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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Late Bloomer Cameron Norrie Hopes To Inspire Next Generation Of British Players 

The Grand Slam semi-finalist has also spoken about one of his ultimate goals in the sport. 

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Cameron Norrie (GBR) in action against Lucas Pouille (FRA) in the first round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.2 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 3 Wednesday 30/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Simon Bruty

Camron Norrie’s route to the top of men’s tennis has been somewhat different to the likes of compatriot Andy Murray. 

 

Norrie was 21 when he made his ATP Tour main draw debut at The Queen’s Club back in 2017 after playing college tennis in America where he became the top collegiate player at Texas Christian University. A year later he cracked the top 100 for the first time before breaking into the top 10 in 2022. 

Since the start of 2021, when he was outside the world’s top 70, Norrie has reached the final of 10 Tour events where he has won four titles. The most prestigious of those was at Indian Wells where he won his first Masters 1000 title just over 12 months ago. 

Now at the age of 27, Norrie is spearheading British men’s tennis which is benefitting from the rise of youngsters such as Jack Draper. The country has 12 players in the ATP year-end top 100 – four in singles and a further eight in the doubles. 

“There’s obviously a lot of young Brits coming through, so hopefully I can provide some inspiration to show them that anyone can get to the top of the game, especially with the route that I chose, going through college,” Norrie said during an interview with The National. “It was a lot different a route than a lot of other players take.”

Coached by Argentina’s Facundo Lugones who he met at university, Norrie produced his best Grand Slam run in July by reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon before losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets. Becoming the first home male player to reach that stage of the tournament since Murray in 2016. 

“It’s been a great year, especially being able to back up last year was huge for me,” he reflected. “There were a lot of highlights, especially Wimbledon, making the semi-finals and having my family and friends there watching and supporting.
“But from there it was straight into focusing on the next events. As a tennis player you don’t really get to enjoy when you’re doing well, but looking back, having some time off resting in London, I’ve been going through a few things and there are definitely some highlights.”

Currently ranked 14th in the world, Norrie insists that his ultimate goal is to one day reach world No.1. He has been ranked as high as eighth in the world so far in his career. 

Although to reach that milestone, he needs to work more on his game against the best players in the world. This season the Brit has won just three out of 11 matches against top 10 opposition. 

“There are a lot more eyes on me now: going into Wimbledon as British No 1 then having the run I did, I feel like I am more well known in the UK. But for me, that is not the goal: it’s to be world No 1,” he said. “So, I’m not really thinking about that. There are still 13 players better than me so I need to improve.”

Norrie will return to action later this month at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud are also taking part. 

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Legendary Tennis Coach Nick Bollettieri Dies Aged 91 

Bollettieri’s academy helped shape the future of tennis and the number of top players he has worked with is perhaps the most comprehensive in history. 

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Nick Bollettieri pictured with Serena Williams (image via nySportsday.com)

Tributes have poured in following the death of Nick Bollettieri whose long career in the sport established him as one of the most renowned coaches of the Open Era.

 

Bollettieri, who was born in New York to Italian parents, worked with some of the biggest names of the sport with many others also training at his prestigious academy in Florida. He oversaw the rise of stars such as Pete Sampras, Maria Sharapova, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Jelena Jankovic, and Andre Agassi. He also worked with Boris Becker, Marcelo Rios and Sabine Lisicki. 

The American switched to tennis coaching after dropping out of law school and opened up his academy in Bradenton, Florida in 1978. 

 “I don’t want to be Perry Mason. I want to be Fred Perry.” He once famously said. 

Many credit Bollettieri for establishing a blueprint for future tennis academies and many have followed the example set by him. IMG purchased his academy in 1987 but he remained in charge of the tennis programme for many years. 

News of Bollettieri’s death was confirmed on Monday morning by former world No.2 Tommy Haas who posted a tribute on Instagram. Haas, who is currently the director of the BNP Paribas Open, is another former player who was mentored by the American. 

“So many memories, I am not sure where to begin,” he wrote. “Nickiiiii, that’s how I have called you for the longest time. Thank you for your time, knowledge, commitment, expertise, the willingness to share your skill, your personal interest in mentoring me,and giving me the best opportunity to follow my dreams.
“You were a dreamer and a doer, and a pioneer in our sport, truly one of a kind.”
“I surely will miss you around the academy, our Tennis talks, miss showing off your tan, white teeth and body fat, miss watching you do Tai Chi, miss playing Golf with you watching you try to cheat, eating a Snickers bar and running for the bushes, and hearing all about your plans even at the age of 91. Thanks again for everything……..”

Bollettieri, who also had a stint in the army as a paratrooper, was introduced into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. One of the most extraordinary things about him was the fact he was never a professional player and taught himself tennis techniques by visiting a local park to watch others play. It is documented that he worked with at least 19 players who went on to crack the top 10 with 10 of those eventually rising to No.1. Furthermore Mark Knowles and Max Miryni went on to become world No.1 players in doubles. 

“THANK YOU Nick. It’s hard to find the right words and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to. You have given so many children a place to work for their dream,” Germany’s Lisicki wrote on social media. 
“Supporting them with your knowledge and the belief that anything is possible. I was fortunate to be one of them. So many memories we created together that I will cherish forever. You’ve shaped the game of tennis and even just a couple of months ago at 91 you were telling me all about your next plans. You will be dearly missed. Rest In Peace Nicki.”

After initially considering tennis to be a ‘sissy sport,’ Bollettieri became a pioneer in his own right with a career spanning 60 years. Even less than a year before his death he continued to patrol the IMG Academy.

Bollettieri is survived by his wife, Cindi; seven children and four grandchildren.

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Tennis Great Jimmy Connors Criticizes Suspended Ban Of Davis Cup Staff Over Betting Violation

The eight-time Grand Slam winner has hit back at a ruling made by the International Tennis Integrity Agency.

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Jimmy Connors, 62 anni

Jimmy Connors believes tennis needs to embrace bettering after branding the decision to penalize two members of the American Davis Cup team for promoting a gambling organization as ‘going back to the dark ages.’ 

 

Team captain Mardy Fish and coach Bob Byran have been both issued with a $10,000 fine after admitting to promoting a gaming operator on their social media accounts. The duo have also been hit with a four-month suspended ban which means they must not commit any further offences during this period or they will be excluded from ITF events. 

Whilst both Fish and Bryan are retired players, they are still subject to the rules of the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) as they are considered ‘covered persons’ in the sport due to the nature of their roles. The rulebook states that “directly or indirectly facilitating, encouraging and/or promoting” betting on tennis is not allowed.

“Bob and I did a DraftKings promo during the US Open that we were unaware we weren’t allowed to do,” Fish told The Associated Press via email. “As soon as we found out, I deleted the posts and cooperated with the ITIA.”

Weighing in on the issue, former world No.1 Connors argued that betting can have a positive impact on tennis and that the governing bodies should do more to capitalize on the opportunity. Whilst it is an offence for players and their staff to promote gambling, various tournaments around the world have sponsorship deals with betting companies. 

“So what’s the bad thing? Do they wanna go back to the dark ages?,” Connors said on the Advantage Connors podcast
“That (betting) just brings people more involved and get them more interested you know, what is going on with the players, who is the best, how they compete and so forth.”
“Tennis has been my life, but the excitement of being a basketball fan or baseball fan or football fan, the excitement of bringing that (betting) and being able to get more involved. I wanna watch tennis anyway but what’s gonna make me more involved and to be more part of it?” he added. 

In the past, Connors has been open about his gambling addiction. In his autobiography, the Outsider, he revealed he once placed a $1M bet on his battle of the sexes match against Martina Navratilova in 1992 which he won 7-5, 6-2. He has since recovered from his gambling addiction but still believes it can mix with tennis. 

Connors is the most decorated ATP singles player in history with 109 titles to his name.  

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