Novak Djokovic: 'I Don't Feel in a Rush to Chase Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal' - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic: ‘I Don’t Feel in a Rush to Chase Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’

Novak Djokovic talks to the media after winning his 4th consecutive ATP World Tour finals title, entering tennis history. The Serb has won his 11th title in what has been his best season to date. The Serb gives his thoughts on his dream year, ready to take a much merited period of rest.

Ivan Pasquariello

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The World No.1 is ironically asked about the match he lost in Doha to Ivo Karlovic. As usual, the Serb takes a good laugh and is not afraid to answer.

 

Karlovic is my nemesis, I have to talk to him before Doha next year (smiling). Apart from that tournament I always reached the finals in all other events. I couldn’t ask for a better finish sitting with this trophy next to me. For some reason, I played some of my best tennis after the US Open, in Asia and both Paris and London. I really have to thank my team for preparing me and allowing me to reach my best. Even after the Grand Slam season was over I still managed to play well, stay focused both mentally and physically. This season definitively stands out in my career. I can’t say I did expect it, but I am always asking myself the most”

What will be the toughest challenges for the World No.1 next year? Will Roland Garros still be the toughest of all?

Roland Garros is always the biggest challenge I have for myself every year, but is not the only one. There are the Olympic games, which also require an adjustment to the schedule. We have to be honest, Slams and Olympics are the most important tournaments, but you can’t discredit the other tournaments. I will try to perform my best at the biggest events. Big challenges ahead, but right now all I want to think is about this few days of rest and then focus on the next season.”

The Serb analysed the final won against Federer. The Swiss few days before had put an end to the Serb’s 38-match indoor winning streak, beating Novak in straight sets.

Roger likes things to happen fast, he likes to take the time away from his opponents. He is a very complete player, who is always going to push you hard. Today I managed to be more solid, served well when I needed it and put more returns on court compared to the round robin match against him. I forced him to play always one extra shot. His forehand is his best shot, the backhand is great too, maybe not as good as his forehand, but I could take advantage of a not great day for him on that shot. It worked well.”

The Serb has been serving incredibly well when he has needed it the most. Always a first serve on the break points, and a game won with 2 consecutive aces at 30-30.

“I give a lot of credit to my serve, especially today. When you play against the top guys, such an important occasion, you need to serve well and get some free points with that shot, otherwise you will spend twice as much energy running around the court. Over the years, the serve is one of the things I have improved the most, but I still think I can do better and that keeps me motivated.”

Soon after the final, Novak decided to share the special moment with his fans on Facebook with this post:

https://www.facebook.com/djokovic.official/?fref=ts

“I try to use social media as an inspiration and something positive. It has helped us to communicate better and network more. Also for us athletes it gets us close to our fans. Is the first time I have done something like that.”

The World No.1 also shares his take on the Davis Cup final.

With Andy Murray in the team, is far to say that Great Britain is the favourite. To play aways makes a difference, the atmosphere is incredible and unique. You are inspired to play your best, playing for your country. I wish both teams all the best. Is going to be interesting. David Goffin has to play at a very high level to give its country a chance.”

The Serb has had incredible rivalries with Federer and Nadal. Could he pick one?

“It is hard to compare such great rivalries. In terms of matches played, maybe I would pick Nadal because we had the greatest battles, but it really is hard to pick.”

What is Novak most proud of in the season?

I would pick Grand Slam wins over everything else. I played the best tennis of the season in China. Overall it has been close to perfection.”

Incredibly loved in his country, Serbia, Novak is asked if he would ever consider a career in politics.

“I try to emphasise the good side of Serbia, considering how we have been through a lot,, wars and bad press. I don’t see myself in politics right now. I can hardly do much more for my country without getting into politics, but I can try to represent it as best as I can. I follow politics, but I think sports should separate from that. I am not somebody who really knows a lot about politcs, but in my countru and in other countries right now it feels the political system isn’t really working and that is a reason why I don’t really want to get involved in it right now. We will see when tennis will be over.”

Can he overtake Federer and Nadal in the all-time record for most Grand Slam wins?

I put myself in a good position, had great records that make me very satisfied and that I am proud of. I love the sport, I am passionate about it. I can’t predict the future, but what I can do is continue respecting the training regime and life style that I have, because that way to go I allowed myself to achieve what I have. I don’t chase anything though, I don’t have a sense of urgency. I live in the present.”

Finally, Novak had also one thought for Boris Becker, his coach who today turned 48.

“His birthday was an extra motivation for today. He is going through emotions off the court the same way he was when he was playing. He has made a great contribution to the team.”

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Maria Sakkari Powers Past Swiatek, Badosa Stuns Sabalenka At WTA Finals

There was a lot of emotion displayed during the second day of the season-ending event.

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Maria Sakkari (image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider)

Maria Sakkari registered her first win at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico by beating the Pole Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-4 in one hour and 26 minutes.

 

Sakkari, who is the first player from her country to participate in the event, fired 15 winners while the world number nine hit 29 unforced errors in the loss during their latest clash. It is the third time this season the 26-year-old has beaten Swiatek in straight sets after the French Open and Ostrava.

“I think it was a very solid match from my side,” wtatennis.com quoted Sakkari as saying during her press conference. “Obviously my serve really helped my game. I felt quite good with the altitude. I could control my shots pretty well. I think every day I’ll feel even better.
“I actually have a good game to play against [Swiatek]. All three times I played her, I played one of the best matches of the season. Like even today, I think I was very solid in these conditions.”

The first set stayed on serve for the first two games and then it was the world number six who started to put the pressure and managed to get the first break of serve to take an early 2-1 lead. The set continued on serve with the Greek able to consolidate the break and at 4-2 managed to go up a double break and that was enough for her to serve it out.

During the second frame the match stayed on serve until 3-3 when again it was the Athens native who had two chances to break. On the the second time of asking she managed once again to get the crucial break and serve out the match. Towards the end a frustrated Swiatek started to cry on court.

“I’m very proud that I can be the first woman, Greek woman, to actually represent my country into the Top 10 and of course in this tournament. It feels amazing to be able to travel around the world playing these tournaments, being one of the best players, and being from my country. I’m very, very proud of that.” Sakkari commented.

Badosa Smokes Sabalenka

image via twitter.com/WTA_insider

In the other group match of the day, Spain’s Paula Badosa pulled off a shock win by upsetting top seed two Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 6-0 in one hour and 16 minutes. She was initially down 2-4 in the first set before going on to win 10 straight games to claim the victory.

“I think I played pretty good,” Badosa said. “The conditions are tough here to play, but I think I played an amazing match. She’s an amazing player. I knew I had to play like this. I’m really happy with my match.”

The world number 10 hit 14 winners and served five aces in the win while Belorussian looked rusty hitting 31 unforced errors in the loss.

Badosa now goes to the top her group as she has lost the fewest games so far in the tournament. As for Sabalenka, she admits that a breakdown in her mental game hampered her latest performance.

“After I lost the serve, I was really disappointed in myself and emotionally I was, like, really crazy,” Sabalenka said after the match. “I couldn’t just stop myself and kind of put myself back in the match.”

Badosa will next play Sakkari in the round-robin competition with the winner likely to secure their place in the last four of the tournament. It will be the first Tour meeting between the two players.

“I think she played a very good match today,” Badosa said. “I think the conditions were OK for her, as well. She felt quite good on court. I expect a tough match.”

Sabalenka will next play Swiatek.

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“We Hope to Convince Federer to Play”: the Presentation of the 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

Director Zeljko Franulovic talked about next year’s tournament, scheduled from April 9-17

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Stefanos Tsitsipas - ATP Montecarlo 2021 (ph. Agence Carte Blanche / Réalis)

The 2022 Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters will take place from April 9-17, so it’s difficult to guess what the pandemic situation will be in six months. At the moment, however, the prevalent hypothesis is that all spectators will need a Covid Pass or to bring proof of a negative test before being allowed in the Montecarlo Country Club at Roquebrune, France. If some players will refuse the vaccine, then they will need to be tested regularly in accordance to the rules devised by the French government.

 

Other than that, there will be no surprises when it comes to the event’s logistics, since the Country Club has already added a new players lounge and a new press room in the past few years. In 2020 the tournament was cancelled, while in 2021 it took place behind closed doors (while still being televised in 113 countries); the last edition staged with a crowd, in 2019, sold 130,000 tickets, constituting 30% of the total revenue – another 30% came from the sponsors, 30% from media rights (a number that tournament director Zeljko Franulovic hopes to see increase) and 10% from merchandising.

While it’s early days to know whether the tournament will operate at full capacity, Franulovic has made it clear that the organisers are already planning to provide a better covering for the No.2 Court, whose roof has not been at all effective in the past in the event of rain.

The tournament’s tickets can be bought on the official website of the event, but Franulovic has already vowed to reimburse immediately every ticket “if the government and the health authorities should decide to reduce the tournament’s capacity.”

Ticket prices have increased by 2 to 3 percent as compared to 2019, ranging from £25-50 for the qualifiers weekend, £32-75 for the opening rounds, £…-130 for the quarterfinals and semifinals, £65-150 for the final, £360-1250 for a nine-day tickets. Franulovic claims that the prices are in line with those of the other Masters 1000 tournaments.

Finally, Franulovic supports Andrea Gaudenzi’s decision to create a fixed prize money for the next decade. While tournaments like Madrid and Rome are trying to increase their duration from 8 to 12 days, the Monte-Carlo director has claimed that he prefers to remain a week-long event, especially because his is not a combined tournament. As for the players who will feature, Franulovic hopes to convince Roger Federer to participate: “I’m certain that he will give everything he has to be able to stage another comeback on the tour, ma no one knows where he’ll play. However, I think that on the clay he should opt for best-of-three events like Monte-Carlo and Rome rather than the French Open.”

For this and more information, you can watch the video above.

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Editorial

EXCLUSIVE: How The ATP Plans To Make The Tour More Welcoming For LGBT Players

The governing body of men’s tennis has received praise for taking a proactive approach to the topic with the help of a leading LGBTQ+ organisation and a top research university.

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Guido Pella during a Men's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Wednesday, Sep. 1, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Manuela Davies/USTA)

During the first week of the US Open, there was an abundance of rainbow-theme flags and wristbands worn by both players and fans to mark the tournament’s first-ever Open Pride Day.

 

The event was part of the USTA’s Diversity and Inclusion strategic platform which aims to make tennis more inclusive. Unlike the women’s game, there are no openly LGBTQ+ players on the men’s Tour and there have been few historically, even though various players have spoken of their support for anybody on the Tour who decides to come out. Including Stefanos Tsitsipas and newly crowned US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who were questioned about the topic following their second round matches. Meanwhile, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime revealed that there is an ongoing survey related to LGBTQ+ issues being conducted by the ATP.

“Recently I’ve started doing a survey inside the ATP about the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “It’s important these days to be aware of that and to be open-minded and the ATP needs to do that, in today’s time it’s needed.

“The reason we don’t have openly gay players on the ATP Tour, I’m not sure of the reason, but I feel me, as a player, it would be very open, very welcome. Statistically, there should be some, but for now there’s not.”

In response to Auger-Aliassime’s comment, UbiTennis looked into the work currently being done by the ATP alongside two other parties. Their decision to venture into LGBTQ+ representation on the Tour is part of their recent commitment to support the mental health and wellbeing of their players and staff. Last year, in May, they formed partnerships with Headspace and Sporting Chance.  

The survey currently being conducted by the ATP started after the governing body of men’s tennis reached out to Lou Englefield, the director of Pride Sports, a UK organisation that focuses on LGBTQ+phobia in sport and aims to improve access to sport for all LGBTQ+ people. Through their connection, they contacted Eric Denison, a behavioural science researcher at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences. Denison was the lead author of the Out on the Fields study, the first international study on homophobia in sport and the largest conducted to date.

“I have been personally impressed with the initiative of the ATP and their desire to find ways to mitigate the broad impact of homophobic behaviour (in particular), not only on gay people, but on all players.” He told UbiTennis during an email exchange.

“We know of no other sporting governing body in the world that has been proactive on LGBTQ+ issues, and has taken a strong focus on engaging with both the LGBTQ+ community and scientists to find solutions.”

Denison says the norm has been for sports bodies to address this issue after they have been either pressured to do so or if the LGBTQ+ community got the ball rolling themselves. Incredibly, research conducted as part of the Out On The Fields initiative documented 30 separate studies which found sports organisations ignored discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ people in sport.

Monash University has supplied the ATP with a series of scientifically validated questions, which they are using to ‘look under the hood’ at the factors which supports a culture where gay or bisexual players feel they are not welcome. The methodology is similar to a study Denison conducted in 2020 that focused specifically on the team sports rugby union and ice hockey.  

“We suspect that tennis isn’t inherently more homophobic than other sports, or traditionally male settings. Instead, there is a disconnect between people’s attitudes towards gay people (e.g. the recent pro-gay comments by top players) and their behaviour, specifically their use of homophobic banter and jokes,” said Denison.

“This behaviour, which is largely habitual, creates a hostile climate for young gay/bi people who drop out or hide their sexuality. This means gay/bi players are invisible in youth tennis and leads to the downstream problem of no professionals. The banter/jokes continue because people think it is harmless.”

The hope is that players will also agree to be interviewed by the researchers for them to get a better understanding. All of the results will then be used by Pride Sports and Monash University to recommend evidence-based solutions. It is unclear as to how long the study will take or when the findings will be ready. 

Former top 100 player Brian Vahaly is one of the few players to have been both openly gay and played at the highest level of the men’s game. However, he didn’t fully come to terms with his sexuality until after retiring from the sport at age 27. Speaking to UbiTennis earlier this year, Vahaly shed light on the potential barriers for gay players.

There were a lot of homophobic jokes made on Tour. It’s a very masculine and competitive environment,” he said. “You don’t see a lot of gay representation, except for the women’s Tour. With me not having the personality of an outspoken advocate (for LGBTQ+ issues), certainly not in my twenties, I needed some time to understand myself. To me, in tennis I didn’t feel like there was anybody to talk to or anybody that was going through anything similar.”

The ATP has spoken with Vahaly about their initiative and he has become ‘quite involved.’ Through their discussions, he got acquainted with Denison for the first time. As a professional, Vahaly peaked at a ranking high of 64th in the world and won five Challenger titles. After retiring from the Tour, he has served on the USTA’s board of directors since 2013. 

“I am happy to hear that the ATP is finally taking action to address this issue.  I’m impressed they are taking a thoughtful, data-driven approach to make a meaningful difference here,” he told UbiTennis. 

The ATP aims to make the men’s Tour more welcoming to potential LGTBQ+ athletes playing either now or in the future. For those who question if such an initiative is important in 2021, you only have to look at the younger demographic.

Sportsnet quoted CDC data from 2019 which showed that 26% of American LGBTQ+ teenagers aged 16 or 17 has contemplated suicide, five times more than those who identify as straight (5%). Among those teenagers who heard homophobic terms, 33% self-harmed and an additional 40% considered doing so.

More than 2000 players around the world currently have an ATP ranking.

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