Petra Cetkovska: From Injury agony to Grand Slam triumph - UBITENNIS
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Petra Cetkovska: From Injury agony to Grand Slam triumph

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Petra Cetkovska (image via Sky Sports)

During day four of the US Open, Czech Republic’s Petra Cetkovska produced the biggest upset in the women’s draw as she stunned 2014 runner-up Caroline Wozniacki in the second round. Facing a player ranked 144 places above her, Cetkovska endured three hours and five minutes on the court in the humid weather to eventually clinch the 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (1), win. The victory was a massive achievement for the Czech considering 12 months ago, she was facing the daunting prospect of back surgery.

 

Cetkovska’s career has been plagued by injuries. After achieving a career ranking high of 25 in June 2012, She missed the first three months of 2013 due to a stress foot fracture followed by a hip injury which sidelined her from the 2014 Australian Open. Unfortunately, her injury woes continued. During July she said that she was unable to walk following an ITF tournament in July. Then a few months later following her second round exit to Petra Kvitova at the US Open in 2014, Cetkovska underwent a MRI on her back. The scan revealed that she had a tear in her labrum as well as a hip issue.

“It started to be really painful, so I got an MRI back here (in New York). They said there is a tear in the labrum and something else on the other side of the hip with the bone”. She recounted following her match.

“So I came back and I asked some very good doctors about what do they think about it. They both agreed this is worth the operation. With the exercises, it’s a 50% chance it might heal. I decided to do the operation. It was at the end of September. Then I was one month on crutches and I could start to run slowly after three months”.

Due to the procedure, Cetkovska missed the first three months of the 2015 season. Her return to the tour was a painful experience with three successive first round exits before her first match win at an ITF $50,000 event in Surbiton, Great Britain. As the season progressed, so did her results. After successfully qualifying for the main draw at Wimbledon (losing to Timea Babos in round 1), she reached back-to-back finals on the ITF Circuit. In August she won her first title of the year at a $75,000 event in Poland, beating Jeļena Ostapenko in the final round.

Due to her troublesome 12 months, it is understandable why the Czech is delighted with her victory. The win over Wozniacki is without a doubt a happy ending to Cetkovska’s turbulent year-long struggle.

In her first Grand Slam third round since 2013, the 30-year-old will play 28th seed Flavia Pennetta. Cetkovska has played her twice before (2009 and 2012) and is yet to beat her.

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EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Mouratoglou Sheds Light On UTS launch And Plans For The Future

The French tennis coach speaks to Ubitennis about how his new event has met his expectations and what his next plans are.

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The mastermind behind the newly created Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) has said the event has been seen by an estimated 50% of viewers who hadn’t previously watched tennis before.

 

Patrick Mouratoglou, who is the coach of Serena Williams, spoke out about the exhibition tournament during a video interview with Ubitennis on Sunday. Held at his academy located in the heart of the French Riviera, the UTS has a unique format compared to traditional tennis with players such as Matteo Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas playing. Matches are played in four 10-minute quarters with players serving twice alternatively. Organisers say their format has been ‘inspired by e-sports with fast-paced action, new rules, and plot twists that will keep you on the edge of your seat.’

The inaugural edition of the tournament will conclude on Sunday evening after taking place during the weekends over the past month. Mouratoglou says he is satisfied with how it has gone because it has been endorsed by those who have taken part.

“We are satisfied because it was a great challenge. We started from zero during the confinement; it was just an idea,” he told UbiTennis.
“Then suddenly we decided to make this idea a reality. We’ve been broadcasting in more than 100 countries.’
“I really like the show (UTS) but it is not about me, it is about the players. So I’m happy because the players really enjoyed playing it.”

Mouratoglou has previously said the aim of his event was to attract a younger and newer fan base to the sport. Claiming that the average age of a tennis fan is 61, which is a number that some have questioned. When asked by UbiTennis about his statement, he insists that it is based on accurate information provided throughout the industry via multiple sources. Going on to add that both the ATP and WTA are aware of it.

As for the UTS, the 50-year-old said that he was partly able to achieve his goals when it comes to the target audience. Providing a glimpse into the demographics of the tournament’s audience that he has knowledge of.

“The goal was to bring new people to tennis and I can say that 50% of our audience were previously not watching tennis,” he said. “Secondly, we wanted to bring younger fans because the average age of a tennis fan is getting older. Our average age is 30-year-old.”

UTS have been held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so their audience has been in the form of subscribers to their social media accounts and streaming platform utslive.tv. The figures provided have been generated based on two methods. The first is an analysis of their social media users in terms of age as well as other things. Furthermore, it has been based on a questionnaire sent to ‘a majority’ of their subscribers.

The significance of these statistics are hard to read into. In a previous interview with UbiTennis last month, Mouratoglou stated that he aims to attract 50,000 subscribers to his platform. It is, however unclear if that has been met with the UTS deciding that they will not be disclosing their platform information to the public. No reason was given as to why this is the case.

“First of all we don’t give these figures (concerning subscribers). I’m not able to give them to you but I’m able to say something about the typology of fans that was following us. The reach on TV was around 20 million, but platform figures are not public.”

Another element to take into account was that the tournament has also been streamed on other various media channels such as Eurosport, Claro Tennis and the Tennis Channel.

What the future holds

Since the birth of the event, some have accused Mouratoglou of trying to change the sport. An allegation that he denies. Instead, he argues that he is exploring ways of attracting more people to the sport with a shorter format. Interestingly, when asked if the rules on the ATP and WTA Tour’s should be changed, he said no because tennis fans are ‘very conservative.’ However, Mouratoglou is a supporter of implementing on-court coaching and has voiced his support for the method on multiple occasions.

“I think they (ATP/WTA) are doing a great job because the tennis fans are very loyal and they have been able to keep them for a long time,” he explained.
“I don’t think they should change anything because tennis fans are very conservative and wouldn’t be happy. I’m not criticising them at all, but what I am just saying is that the average age of a tennis fan is getting older, it’s a fact. It’s not just tennis, it is sport in general.”

Now UTS-1 is coming to an end, plans are already underway for a second tournament that will also feature female players. With Mouratoglou naming Williams and Coco Gauff are two players he would like to see participate. Even more ambitious is the date for the event, which officials are hoping will be before the start of the US Open.

“We are going to do it again. It’s not completely set yet so I can’t say much,” he reveals. “The goal is to also bring women into the event. We are trying to arrange it to take place before the US Open.’
“The most important thing is that the UTS act as a compliment to the Tour’s and both can work alongside each other.”

It remains to be seen when the event will take place, but Mouratoglou says at the moment the plan is for him and Williams to attend the Western and Southern Open, which will take place in New York. If this is the case, in order for UTS-2 to occur, it needs to happen before August 20th.

The UTS has undoubtedly split opinions among fans in the world of tennis, but its founder is determined to find a way to attract more people to the sport in some capacity. It is unclear as to what will happen in the future, but Mouratoglou is hopeful that he can achieve his goals nonetheless.

“Of course, there are a lot of things to improve but for a start from zero I think it is not too bad,” he concludes.

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Federer shoots a new Barilla commercial on an Italian rooftop

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Roger Federer in the Italian town of Novi Ligure. (Credit: ilsecoloxix.it)

Roger Federer has suddenly appeared on an Italian rooftop in the town of Finale Ligure (in the province of Savona, a one-hour drive from Genoa) to shoot a new TV commercial for Barilla, the world’s largest pasta producer, for which the Swiss legend has been the celebrity spokesman since 2017.

 

The setting for the ad is not a random choice. As a matter of fact, that same location made quite a few headlines during the Coronavirus lockdown, as two girls, Vittoria Olivieri and Carola Pessina (13 and 11 years old), rallied and traded shots from the rooftop of their respective buildings. The video immediately went viral in the tennis world, and was shared by the ATP’s official website:

Obviously, it was this quarantine video toBto attract Barilla and Federer’s to the small seaside town. For this commercial, though, the Swiss maestro wasn’t asked to wear an apron and cook with a starred chef, but rather to showcase his own top notch skills, albeit in a peculiar setting. In fact, the two girls were asked to re-create their famous rooftop rally, but this time with a special sparring partner like Roger Federer.

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EXCLUSIVE: ITF Insists Davis Cup ‘Financial Covered’ But Uncertainty And Doubt Remain

The governing body says all is well despite not addressing UbiTennis’ questions surrounding speculation that millions have been lost over the past 12 months.

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The International Tennis Federation has defended their decision to cancel the Davis Cup Finals five months before it was set to get underway amid growing speculation surrounding its financial viability.

 

The finale of the men’s team event, as well as the Fed Cup, have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought tennis to a standstill since March. It was set to be held at the Caja Magica in Madrid, which is located in the country where investment company Kosmos originated from. Founded by footballer Gerard Pique, Kosmos is the financial driving force behind the Davis Cup revamp after pledging to commit to a 25-year deal worth in the region of $3 billion.

“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”

There is however some confusion over the move and why it was decided so early before the event was set to start. Especially when the same city is set to hold a premier mixed ATP and WTA tournament in September.

UbiTennis has been in contact with the ITF concerning their decision with questions surrounding their motives to cancel the event. French newspaper L’Equipe had previously reported that Kosmos lost millions of euros last year staging the Finals and cancelling this year’s event would actually save them in the region of  €18M. Furthermore, it has emerged that the national tennis federations were not consulted about the cancellation prior to it being formally announced.

During an email exchange with the governing body, the ITF did not comment when asked by  UbiTennis’ about the financial figures that have been reported in the media.

“The ITF and Kosmos Tennis undertook extensive scenario planning, exploring feasible options to host the event safely. We strongly believe this is the right decision for the players and captains, the National Associations, the event organisers and the competition as a whole. National associations and team captains were informed as soon as we were able to confirm the decision.” The ITF told UbiTennis.

When pressed further as to if the loss of money last year contributed to their decision in 2020, there was no direct reply. Instead the ITF stressed that the event ‘is financially covered’ for 2021. Insisting that the driving force behind their decision was being unable to generate a ‘unique atmosphere’ and ‘make commercial sense.’

“Postponing the Davis Cup Finals was an extremely difficult decision. Delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved was ultimately not feasible at this time given the risks, restrictions, logistical challenges and continuing uncertainty caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” the ITF stressed.

“We looked at alternative scenarios, including playing behind closed doors, and selling only a limited number of tickets – but ultimately, they did not (a) fully enable the unique atmosphere that makes Davis Cup great and (b) make good commercial sense. The important thing to note is that the event is financially covered and all stakeholders are already working towards the 2021 edition.“

Whilst there is limited financial information, there are some figures that are known. As a result of the cancellation, Kosmos will not be paying €9M to the tennis federations and €18M to the players. This is according to a member of the German Tennis Federation who says those numbers ‘are not a secret.’

Furthermore, there is also uncertainty over what is going to happen to Kosmos’ agreed payment to the ITF, who launched a ‘job protection scheme’ back in April due to the worldwide pandemic. At the time ITF president David Haggerty took a 30 percent reduction in pay and members of his senior leadership team took a 20 percent drop.

“There will of course be a financial impact of the 2020 event being postponed until next year, but we are now focused on delivering a world-class event in 2021,” the ITF replied when questioned about Kosmos’ payment to them.

Hordorff speaks out

In the wake of there being no Davis Cup Finals, UbiTennis contacted the vice-president of the German Tennis Federation (DTB)  to get his perspective on the current situation. Dirk Hordorff has worked in the tennis industry for many years coaching the likes of Janko Tipsarevic, Vasek Pospisil and former world No.5 Rainer Schuettler. For him, he fears that the latest developments could threaten many in the sport financially. Germany was one of the country’s to vote against the Davis Cup changes, which received a 71% backing in the 2018 ITF AGM meeting.

“The cancellation of the Davis Cup in July 2020 at a time where the 1000 ATP/WTA event in Madrid is scheduled for September is only understandable if Kosmos believes that 2020 (Davis Cup Finals) will also produce massive losses as 2019 and they want to try to avoid this,”  he said.

“This will bring the ITF and many nations financially in trouble. The German Federation as many other federations like LTA or Tennis Australia were aware of this and voted at the AGM against this project.

Hordoff later added that the ITF was challenged by Davis Cup captains about their decision to scrap the 2020 finals and the speculation that the move was done to help Kosmos save millions. Although those discussions only took place after the event was officially axed.

 “The ITF called DC captains after they cancelled the event. They denied this reason and stated this as a rumour. But in my opinion and with my knowledge I can clearly say that Kosmos refused to play DC 2020. And unfortunately this will not be the last bad news in this matter.” He concluded.

This year is only the 12th time in history and the first since 1945 that a tennis season will conclude without the winners of the Davis Cup being decided.

 

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