Djokovic and Federer the favourites in Stan Smith, but is Rafa the contender in the other group? - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic and Federer the favourites in Stan Smith, but is Rafa the contender in the other group?

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Could Nadal’s late season resurgence see him dominate Ilie Nastase Group?

Ubaldo Scanagatta and Tennis Channel’s Steve Flink Comment the ATP World Tour Finals Draws (AUDIO)

 

Flink: “Nadal should be happy to be in his group”

If the Stan Smith Group looks somewhat predictable, with two Grand slam champions, tennis fans can be reassured that the Ilie Nastase Group is anything but. This article previews each singles player from both groups, and attempts a prediction as to how each group might eventually pan out.

Stan Smith

Novak Djokovic: The World Number 1 has had a scintillating year, winning three of the four Grand Slams, and six of nine Masters titles. He is the three-time defending champion in London, and will be the favourite to extend his run. Crucially for Djokovic, the player who has given him the most issues this year, Stan Wawrinka, has been drawn in the other group. Will certainly fancy his chances over Tomas Berdych, who he was drawn with last year, and defeated 6-2, 6-2. Kei Nishikori has had an injury plagued year, so should be little of little danger to Djokovic. Roger Federer is the major threat. He loves indoor tennis, and if Djokovic becomes unstuck in one match it would be with Federer.

Roger Federer: His season has been strong, highlighted by two Grand Slam finals, including his first In New York since 2009. He was beaten though in each by Djokovic. Federer loves indoors tennis, but has failed to defeat Djokovic in their last four meetings on the surface. Yet if anyone has the best chance of defeating Federer in the group stages, then Federer is the man. Has beaten Nishikori in their last two meetings, and Berdych in their last three. Question marks over his early Paris exit to John Isner.

Tomas Berdych: Has had a good if slightly underwhelming year, but has done well to qualify for sixth consecutive year. A telling stat is that he has failed to beat any of the opponents he is set to face in the group this season. He has been soundly thrashed by Federer twice, though did play Djokovic close in all three of their meetings this year. He did not encounter Nishikori this year. Lack of wins over top players is the apparent weakness In Berdych’s game this year.

Kei Nishikori: The Japanese star takes his place at the ATP World Tour Finals for the second time, though without a Grand Slam final display to back him up this time. Has beaten fellow contenders Ferrer and Nadal this year, but has no wins against his group opponents, though like Berdych, he took a set from Djokovic in their meeting in Rome. Inconsistent with injury this year, but has proven that when fit, can still beat the best. He has only met played one match, versus Djokovic, against his group opponents this season, so could be considered something of a wildcard.

Group Prediction:  1. Djokovic 3-0, 2. Federer, 2-1, 3. Nishikori 1-2, 4. Berdych 0-3.

Ilie Nastase

Andy Murray: The Brit leapfrogged Roger Federer into second place in the rankings at the back-end of the season, and his reward is avoiding Djokovic in the group stages. That said, Wawrinka, Nadal, and Ferrer are noteworthy opponents. Yet he has won both meetings with Ferrer this season, including a meeting on the Spaniard’s favoured surface of clay. He also beat Nadal on clay for the first time, in their only match this year, but he has struggled against Rafa in previous meetings at the World Tour Finals. Hasn’t played Wawrinka this season, so an interesting matchup in store there. The underlying subtext of the Davis Cup Final could have an impact on Murray’s focus, and he can’t afford any slip-ups against the quality of opposition he faces this year.

Stan Wawrinka: Should Stan be happy or relieved to have avoided Djokovic in the group stages? He is probably the only player capable of making a question of that this season. Beating Djokovic in the Roland Garros final solidified Wawrinka’s credentials as a genuine force, after his fortuitous win over Nadal in the Australian Open. A brilliant year punctuated by a few surprise losses but impressive titles, means that we never really know what to expect from Stan, except that he normally rises to the occasion in big events. Pushed Federer all the way in a tense semi-final in London last year, Stan will be looking to go one better in 2015

Rafael Nadal: After a comprehensive defeat to Djokovic at Roland Garros, followed by early defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open, some had begun to write Rafa off. Yet he is a true champion, and has signalled his return to somewhere near his good is not best form. He destroyed Wawrinka in Shanghai but lost to him in Paris. Finals in Beijing and Basel suggest he is in form, and played Federer close in the latter final. Gone is the almost afraid Rafa from the beginning of the year, replace by a force that could easily go all the way in London. He still dominates the head-to-head with all three in the group. He leads Murray 15-6, Ferrer 23-6, and Wawrinka 13-3. This might actually make him the favourite in this tight group.

David Ferrer. It is testament that Ferrer is yet again here this year. His participation in previous years has largely relied on playing more tournaments than just about any other player. Yet this year, an elbow injury curtailed his involvement in Wimbledon, and forced him to miss a large chunk of the season. He has instead relied on performing well in the events he has been able to play. No wins in three meetings this year vs Murray/Nadal, and did not face Wawrinka. He has a losing record against both Murray (6-11) and Nadal (6-23), and has lost his last three meetings with Wawrinka, even if he does still edge the head-to-head (7-6). Ferrer is a dogged competitor, but the feeling is his ability to earn wins in London will be more down to his opponent’s games than his own.

Group prediction: 1. Nadal 2-1, 2. Wawrinka 2-1, 3. Murray 2-1, 4. Ferrer 0-3

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ATP Announces 22-Month Ranking System To Support Players Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Parts of the changes have been done to help support those who prefer not to or can not travel to tournaments due to safety concerns.

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The ATP Tour has revised their calculations for this year’s ranking system with the governing body admitting that the new changes could also be applied in 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Players on the men’s Tour have been given a wider period where they can select their best tournaments to determine their ranking. Prior to the suspension of competitive tennis, male players were allowed to select their 18 best performances in tournaments within a 52-week period. This has now been expanded to 22 months (March 2019-December 2020). Although they are not allowed to use the same tournament twice.

In a press release the ATP says their new measures allows ‘flexibility and fairness’ with players on the tour. Furthermore, it has been designed with the possibility of the rules continuing into 2021 should the ongoing pandemic continue to disrupt the Tour in some degree. Outlining their objectives, the ATP says one of their goals is to protect those who ‘cannot or prefer not to compete in 2020 due to health & safety.’ A point recently raised by Australian player Alexei Popyrin who has voiced concerns about playing at the US Open.

“There are talks regarding the US Open but I really don’t want to go with the situation in America right now,” Popyrin said at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown over the weekend.
“But we have to see if we would be forced to go because of ranking points.
“If the ranking points won’t be frozen, then most of us would be forced to go play cause our ranking will drop and we wouldn’t have any say in it.
“But if the rankings are frozen, then I am staying here.
“I will stay in Europe where it’s safe with my family.”

As a result of the changes, it remains to be seen if this will have any effect on other players concerning their decision to play at the New York major which will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history. Some parts of America have reported a surge in COVID-19 cases with 52,228 New Cases being reported on July 5th.

Under the new calculations, no player will have less ranking points than what they currently have at present. The ATP rankings have been frozen since March 16th but will resume on the Monday after the first tournament in the revised calendar concludes.

There are exceptions to the new 22-month ruling. Qualification for the ATP Finals will still be based on 52 weeks because the event is classed as an ‘additional tournament.’ Therefore it doesn’t count as one of the 18 key events to determine a player’s ranking. Points from last year’s tournament will drop off on November 9th after the Paris Masters. The reason for doing so is to make the chances of qualifying more fair. Furthermore Challenger and ITF events will also be based on the 52-week rule because ‘events are scheduled on a one-year basis and do not have consistent spots in the calendar.’

The ATP Tour is set to resume at the Citi Open in Washington during the second week of August.

A full FAQ of the new ranking system can be read here.

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‘I Googled How To Kill Myself’ – Robin Soderling Open Up About Mental Health Battle

The ex-world No.4 speaks out about his struggles with anxiety as a player for the first time.

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Former Swedish Tennis star Robin Soderling has spoken out about how he struggled with panic attacks which contributed towards his decision to step away from the sport.

 

The 35-year-old achieved a ranking high of fourth during his career and is best known as being the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal at the French Open after stunning the Spaniard back in 2009. However, he was also dealing with his own mental demons as he rose to prominence in the sport. Speaking to Radio Sweden, Soderling revealed that he struggled with his mental health prior to being diagnosed with mononucleosis, which forced him to retire at the age of 31.

“I had constant anxiety, it gnawed at me inside. I sat in the apartment and stared blankly, the smallest noise made me panic. When a letter fell on the doormat, I panicked so much that I fell to the floor. The phone rang I was shaking with fear,” he told the radio station.

Soderling said his problems with anxiety started shortly after his win over Nadal in 2009, which catapulted him to the limelight. The increased expectation made the Swede feel that he had to live up to high expectations.

“There were only three players I could lose to,” he said in reference to the Big Three. “The rest I had to beat them, if I would feel bad, a failure, a loser.”

During his career the two-time Grand Slam finalist won 10 titles on the ATP Tour with five of those titles occurring after he defeated Nadal at Roland Garros. It was in 2010 when he achieved his ranking high and won his only Masters 1000 title in Bercy, France.

Solderling’s last match on the Tour took place on home territory at the 2011 Swedish Open. In the final he roared to a 6-2, 6-2, win over David Ferrer to end his career on a high. At the time he was yet to be diagnosed with mononucleosis and hadn’t come to a decision to retire from the sport. Shortly after that final he returned back to his home in Monte Carlo where he started to struggle once again.

“I panicked, I started crying. I was crying and crying. I went back to the hotel and threw myself on the bed, every time I thought about going on the court, I panicked. For the first time I felt that regardless of how much I wanted, I couldn’t, not even if they put a gun to my temple,” he recounted.

In a frank revelation during the interview, Solderling said at his worst he even ‘googled how to commit suicide’ but never intended to. He says his thoughts at the time was ‘anything was better than this life in hell.’

Solderling hopes by opening up about his mental health battle it is a topic he believes is ‘rarely’ talked about in sport. Few players have openly talked about their own personal problems.

“It is very rare to talk about the psychic problems that great athletes have in sports and this is why I wanted to take a step forward and talk about it. To those who dedicate themselves to sport and their entire environment I tell them to train hard and take it very easy. From here I tell them to play sports because they feel comfortable doing it and not because of pressure. If you are succeeding, try to keep the perspective and try not to be affected much. If you succeed, everything will be fine,” he concludes.

Soderling is currently the captain of the Swedish Davis Cup team.

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Coach Of Roger Federer Issues Fitness Update

Details of the next stage in Federer’s recovery have been revealed.

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The longtime coach of 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer has said the Swiss star is ‘doing well’ with his rehabilitation going to plan so far.

 

Severin Luthi shed some light on Federer’s current health during a TV interview with SRF on Saturday. The 38-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match since his semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open back in January. Shortly after Federer underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, which sidelined him from action. However, the problems continued for Federer and he had to undergo a second knee procedure in June which resulted in him pulling the plug on his 2020 season.

Despite the setbacks, Luthi has insisted that the former world No.1 is finally back on track and will be returning back to training soon. Luthi has worked alongside Federer for more than a decade and also currently serves as the captain of the Swiss Davis Cup term.

“Roger is doing well. Rehabilitation has gone according to plan after the 2nd surgery. No big intensity until now, he will start a physical fitness block with Pierre Paganini shortly,” he told SRF.

Federer, who will turn 39 in August, has vowed to return to the Tour in 2021 despite his age. He is currently the second oldest player in the top 200 after world No.124 Croatia Ivo Karlovic who is 41. Despite approaching the finish line in his career, Luthi insists that age isn’t an issue when it comes to training.

“First priority is that Roger gets 100% healthy again,’ he stated.
“The nice thing is that with Roger you still get the feeling you‘re on court with a junior and not with a player who‘s rather at the end of his career, those are perfect conditions we’re focused on next season.”

So far in his career, the Swiss maestro has won 103 ATP titles and spent a record 310 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings.

Work with ON

Federer has kept himself out of the spotlight in recent weeks, but has been working behind the scenes with running brand ON. A company which he bought a stake last November after investing an ‘undisclosed sum.’ On July 6th he is set to feature in a livestream with the company to make what he describes as a ‘big announcement’ without elaborating further. The date of the announcement coincidentally coincides with the 17th anniversary of his first Wimbledon win.

“July 6 there is going to be the big launch, the big announcement, something we’ve been working on for quite some time now,” Federer told sportswear blog Highsnobiety. “[Sneakerheads that don’t know On so well] are going to get to know the company in a new way. I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
For me, having an impact with a company like On is really, really exciting. To be there in the workshop room, in the meetings, and hearing about whatever shoe it is, and maybe giving my input… And then, next thing you know, my input is taken incredibly serious and it grows into something quite beautiful. That is very exciting.” He added.

The livestream featuring Federer will be broadcasted on a website called theroger.com.

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