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The Murray Mafia

Joshua Mason

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mafi murrays

The Murray Family may sound like an adorable folk band or murderous Californian cult, but it is not. Instead Andy, Judy and Jamie, who came out of a small town, have taken over British Tennis and are now setting their sights high, infiltrating all areas of the game. Andy Murray could make it another major in Australia this month as one of the favourites and with a child on the way, the family is only getting bigger. Much like the Cosa Nostra in their quest for expansion of the New World, the Murray’s are taking over Tennis, and it seems they are profiting hugely from their ‘raqueteering’.

 

Don’t Hate the Players

On the playing side, the Murray’s have two world beating foot-soldiers. Andy was always going to be the star child once he left for Barcelona as a teenager. He grew up there playing Djokovic and Nadal, which gave him the schooling he needed to get to where he is today. And today is certainly looking good – two Olympic medals, one US Open, a Davis Cup and  the Wimbledon win. It has not been an easy ride however, there have been plenty of losing battles too. Being a runner-up of 5 majors, Andy has experienced plenty of trials, but it is always about how you react. Murray has become a record breaker in British Tennis and given hope to a nation who have lived in the shadow of almost-man Tim Henman for too long.

Jamie is often the forgotten brother, (Jelena Jankovic didn’t even know who he was when she met him in Miami. He asked her to partner him at Wimbledon 2008) but has forged a road all on his own in Doubles, and like his brother, has seen unprecedented success for British Tennis. Jamie won the 2008 mixed doubles at Wimbledon and has also been the first brit in decades to reach a US Open doubles final too. He has always been at the side of his family, and at the 2015 Davis Cup he played an important role, winning the Doubles matches alongside Andy. Jamie Murray has achieved 13 ATP tour titles and will no doubt be at the forefront of the doubles game even after his playing career is over.

 

Mamma Mia

Like all good Mafia families there is a strong matriarchal character – enter Judy Murray. Born to a professional football player Roy Erskine, who played for Stirling and Cowdenbeath in the 50’s, Judy was always destined for a sporting life. Unfortunately for her it wasn’t going to be her. Despite a short stint as a pro in 1976 and playing against the likes of Debbie Jevans and Mariana Simionescu, she failed to make the grade. She could not stay away from the court long though and has lived her passion through her sons. She was their coach before finding success, and has continued her coaching to this today. She is currently helping Heather Watson as her interim coach and captains Great Britain’s Fed Cup team.

She seems to be the business brain of the Murray’s too, with an extravagant plan for a development near her hometown of Dunblane. The development which would include a Tennis Academy, Museum, Hotel and Visitor Centre would be a true legacy of the Murray’s achievements. Crucially though it was being built on greenbelt land, and the council have shown little enthusiasm for it, rejecting the initial bid. The plans also hid the fact there would be a golf course and 19 luxury homes in the development, which drew 1,000 complaints from residents. This has not stopped the Murray’s pushing for a change in the decision with a likely appeal pending. Like any self-respecting Mafia they brought in their celebrity pals to help, no not Frank Sinatra, but Sir Alex Ferguson and Colin Montgomerie who have put their backing to the idea. They will be hoping to give the council an offer they can’t refuse.

 

Keeping It In La Famiglia

Family is always number one in Mafia and the Murray’s are no different. Andy not satisfied with the amount of tennis in his life married into it this year. Kim Sears may seem like an another beautiful WAG, but her and Andy actually met through her father Nigel Sears – a British Tennis coach. He has worked with the likes of Amanda Coetzer, Daniela Hantuchová and Ana Ivanovic in his career, and his daughter Kim Sears married Murray in april last year in Dunblane.

Andy has claimed that he will fly home from the Australian Open if his wife goes into labour, as he understandably wants to be there for the birth. With the Murrays excelling in every side of singles, double, coaching and business, it is scary to think about the potential of any new member to the family. One thing is for sure, they have had an incredible impact on British Tennis and dragged the fans with them, creating a whole new level of optimism in Britain. It seems the next step will be creating a legacy, and with more Murray’s on the way, not even their rival Tennis family the Williams’ can compete at the moment.

ATP

The ATP Next Gen Finals, a showcase for future tennis stars

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The 2018 ATP Next Gen Finals have been officially presented to the Italian media during the official press conference at the Palazzina degli Orafi at City Life, the modern commercial and business district in Milan. The press conference was attended by AT Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode, FIT President Angelo Binaghi. Giovanni Gorno Tempini, President of Fiera Milano, Martina Cambiaghi, Councilor for Sport of Regione Lombardia, and Roberta Guaineri, Councilor for Sport of Milan City Council.

The second edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals will be held from 6-10 November 2018 at the Fiera Milan.

Denis Shapovalov from Canada, Frances Tiafoe from the USA and Alex De Minaur from Australia have secured their spot for the prestigious tournament with the top eight Under 21 players in the world joining the already qualified Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece.

“The Italian Tennis Federation is ready to set up a new edition of the ATP Next Gen Finals with ATP and Coni Servizi and the support of Fondazione Fiera Milano, Ente Fiera, Regione Lombardia and Milan municipality. Milan confirms its leading tradition in Italy and around the world in organizing top events for young players. The ATP Next Gen Finals will be a showcase for future tennis stars. Major junior tournaments like the Trofeo Bonfiglio, the Trofeo Porro Lambertenghi and the Trofeo Avvenire take place every year. Players, who have reached the top in the world of tennis, started their career in Milan. The 2018 season has been very successful for Italian tennis. For the first time since 1979 two Italian players have reached the top 20 in the ATP Ranking. Fabio Fognini won three tournaments in Sao Paulo, Bastad and Los Cabos. Marco Cecchinato lifted two trophies in Budapest and Umag, Camila Giorgi won her second title in Linz. We have a good group of young players. We are confident that we will be able to do better than last year. We expect this event to be not only very exciting, but also capable of responding fully to the needs of producing a great stage for tomorrow’s world tennis dominators. We also trust that our ATP Next Gen Finals will confirm Milan as a strategic for our national and international tennis movement. Last year Hyeon Chung won the first edition of the ATP Next Finals and went on to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open. This year the level is even higher than in 2017”, said FIT President Angelo Binaghi.  

The innovative tournament will continue the innovations, which were trialed at the inaugural tournament last year. The new rules include the best-of-five set format, shorter sets to 4 (tiebreak at 3-All), No-Lets and In-Match player coaching via head-sets. The player warm-up will be reduced by a further minute from 5 minutes to 4, and players will be instructed to use a towel rack at the back of the court to remove the onus on ball-kids to handle towels.

“Many people have asked me why we chose Milan as host city. It’s a simple question to answer and is summed up by two simple words: innovation and passion. People, who are behind the organization of this event have the passion for tennis. Italian people are passionate fans. Last year this tournament was very successful and that was was incredible for a first edition. Milan has the opportunity to see players, who are on the threshold of world excellence. The ATP Next Gen Finals is a launchpad for future players. The depth of this year’s tournament is really exceptional. Tsitsipas has reached the top 15, Shapovalov qualified for the Masters 1000 semifinals in Madrid. Our sport is very conservative, but it has to adapt to changes. We need to find a new generation of tennis fans and be brave and innovative. We will not rush innovations but do strategically”, said ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode.  

 The most eagerly awaited stars of this year’s edition are Denis Shapovalov and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov has qualified for the second consecutive year. He came close to reaching the semifinal in 2017 after a very successful season in which he became the youngest ATP Masters 1000 semifinalist since 1990 at the Canadian Open. This year the left-hander reached another Masters 1000 semifinal at the Madrid Mutua Open. He also qualified for two more semifinals in Delray Beach and Tokyo. He was born in Tel Aviv. He is the son of Tessa and Viktor Shapovalov. His mother was a former player and moved from Russia to Israel, where she became a tennis coach. The family moved from Canada before Denis’ first birthday.

Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas became the youngest player in ATP World Tour history to beat four top 10 players in Toronto’s Rogers Cup (Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev after saving two match points, and Kevin Anderson after fending off another match point). He became the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at 2007 Miami. He is coached by his father Apostolos. His Russian mother Julia Salnikova was a top Soviet player in the 1980s. His father helped Stefanos develop his aggressive game and his one-handed backhand.

Two US players Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz have already secured their spot in the line-up. Fritz reached his first ATP World Tour final in only his third tour-level event in Memphis where he finished runner-up to Kei in the 2008 Delray Beach Open. The 20-year-old player married Raquel Pedraza, who played at all four Grand Slam tournaments. Their first child Jordan was born in January 2017. Taylor’s father Guy was a former professional player and his first coach. His mother Kathy May Fritz won sevent WTA titles.

Tiafoe won his maiden ATP title last February in Delray Beach after beating Juan Martin Del Potro, Hyeon Chung, Denis Shapovalov and Peter Gojowczyk. He became the first wild-card recipient to win the Delray Beach title in the 26-year history and the youngest US champion on tour since Andy Roddick at 2002 Houston. His first idol was Juan Martin Del Potro. Tiafoe became the youngest player to reach an ATP Tour final on European clay in 30 years. His parents Frances and mother Alphina moved from Sierra Leone to the USA in 1996. When Frances was a kid, his father worked at the Junior tennis Champions Center in College Park in Maryland.

Australia’s Alex De Minaur reached a career-high of world number 31 after starting the year at world number 210 in the ATP Ranking. Last August Alex saved four match points against last year’s ATP Next Gen Finals runner-up Andrey Rublev in the semifnal of the Citi Open ATP 500 level tournament in Washington to reach the final.He also reached the semifinal in Brisbane and the final in Sydney. De Minaur works with Australian legend Lleyton Hewitt, who is Alex’s mentor during Grand Slam tournaments and Davis Cup ties. De Minaur’s father Anibal comes from Uruguay. His mother Esther is Spanish. They moved to Australia, when Alex was 13 years old.

There are still remaining spots. The favourites to clinch the remining two automatic spots are last year’s ATP Next Finals runner-up Andrey Rublev and Spain’s Jaume Munar. The eighth spot will be reserved for the winner of an Italian qualifying tournament to be held in Milan in the week before the ATP Next Gen Finals.

TAG Heuer will partner with the Italian Tennis Federation to become the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the ATP Next Gen Finals and will provide the on-court clock and the Shot Clock.

 

 

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Focus

WTA Finals Draw: Kerber And Wozniacki Lead Unpredictable Field In Singapore

Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki lead a red-hot Singapore field that provides unpredictability and intrigue.

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The WTA Finals line-up

The WTA Finals draw has been made with Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki leading the field in Singapore in what could be the most unpredictable WTA Finals yet. 

The showpiece event may be without world number one Simona Halep, after her back injury, but this year’s line-up in Singapore is just as compelling and unpredictable.

The field is being lead by Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki as eight of the world’s battle it out to become the year-end champion.

In this unique round-robin format, anyone of the eight could claim the title with the WTA tour always lacking in predictability and consistency.

In the Red Group, which starts on Monday, top seed Angelique Kerber leads proceedings after claiming her third grand slam title and playing some of the best tennis of her career. Although she has parted ways with coach Wim Fissette she will look to end the year strong and build momentum towards 2019.

Joining Kerber is US Open champion Naomi Osaka, who is making her WTA Finals debut, fifth seed Sloane Stephens as well as Cincinnati champion Kiki Bertens.

In the red group, only Sloane Stephens has a winning head-to-head record against her group rivals in what certainly should be an intriguing and balanced group.

The other group sees Australian Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki lead proceedings as the Dane will look to defend the title that she won last year.

Joining the second seed sees fourth seed Petra Kvitová, who is making her first appaearance at the WTA Finals since 2015. The Czech is the leading titles winner on the tour in 2018 having won five titles this year.

Completing the white group are 6th seed Elina Svitolina and 7th seed Karolina Pliskova, who have both had average seasons this year.

The white group is full of opportunity although you would have to pick Petra Kvitová as favourite given her form in 2018 as well as having an 18-6 record against her group rivals.

So action begins in Singapore on Sunday, with the WTA Finals moving to Shenzhen next year expect a lot of high-quality tennis as Singapore looks to end its WTA Finals stint with a bang. Here is Sunday and Monday’s schedule:

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Grand Slam

Wimbledon To Introduce Final Set Tie-Breaks Following 2018 Fiasco

The grass-court major has announced a major change to their scoring rules.

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The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has made a historic change to their rules after announcing from 2019 a final set tie-break will be applied to all matches.

In a statement released on Friday morning, the governing body of the grand slam has confirmed that tie-breaks will now be used when the final set reaches 12-12. The winner will be the first to reach seven points in the tie-breaker with a winning advantage of at least two points. The rule change will apply to all qualifying, men’s, women’s, mixed and junior singles and doubles matches.

“In reaching this decision, the AELTC Committee sought the feedback of both players and officials, analysed two decades of match data, and considered other factors, including scheduling complexities and spectator experience.” Chairman Philip Brook said in a statement.
“Our view was that the time had come to introduce a tie-break method for matches that had not reached their natural conclusion at a reasonable point during the deciding set. While we know the instances of matches extending deep into the final set are rare, we feel that a tie-break at 12-12 strikes an equitable balance between allowing players ample opportunity to complete the match to advantage, while also providing certainty that the match will reach a conclusion in an acceptable time frame.”

The change in rules follows two marathon men’s semi-final matches that took place at Wimbledon earlier this year. Kevin Anderson defeated John Isner 26-24 in the final set during a encounter lasting more than six hours. Then Novak Djokovic’s win over Rafael Nadal lasted more than five hours. As a consequence of the two lengthy matches, play was delayed until the next day. Resulting in the Women’s final being controversially delayed. Wimbledon are prohibited to play matches after 11pm is accordance to an agreement they have with the local council.

Anderson, who lost to Djokovic in the final, has previously argued that few players would oppose the introduction of a final set tie-breaker. The South African is a member of the ATP Players Council.

“I think if I asked most players, they wouldn’t be opposed to incorporating a fifth-set breaker.” Anderson told reporters earlier this year.
“ I’m sure there’s a few people that embrace the history, that you do play long sets. It is a unique point. I definitely agree with that.
“But I think just as tennis continues to evolve and just sports in general, I think the incredibly long matches maybe has had its place and time.”

Wimbledon is the second grand slam to implement the rule in singles competition. The first was in Flushing Meadows at the US Open. It has been reported that the Australian Open are also contemplating introducing a similar rule to their tournament in the future.

The longest match to have ever taken place in grand slam history occurred at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships when Isner defeated Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the decider. The match was played over three days and lasted 11 hours and five minutes.

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