Czech Republic wins the fourth Fed Cup title in five years ! - UBITENNIS
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Czech Republic wins the fourth Fed Cup title in five years !

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Czech Republic clinched their fourth title in the last five years with 3-2 after a thrilling fifth doubles rubber match where Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova came back from a set down to edge Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina with 4-6 6-3 6-2. It’s the fourth title in five years for the Czech team but the ninth triumph in the history of this competition considering the five wins of the former Czechoslovakia.

 

Pliskova and Strycova were the heroines of a fantastic week-end for the home team who were pushed by the incredible home crowd who packed the O2 Arena in Prague. What a week-end for the Czech team who played without this year’s Roland Garros finalist Lucie Safarova who was sidelined from the week-end by injury problems but showed their usual strength with great players like Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Strycova and Petra Kvitova.

Czech Republic went up in the second game a break to take a 2-0 lead after Pliskova hit a volley at the net . Vesnina (winner of two Grand Slam doubles titles at the 2013 Roland Garros and the 2014 US Open) and Pavlyuchenkova broke Strycova’s serve in the third game and consolidated the break with a hold in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2.

Strycova, who boasts a 7-3 winning record in Fed Cup doubles, held serve in the seventh game to love to give the Czech team the 4-3 lead. At 4-4 Vesnina and Pavlyuchenkova broke Pliskova’s serve to love with a backhand winner to love. The Russian team served out to clinch the first set with 6-4 with a volley from Pavlyuchenkova.

At the start of the second set Pliskova saved two break points to hold serve. The Czech team broke Vesnina for 2-0. Strycova held serve to give the home team the third consecutive game in the second set.

Czech Republic pulled away to 4-1 as Vesnina missed a volley on game point. The home team broke Vesina to 15 for 5-1 and served for the set.

Vesnina and Pavlyuchenkova saved one of the two break back chances to hold their serve for 2-5. The Russian team held serve comfortably to claw their way back into the set for 3-5. Pliskova held serve to love to send the fifth rubber match to the decisive set.

Czech Republic broke serve in the first game of the decider as Vesnina sent a forehand into the net. The home team consoldated the break to take the 2-0 lead. Russia held serve  Vesnina got the first game on the scoreboard for Russia with a volley winner. Strycova held serve for 3-1. In the fifth game Vesnina won two consecutive points at 40-all to hold serve for 3-2. Stycova faced a break back point as she hit a volley long but the Czech team saved break points to take a crucial 4-2 lead. Czech Republic broke serve for the fifth time in the match to pull ahead with 5-2 before Strycova served the match out.

Czech Repunlic sealed the win on the first championship point for 4-6 6-3 6-2 completing an incredible win after coming back from a set down.

The Czech team danced on the court to celebrate their fourth triumph in front of the home crowd.

“It’s unbelievable. I am speechless. It’s a fantastic feeling. It was always my dream. We decided the doubles. It can’t be better. The crowd helped us giving us a great support”, said Strycova

“It’s definitely one of the biggest wins of my career. I really enjoyed the match and I am really happy that I won”, said Pliskova

“It’s a great day for Czech tennis. I was confident that we could win after Petra Kvitova lost against Maria Sharapova. The crowd pushed us a lot”, said Czech captain Petr Pala.

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Ivan Ljubicic To Quit Coaching After Federer, Criticises Hype Over GOAT Grand Slam Debate

The former world No.3 has spoken out about what his plans for the future will be with and without Federer.

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Ivan Ljubicic - ATP Finals 2018 (foto Alberto Pezzali/Ubitennis)

Ivan Ljubicic has said his commitment to working with Roger Federer is ‘unquestionable’ as he confirms that he will leave coaching after their partnership ends.

 

The 41-year-old Croat, who has been a member of Federer’s team since 2016, has his sights set on working full-time in a new venture he has set up. He is the co-founder of the LJ Sports Group, which is an agency that focuses on ‘enabling professional athletes to focus solely on training and their performance on the field, while we take care of every other thing regarding their career.’ Among his clients are top 20 player Borna Coria and Marta Kostyuk.

“Roger will be my last coaching job. My commitment to this project after Roger is absolute,” Ljubicic told Novi List.
“But Roger and I go further, my work with him is unquestionable and there are no problems there.”
“After his career, I can dedicate myself one hundred percent to what makes me happy. Then I will be able to help the players in a way that we judge to be the best. At the moment, as far as the coaching part of the job is concerned, it’s exclusively Roger. The rest is marketing and sponsorship,” he added.

Ljubicic will have some extra time to work on his company this year after Federer pulled the plug on his 2020 season following his second knee operation. The Swiss tennis star has only played in two tournaments this year with his most recent being back in January at the Australian Open. Despite his lengthy absence from the Tour, Federer will not be spiralling down the rankings thanks to a change in the rules due to the pandemic. A players ranking position are now based on their best 18 tournament performances over the past 22 months instead of 12.

Despite the blip, Federer is determined to return to action at the start of next year when he will be 39-years-old. At present, he is the second oldest player in the top 200 on the ATP Tour after Ivo Karlovic. The last time Federer ended his season early was in 2016 where he returned to winning ways the following year by winning the Australian Open.

“Everything is under control. We are planning the next season,” coach Ljubicic commented. “It is a wish and a dream for everything to be like in 2017, but it is clear that every situation is new. Anyway, we have one positive experience so we are all positive.”

Federer currently holds the record for most Grand Slam titles at 20. Although it is possible that rival Rafael Nadal could surpass his tally in 2020 if he wins both the US Open and French Open. Meanwhile Novak Djokovic, who is the youngest of the Big Three, is closing in with 17 major titles to his name.

Regardless of what happens to Federer’s Grand Slam record, Ljubicic believes too much focus is being placed on it. Saying the current world No.4 continues to play due to his love for the sport. Federer last won a Grand Slam at the 2018 Australian Open and has only managed to reach one final (Wimbledon 2019) since then.

“Everyone is a little too focused on Grand Slam titles. They are the biggest tournaments in our sport, but they are not the only valuable thing,” he said.
“We can measure everything with them, but we’re not all crazy about Grand Slams. What is the case with Federer is that he loves sports and will play as much as he can.’
“We will do everything to get the result, but that is not the only reason why he still plays and wants to play. But it’s clear to me that there are people who can’t understand that.”

During his playing career Ljubicic won 10 ATP titles and earned more than $10 million in prize money.

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‘Many Questions But Few Answers’ – ATP Chief Uncertain Over 2020 Calendar

Andrea Gaudenzi says tournaments must not come to an halt if there is a positive COVID-19 test.

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The head of the ATP has said he is still unsure if a series of tournaments will be able to take place across Asia and Europe later this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Andrea Gaudenzi says there are ‘too many variables’ preventing him from planning ahead due to the worldwide health crises. All professional matches have been suspended since March but they will resume next month. On the ATP Tour, their first tournament will be at the Citi Open in Washington which will start during the second week of August. At present the governing body of men’s tournament has published a provisional schedule which only goes up until the French Open.

“We have no idea how the Asian swing or the European indoor season could go. It might sound obvious, but I can’t predict how the virus will affect us going forward, there are too many variables to consider,” Gaudenzi told Sky Sport Italia.

It appears that chances of tennis events being staged in China are slim. Recently the General Administration of Sport published recommendations that no international events are held in the country for the rest of 2020 unless they are related to Olympic qualification. Although tennis and other sporting organisations are seeking clarity before they scrap their events. Elsewhere, it is being reported that the ATP Finals in London remains on but the Next Gen equivalent that takes place a week before may not go ahead. Another event unlikely to go ahead is the Swiss Indoors in Basel.

Gaudenzi says tennis is at a disadvantage due to the global travel requirements compared to team tournaments. Some players have recently cast doubt over attending the US Open as they are unsure if they will be required to enter quarantine after leaving the country, which is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. Marca newspaper reported on Monday that there are ‘ongoing negotiations’ to address this issue.

“We have many questions but few answers, because many answers are objectively impossible to provide,” former world No.18 Gaudenzi admits.
“Compared to other sports, tennis is at a disadvantage precisely because of its global nature. The players get to a tournament from every part of the world, and then move to another nation, if not to another continent altogether. Football and NBA basketball can simply devise a bubble of various sizes and shut themselves in to host their events, something we cannot do.’
“And the national governments aren’t giving us any indication regarding potential exemptions [referring to the quarantine] for the athletes involved in a given event.”

There is still hope

Gaudenzi, who took over as the boss of the ATP earlier this year, says there has been one silver lining to the pandemic with various governing bodies now working closer together. Tennis is guided by seven different organisations – ATP, WTA, ITF and each of the Grand Slam boards. In recent weeks there has been calls for men’s and women’s tennis to merge, but such a move is unlikely to occur in the near future.

“Over the last three months, we have had to make some decisions that were unprecedented in the history of tennis. We, the WTA, and the ITF were in conflict with each other at the onset of the pandemic, everyone was going their own way, but over time and up to today we have begun to work hard with a shared objective in mind, namely the safe resuming of play, which is the only thing that really matters right now.”

Whilst the future is uncertain, Gaudenzi says he is still hopeful. Admitting that the potential of a positive COVID-19 test occurring in tournaments will be something the sport might have to get used to. During the Tour hiatus, there was an outbreak of the virus at the Adria Tour which led to it being cancelled.

“I must remain optimistic, but I also need to keep my feet on the ground,” he said.
“We need to understand that a tournament can’t come to a halt because of a positive test, especially if it’s already in its late stages. This is why we need to keep our guard up, as well as to predict all possible outcomes, before giving the go-ahead to each event. The next two weeks are going to be crucial.”

So far the ATP has given the green light for five tournaments to take place alongside the two Grand Slams.

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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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