li Na turned tour guide for one day for her friend Martina Hingis, who is playing the Wuhan doubles tournament together with her partner Sania Mirza. The guided tour included a visit to the city’s Yellow Crane Tower. The two friends took a trip to the top of the tower for a bird’s eye view of the Chinese city before hitting a few balls on a specially-created court.

 

It’s pretty cool. She is the hometown hero. I am very privileged to have been invited to get a personalised tour from Wuhan’s most famous daughter. She told me that it’s only the second time that she has been up here but to come with someone who grew up here, I have learnt some history about the Yellow Crane Tower and about Wuhan” Hingis said.

Hingis talked about the reaction from the fans for Li Na. “It’s incredible. She is such a heroine for her hometown- With her results she is giving hope to so many girls from here

Hingis is bidding to win her eighth doubles title this season with Sania Mirza. They won the last two Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and at the US Open.

It’s nice to come back here after winning in the US Open and in Guangzhou. I really feel good here. The courts are nice, the new stadium is beautiful. Everything is perfect here“.

Hingis was asked if the reception she received when she came back home in Switzerland after winning the mixed and doubles titles at Wimbledon and at the US Open reminded her of the celebrations Li Na has enjoyed at home in Wuhan

Not quite. I got a welcome at the airport, but I think that China has a bigger celebration. For Li Na to come from Wuhan and make it so big in a global sport has given hope to so many people here”, concluded Hingis.

 

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Why Are So Many Tennis Players Skipping The Olympics?

It isn’t just the COVID-19 pandemic which are putting players playing off going.

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On Monday Canada’s Dennis Shapovalov joined the growing number of tennis stars who have decided not to play in this year’s Olympics Games.

 

In a statement issued on social media, the world No.12 said his decision was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and doing what he believes was best for the safety of his team. Japan, which is where the Games are being held, has been dealing with a surge in cases in recent weeks with a low number of the population to be fully vaccinated. Whilst the country has banned international spectators from attending amid fears of the virus being spread, organisers say up to 10,000 domestic fans will be allowed to attend the Olympic venues.

“After careful consideration I wanted to let you know that I will not be participating in the Olympics this year. Representing Canada means the world to me, but due to the current situation my team and I have decided this is the best decision for everyone’s safety,” Shapovalov wrote on twitter.

Shapovalov’s concerns related to the pandemic aren’t the only thing which is deterring tennis players from attending the Olympics. Over the past week, two top 10 players from the men’s Tour also confirmed that they will not be participating. Rafael Nadal is missing the event in order to take a break from the sport following what was a demanding clay court swing. Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem says he doesn’t want to travel to Tokyo and instead wants to focus on his title defence at the US Open.

This year’s tennis calendar doesn’t favour the Olympics. The Wimbledon Championships concludes two weeks before it begins and the US Open starts five weeks after. Two of the biggest events in the sport which offer the highest amount of prize money and ranking points per round. At the same time as the Olympics two ATP 250 events are taking place in Austria and America.

So much has to depend on where a player is in their career. Have they won an Olympic medal before? How important is it to them? Do they want to travel to Asia in the middle of the summer? For every player I think it is very individual how seriously they take the Olympics,” former Olympic champion Lindsey Davenport told The Tennis Channel in 2020.

Tennis was officially reintroduced into the Games back in 1988 after being showcased as a demonstration sport four years prior. It is different to Tour events with no official prize money on offer. However, some countries such as Russia have previously issued financial rewards for athletes who win medals.

Another sticking point is there being no ranking points available for players participating. Back in 2019 the International Tennis Federation told UbiTennis they were ‘open’ to allowing points being awarded but no progress has been made. Perhaps due to the complex governance of the sport with the Olympic event being run by the ITF. Meaning they will have to form an agreement with both the ATP and WTA for such an incentive to happen.

“Currently, the WTA and ATP do not award points for the Olympic Qualification Pathway. We (the ITF) are always open to discussion on the matter.” The ITF said.

Another issue concerns the location. Players face having to travel from Europe to Asia and then North America within a month. A journey made substantially more difficult than usual due to restrictions related to the pandemic.

Chile’s Christian Garin says his decision not to go to Tokyo is because he feels athletes will not be able to get the full experience due to the current restrictions in place.

“Due to the instability of this year and added to the fact that the established conditions will not allow me to live the real experience of what the Olympic Games mean, that is why I have made this decision,” he wrote on Instagram.

When it comes to other Olympic absentees, a contingent of Spanish players will not be attending due to what newspaper Marca describes as ‘calendar issues and a logistically difficult trip to Tokyo.’ Those skipping the event are Roberto Bautista Agut, Albert Ramos, Feliciano López, Jaume Munar and Carlos Alcaraz. Norway’s Caper Ruud, Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov will also not be playing.

Despite the surge in withdrawals which will most likely increase in the coming weeks, other top names have committed to playing. Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Victoria Azarenka, Aryna Sabalenka and Andy Murray have all confirmed they will play.

“It’s going to be my first Olympic Games. We have a great team so we can do some doubles, mixed doubles, everything,” Medvedev said about playing.
“Going to be amazing experience. Of course, with COVID maybe it’s not going to be the same like every year.”

The Olympic tennis event will be held at the Ariake Coliseum and get underway on July 24th.

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Andy Murray Hoping This Year’s Wimbledon Will Not Be His Last

The former world No.1 vows to give his all at the Grand Slam after saying he doesn’t know what is around the corner for his career in the future.

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Andy Mureray (image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA)

Andy Murray says he wants to prolong his career but admits that it depends on how his body holds up as he heads into what possibly could be his last ever Wimbledon.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion has been troubled by injury setbacks in recent years and has had two hip surgeries in order to continue playing. Currently ranked outside the top 100, he now plays with a metal rod inserted into his hip joint. Unfortunately for the Brit it isn’t just the hip which has been problematic. He has already missed a chunk of this season due to a groin injury.

Murray returned to action last week at Queen’s where he defeated Benoit Paire in the first round before falling to top seed Matteo Berrettini, who went on to win the title. That was only the fourth ATP Tour event he has played in so far this year.

Despite the bumpy journey, the three-time Grand Slam champion has vowed to give his all at the Wimbledon Championships. Murray says he intends to play as if it is the last tournament of his career but he isn’t planning on stepping away from the sport just yet.

To me it’s not so much about me worrying about it being my last one, it’s just something that I think about. I’ve had so many injuries and so many setbacks you just don’t really know what’s round the corner,” Murray told Sky News.
“I want to approach each tournament and each match that I play like it’s my last one so that I can get the most out of it.”

This year will be Murray’s 13th appearance in the singles main draw at the All England Club. In 2013 he became the first British man in the Open Era to win the title before winning the trophy for a second time in 2016. Murray has also reached the semi-final stage on four other occasions, as well as the final in 2012.

“I’m going into the bubble on Wednesday evening so I’m going to get there early to practise at Wimbledon. Hopefully I’ve got some high quality practices – I’m practising with Cilic today and I practise with Federer later in the week,” he revealed.
“I’m just trying to play with high quality grass court players to prepare me as best as possible. I don’t want it to be my last Wimbledon, certainly I want to keep playing, I don’t want to stop just now, so yeah I wanna keep going.”

How much longer the 34-year-old will continue playing on the Tour is something that even he himself is unsure of. Instead, Murray says he will continue playing for as long as his body allows him to do so.

Its more about the body if I’m restricted in how I can prepare. If I can’t prepare properly to compete then that’s when it’s not fair on yourself to keep putting yourself out there, because you’re not properly prepared and can’t do yourself justice,” he explains.
“So if that was the case and I was having to compromise on my training just to get out there on a match court and my results weren’t good – that is something I’d look at. But providing I can train and prepare well and I’m enjoying it I’ll do it for as long as I can.”

Two years ago at Wimbledon, Murray opted to play just doubles as he was on the comeback from injury. At the tournament he teamed up with Serena Williams to play in the mixed doubles where they reached the third round. However, there will be no reunion between the two in 2021.

“No, I hadn’t planned on it this time,” Murray said on Monday.
“Singles is enough for me. Getting through singles matches has proved tough enough the last year or so. So I’ll stick to singles this year.”

The Wimbledon Championships will start next week.

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‘Exhausted’ Rafael Nadal Taking A Break To Avoid Mental Fatigue, Says Coach Moya

One of Rafael Nadal’s mentors has shed some light on his recent decision.

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A combination of mental tiredness and restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to Rafael Nadal’s decision to take a break from the sport, according to one of his coaches.

 

Last week the 20-time Grand Slam champion announced that he would be skipping both Wimbledon and the Olympics with the goal of preserving his health. In a statement 34-year-old Nadal said the decision has been made in order to help prolong his career on the Tour and help him ‘recuperate after a long clay-court season’.

“It’s never an easy decision but after listening to my body and discussing it with my team I understand that it is the right decision,” said Nadal.
“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy.”

Speaking to RTVE earlier this week, coach Carlos Moya said Nadal’s break from tennis is also linked to him feeling mentally tired following the past few weeks on the Tour. The Spaniard has won titles in Barcelona and Rome but fell short at his beloved French Open. At Roland Garros Nadal was ousted in four sets by Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. Making it only the third time in history he has ever been defeated at the Grand Slam. He also lost to Djokovic in 2015 and Robin Soderling in 2009.

The clay court tour was very tough, with a lot of physical and mental pressure. Rafa finished exhausted.” Said Moya.
“He is going to take a well-deserved rest, this is a marathon, a long-distance race in which hard decisions have to be made and he has considered that the best thing is to stop to come back full of strength.”

Moya, who won the 1998 French Open, has been a member of Nadal’s coaching team since December 2016. He says the king of clay was on the verge of suffering from ‘mental fatigue’ in recent months similar to 2019 when he struggled at times with his form on court. Although during that year he did win the French Open and then reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

“Rafa two years ago reached a point of great mental fatigue that was very difficult to get out of and now he has interpreted that he was close to that again. He cannot afford a Grand Slam if he is not at 100%, for all that his image implies, for prestige and for how he is.” Moya explained.

Besides the mental aspect, Moya also admits the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions have been difficult. Despite Wimbledon welcoming fans this year, players will be within a bubble which restricts their movement. Even those who have houses in London will not be allowed to stay there during the tournament and instead have to stay at the player’s hotel.

“The (French Open) defeat has not affected as much as the fact that there is a week less than usual to prepare for Wimbledon, as well as the context in which we are with the pandemic. It is difficult on a mental level to face the confinements prior to a great match, to play with little public, etc. This affects Rafa, he is a person who has a great connection with people and it was hard to go to London with a quarantine in between, ” he said.

As it currently stands, Nadal is set to play both the Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Masters later this year ahead of the US Open.

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