Roger Federer goes the distance to defeat Grigor Dimitrov in Brisbane - UBITENNIS
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Roger Federer goes the distance to defeat Grigor Dimitrov in Brisbane

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Roger Federer’s love affaire with Brisbane continues as the Swiss defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals for the third year running. Federer was a finalist in 2014 and won the title in 2015, and is now just a step away from yet another final as he faces the talented Dominic Thiem for the first time in the penultimate round.

 

Before that, Federer was made to work hard to defeat Dimitrov. The Bulgarian, who is almost a spitting image of the Swiss player in terms of strokes and style, had never taken a set off Federer in three previous meetings but he showed that 2015 is well and truly behind him as he aims to re-launch a yet-promising career.

The first set was a typical cruise control opener from Federer where he holds serve and breaks at a crucial time, in the tenth game, to stun his opponent who was starting to believe a chance was there for the taking. The 17-time Grand Slam title took his foot of the gas ever so slightly in the second set and was a break down but managed to claw himself back in it to force a tie break. But on this occasion Dimitrov took his second set point to record a first ever set win over Federer.

In the final set, Dimitrov did well to save three match points at 5-3 0-40 but he was merely pushing back the inevitable as Federer served it out to overcome his first real test of 2016.

The Swiss player has been struggling with a flu throughout the tournament and asked whether it affected his performance, he replied, “Yes and no. I’m not going to tell you that much, my body is not quite ready. It’s good to get through it without any issues”. 

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Ash Barty Handed Tough First Week, Opportunity Beckons In Bottom Half Of Wimbledon Draw

Ash Barty leads another wide open grand slam draw at Wimbledon.

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Ash Barty (@SuperTennisTv - Twitter)

World number one Ash Barty will need to be at her best to pass the opening tests as the bottom half of the draw is wide open at Wimbledon.

 

As Simona Halep announced her withdrawal 10 minutes before the draw, it was guaranteed that we would have a new champion this year.

With many players having grass as their favourite surface, this year’s championships was sure to bring out an interesting draw.

Starting at the top half world number one Ash Barty is seemingly the narrow favourite for this year’s tournament should she be 100% fit.

However the world number one will need to pass some major obstacles with Carla Suarez Navarro awaiting in round one before a potential last 32 clash with Johanna Konta.

The Brit herself as struggled with a knee injury and will begin her campaign against Katerina Siniakova.

Siniakova’s double partner Barbora Krejcikova is also in the top quarter of the draw and will face talented Dane Clara Tauson in round one before a potential third round clash against Kiki Bertens.

The second half of the top quarter is filled with in-form players and grass court talent with the likes of Anett Kontaveit, Victoria Azarenka and Daria Kasatkina all waiting in this section.

A potential R2 clash between Daria Kasatkina and Jelena Ostapenko is something to note while 5th seed Bianca Andreescu will face Alize Cornet in a rematch from their clash in Berlin which Cornet won.

The second quarter sees Serena Williams appear where she will begin her quest for a 24th grand slam singles title against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Familiar foe Angelique Kerber could await in round three with the German beginning against Nina Stojanovic.

9th seed and Berlin finalist Belinda Bencic is also in Serena’s section of the draw as she takes on Kaja Juvan in round one and a potential third round clash with Coco Gauff.

Gauff, who reached the fourth round two years ago, will start against inspiring Brit Francesca Jones.

Other noteworthy names in the second quarter are Elina Svitolina, Karolina Muchova, Paula Badosa and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

In the third quarter, Karolina Pliskova headlines where she will face Roland Garros semi-finalist Tamara Zidansek in the first round.

Another meeting with Donna Vekic could await in round two before another expert grass-court player in Alison Riske awaiting in the last 32.

Other key matches in this quarter sees Jessica Pegula face Caroline Garcia while Sloane Stephens faces Petra Kvitova in a mouth-watering opening match.

Elise Mertens, Madison Keys and Sofia Kenin will all look to make deep runs in their respective parts of the draw.

In the final quarter, Iga Swiatek has been handed a tough assignment as she goes up against Su-Wei Hsieh in her first match.

Should the Pole overcome a brutal first match then Petra Martic and Garbine Muguruza are potential opponents standing in her way of the quarter-finals.

Birmingham champion Ons Jabeur will face Rebecca Peterson in the same section of the draw while Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka look on a collision course for a fourth round meeting.

Here is the full draw with play starting on Monday:

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EXCLUSIVE: Brian Vahaly on coming to terms with his sexuality, dealing with hate and making tennis inclusive

When former world No.64 Brian Vahaly spoke openly about being gay in a podcast in 2017 he received over 1000 hate messages which included threats to take his children away. Yet he is resilient and hopes his journey to acceptance is one others will be inspired by.

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America’s Brian Vahaly might have never won an ATP Tour title during his career but many consider him as a trailblazer in the world of tennis.

 

As a youngster the American showed immense promise on the junior Tour when he captured the Easter Bowl 18s title and broke into the world’s top 20. Following his success, Vahaly didn’t transition immediately to the Pro circuit and instead played college tennis in order to get his degree first. An approach which wasn’t as common back in the late 1990s as it is now. Representing the University of Virginia he earned All-American honours and reached the final of the prestigious NCAA championships whilst unseeded.

As a professional Vahaly peaked at a ranking high of 64th in the world and won five Challenger titles. During his career he played the likes of Michael Chang, Andre Agassi, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Gustavo Kurten.

Towards the end of his career, injury started to hinder his performance on the Tour. The former college sports star retired in 2006 at the age of 27 but it was 11 years after that when he first spoke openly about being gay in a podcast. A courageous move Vahaly hopes will inspire others despite some of the negativity he received. He tells UbiTennis that following the podcast he shockingly received more than 1000 hate messages. In the Open Era there has never been an openly gay player participating in a Grand Slam tournament.

Now serving on the board of directors and thriving in the world of business, Vahaly speaks to UbiTennis about his journey to acceptance, making men’s tennis more welcoming to LGBT players, coping with his mental health as a player and many more topics.

Life as a player

UBITENNIS: You are a former world No.64 player who won five Challenger titles and played in seven Grand Slam main draws. What is the best memory of your career?

VAHALY: I think about it in a couple different ways. First, I was able to compete against Michael Chang, who was sort of my childhood role model. Being able to beat him was a personal achievement.

Secondly, reaching the quarter-finals of Indian Wells back in 2003 where I beat Juan Carlo Ferrero [who would have become world N.1 for eight weeks later that year], Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Robredo. That was a big moment for me in my career.

UBITENNIS: Before you started life on the ATP Tour, you were also a regular on the college circuit.

VAHALY: I played at the University of Virginia and I was there for four years. I got my college degree and back then not a lot of college graduates were going on to the ATP Tour. There were only just a few. So I was proud at the time to be the only college graduate in the top 100. That has since changed considerably with John Isner and Steve Johnson among others. So it’s exciting to see more people going via the college route. For me personally getting my education (first) was very important to me.

Coming to terms with his sexuality

UBITENNIS: Towards the end of your career you suffered from injury and previously said you needed to be away from the sport in order to deal with issues concerning your personal life. Why did you feel the need to leave the sport completely in order to address your personal issues?

VAHALY: It was a rotator cuff issue and I had a bunch of surgeries. At that time most careers were done by the time players reached their late 20s. Obviously a lot has changed with some of my peers still playing when I thought it was time to exit.

I started to come to terms with my sexuality, and I was trying to understand who I am. I just didn’t feel safe or included in the sports field. More specifically tennis, it was a very conservative environment. So for me, when I stopped playing I very much disappeared from my friends, my tennis world and even my family a little bit. That way I could figure out more about myself and what I wanted. It’s a self-exploration process for sure and at the time I didn’t feel like tennis was a safe enough space for me to do that.

UBITENNIS: You said tennis was a very conservative environment for you. What do you mean by this?

VAHALY: There were a lot of homophobic jokes made on Tour. It’s a very masculine and competitive environment. 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 LGBT 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.

UBITENNIS: Do you ever wonder how different your career might have been if you publicly came out whilst still playing?

VAHALY: I don’t allow myself to think about it because I don’t want to think about ‘what if’. I do wonder if I would have been able to play more freely and maybe the quality of my tennis would have improved. But I do know during that time in the 2000s I would have felt very uncomfortable travelling internationally. There were certain countries which used to be very unwelcoming towards gay people in general.

To me there was a risk component to coming out, as well as a financial fear. How would sponsorships respond? You sort of don’t know what you don’t know. When you worked 25 years as a tennis player it was just a risk I wasn’t willing to take.

“People were telling me they knew where I live and they were coming to take my children away”

UBITENNIS: Nowadays there is a lot of talk about mental health concerning players such as Naomi Osaka. 15 years ago these discussions weren’t as prominent, so how did managed to cope personally with life on the Tour?

VAHALY: When I was on the Tour I had a sports psychologist, a woman called Alexis Castorri.  She has worked with a lot of Grand Slam champions. She was really influential for me in terms of getting the most out of my tennis career and after I finished competing. Helping my transition from the Tour and coming to terms with my sexuality.

Mental health is critical to me. I’ve had a psychologist now for 19 years. I continue to do it (use these services) and I will always have tremendous support for anybody who wants to prioritise that aspect of their life.

UBITENNIS: It was back in 2017 when you spoke publicly about your sexuality for the first time. Were you expecting the kind of reaction you received?

VAHALY: I knew it was important for me to speak my truth when given the opportunity. I just wanted to say it and move on a little bit. I didn’t foresee myself being an advocate. But I didn’t want to feel like I was hiding and there was a part of me, even though I was already married, felt like I was hiding from the sports world. That was a process for me.

After having kids, it changed the way I thought about everything and I felt I needed to step up in a way. I’m very much an introvert, so I was quite happy living a very private life but kids have a way of changing your priorities.

UBITENNIS: Ever since you have opened up about your sexuality, have you heard from any other athletes seeking help or advice?

VAHALY: There has been no word from tennis players, which is fine. I certainly did hear from people that I grew up playing college and junior tennis with. But not on the Pro Tour.

After the podcast came out I got quite a significant amount of negative e-mails. Probably a little over 1000 messages from people who were very disgusted by the fact two men were having children (together). A lot of really strong hate came in my direction. Where I was fortunate is that I came out later in life and I was well prepared for that kind of hate so it didn’t necessarily impact me the same way.

When people were telling me they knew where I live and they were coming to take my children away, it was a little scary. My experience was not entirely filled with warm and fuzzy acceptance.

I have to be understanding that there is a significant part of the United States and the world who do not believe it is acceptable the way my family lives. I have to be OK with that. Part of what sports prepare you for is adversity and dealing with people who are tough.

ATP far from perfect when it comes to LGBT inclusivity

UBITENNIS: On the ATP Tour there are no openly LGBT members which may or may not be a coincidence. Do you feel the men’s Tour needs to do more to make the sport more welcoming?

VAHALY: If you look at what the NFL and NBA is doing compared to what the ATP is doing – it’s not really the same. One of the reasons why I serve on the board of directors on the USTA is to change the US Open. How can we have a Pride day? How can we have events and visibly show we support it? The USTA and US Open have taken some great strides over the last two years.

I do believe the ATP, certainly as the governing body of men’s professional tennis, if they were more open and accepting in their messaging, it would help. At this stage they have chosen not to do that.

I will say that the Australian Open has done an exceptional job and I hope that continues to expand. I’m not looking to go into these environments and preach, I’m just trying to promote visibility and acceptance so LGBT people feel that they can join the sport.

UBITENNIS: When it comes to LGBT sports the big story in recent days has been NFL player Carl Nassib coming out. How important is it?

VAHALY: They (NFL and tennis) are different sports but I think it helps. NFL in the United States is one of the most macho sports out there. Seeing how the fans and teams react is really important.

I thought Carl handled it very well. He posted about it (coming out) and moved on. It doesn’t need to be a big topic of conversation. I believe this as well, which is why I went with the podcast.

That just continues to change hearts and minds around the country. When people can see them (gay athletes) out there competing, just as tough and just as successful in the athletics sphere. It (change of views) happens slowly but I think certainly all athletes are paying attention to acceptance levels and the reactions of your teammates.

Advice to others and what the future holds

UBITENNIS: Given all that you have been through. What advice would you give to somebody else who may be going through what you once experience?

VAHALY: Find somebody to talk to, somebody you trust. Know that people like us are there if you have questions. It’s just nice to have somebody to talk to who can help you learn about yourself. What I try to do is in terms of putting my family forward is that we live a pretty ‘normal life.’ I have two kids, I have a house and I walked my kids to preschool this morning. It doesn’t have to be such a defining characteristic of who you are. In the sports world, it feels that it is magnified, but what I want to show is that you can have a great athletic career, meet somebody and have a family no matter your sexuality.

UBITENNIS: So now you’re have been retired from the Tour for a few years, would you consider returning in the form of a coach or mentor if an opportunity arises?

VAHALY: I honestly don’t think I would be a great coach. I am pretty good at strategy but as it relates to technique and mechanics. It’s just not my skill set. I have moved into the business world and I like it. I have had some great success with life outside of tennis.

Also, I don’t know if travel would appeal to me any more. It worked as a single guy in his twenties but in a family with kids I want to spend time at home raising my boys.

If I can be helpful to athletes by giving my input on mental toughness, strategy and things I feel that I excelled at which got me to a high level (as a tennis player). I am always happy to share my point of view.

UBITENNIS: So what have you learned as a tennis player which has helped you in the world of business?

VAHALY: I love tennis and what it taught me in terms of dealing with defeat, victory, changing strategies, different variables and crisis management. What it has done for me is that I am very competitive in the working world but I also have very good intuition and decision making skills. I have found that transitioning into the work environment from sport, that some people are a lot smarter than I am but they are using the wrong pieces of information to make a decision. I credit all my business success to the traits I learned on the tennis court.

————

Vahaly now lives in Washington with his husband Bill Jones and they are parents of two twin boys. He currently is the Chief Executive Officer of Youfit Health Clubs.

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Wimbledon Men’s Draw: Djokovic And Federer In Opposite Halves, Medvedev Faces Tough Opener

Here is who the top names will have to play at the All England Club if they wish to lift the trophy this year.

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The Wimbledon men’s draw has taken place with some top players facing a tricky route to the title this year.

 

Novak Djokovic will start his title defence against British rising star Jack Draper who has only ever played in the main draw of an ATP Tour tournament twice in his career. The world No.250 recently stunned Jannik Sinner and Alexander Bublik to reach the quarter-finals in Queen’s. Later in the tournament the world No.1 may face former finalist Kevin Anderson in the second round, followed by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Djokovic is bidding to win his third consecutive Wimbledon title and fifth overall.

As for Roger Federer’s bid for an historic ninth title at the All England Club, he has been drawn in the opposite half to Djokovic and can only play him in the final. However, the 39-year-old faces a stern test early on against world no.42 Adrian Mannarino. A player who he leads 6-0 in their head-to-head and has already beaten twice before at the tournament. Federer has played four tournaments since returning to competitive tennis following a knee injury. In his only grass event at Halle he lost in the second round to Felix-Auger Aliassime.

Since winning his maiden Wimbledon title back in 2003, Federer has only failed to reach the second week of the tournament once, which was back in 2013.

Daniil Medvedev has a shot of redemption in what promises to be one of the most intriguing first round matches of the men’s draw. He will open up against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Stuff who he lost to in Halle earlier this month. Later in the tournament, if the world No.2 wins he will play either rising star Carlos Alcaraz or Tommy Paul. Then a clash with Marin Cilic in the third round awaits. Elsewhere in Medvedev’s section, 14th seed Herbert Hurkacz faces Italy Lorenzo Musetti in his opening match in what could be a mouthwatering encounter.

As for other top 10 players, Alexander Zvrev has been drawn in the same section as Auger-Aliassime and will start against qualifier Tallon Griekspoor. Matteo Berrettini, who recently won the Queen’s title, is on a collision course against Casper Ruud in the fourth round and faces Guide Pella first. Finally, Stefanos Tsitsipas kicks-off his campaign against America’s Frances Tiafoe.

In his first major tournament for over a year, Andy Murray will lock horns with Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Brit has vowed to play the event as it was the last of his career but is hopeful that this won’t be the case. Murray has been blighted by injury and has undergone two hip operations. Another player on the comeback is Nick Kyrgios who hasn’t played a competitive match since the Australian Open. He will start against 21st seed Ugo Humbert.

Projected rounds (based on player rankings alone)

Third round

  • Djokovic – Davidovich Forkina
  • Monfils – Garin
  • Rublev – Fognini
  • Schwartzman – Sinner
  • Tsitsipas – Khachanov
  • De Minaur – Evans
  • Shapovalov – Basilashvili
  • Bautista Agut – Opelka
  • Zverev – Isner
  • Karatsev – Auger-Aliassime
  • Ruud – Humbert
  • Berrettini – Fritz
  • Federer – Norrie
  • Carreño – Sonego
  • Hurkacz – Dimitrov
  • Medvedev – Cilic

Fourth round

  • Djokovic – Monfils
  • Rublev – Schwartzman
  • Tsitsipas – De Minaur
  • Shapovalov – Bautista Agut
  • Zverev – Auger Aliassime
  • Ruud – Berrettini
  • Federer – Carreño Busta
  • Medvedev – Hurkacz

Quarter-finals

  • Djokovic – Rublev
  • Tsitsipas – Bautista
  • Agut Zverev – Berrettini
  • Medvedev – Federer

Info via Wimbledon and twitter.com/josemorgado

Full draw

Tournament schedule

June 28 (DAY 1): R1
June 29 (DAY 2): R1
July 30 (DAY 3): R2
July 1 (DAY 4): R2
July 2 (DAY 5): R3
July 3 (DAY 6): R3
July 4 (MIDDLE SUNDAY): No play
July 5 (DAY 7): R4
July 6 (DAY 8): Women’s QF
July 7 (DAY 9): Men’s QF
July 8 (DAY 10): Women’s SF
July 9 (DAY 11): Men’s SF
July 10 (DAY 12): Women’s Final
July 11 (DAY 13): Men’s final

*schedule could change

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