Czech Republic go into the reverse singles with the advantage after doubles victory over Germany in the Davis Cup - UBITENNIS
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Czech Republic go into the reverse singles with the advantage after doubles victory over Germany in the Davis Cup

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Berdych/Stepanek ensured that the Czech Republic go into the reverse singles on Sunday in the ascendency (Image via Zimbio.com).

For a while on Friday it looked like the Czech Republic’s hopes of winning the Davis Cup in 2016 might fall by the wayside. Philipp Kohlschreiber had defeated Lukas Rosol, and Alexander Zverev was two-sets-to-one up against Tomas Berdych. A recovery from Berdych in that match ensured that the tie was level going into the doubles. Berdych partnered Radek Stepanek, but Philipp Kohlschreiber stepped in to partner former Wimbledon Men’s Doubles winner Philipp Petzschner. The Czechs won the match in straight sets 7-6, 7-5, 6-4, in two hours and forty-three minutes.

 

It was though that Jiri Vesely and Dustin Brown might play some part in the doubles, after particularly gruelling encounters for Berdych and Kohlschreiber in the singles, but both Kohlschreiber and Berdych stepped up to compete in the doubles.

A close first set that featured no breaks of serve saw the German pair edge the tiebreak before each set got progressively easier for Berdych/Stepanek. The second set also proved close, with no break points through the first ten games. That changed in game eleven, when Petzschner/Kohlschreiber offered one chance, and the break was earned. A quick hold and the Czechs led by two sets.

Berdych/Stepanek continued to raise their game, finding another break early in the third. Petzschner/Stepanek had two chances but failed to capitalise. Both teams managed to hold their serves for the rest of the match, completing the straight sets victory for the Czech Republic.

The win for the Czech Republic ensures that they remain the heavy favourites in the tie going into the final reverse singles on Sunday. The doubles result means that for Germany to progress they must, bar injury or other unforeseen circumstances, find a way past world No.7 Berdych. Berdych owns a commanding 8-1 lead in the head-to-head with his likely opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber, and the Czech has won each of their last three encounters in straight sets.

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Felix Auger Aliassime wins all Canadian battle with Denis Shapovalov in Barcelona

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (@TennisCanada - Twitter)

The Montreal native needed less than 90 minutes to dispatch his good friend and book a spot in the quarterfinals.

 

Felix Auger Aliassime booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Open Banc Sabadell in Barcelona beating his fellow Canadian and good friend Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3 in one hour and 20 minutes.

“Against a player like Denis (Shapovalov) is positive, I was able to do a lot of good things out there and hopefully I can keep that form going”

It was the number 10 seed who got off to the best possible start holding his opening service game and earning his first breakpoint of the match with his powerful forehand.

The number seven seed played a bad service game and would get broken after serving a double fault to give his opponent a 2-0 lead. The world number 20 would break once again to take a commanding 5-1 lead and serve for the set but was broken in the process.

The Montreal native would break right back the following game to take the set in a mere 38 minutes after another double fault from the world number 14.

Between the first and second set Shapovalov called for the trainer and took a medical timeout to have work done on his left shoulder. It didn’t seem to change the game that much as like the first set Auger Aliassime would hold serve and get the early break.

At 5-2 the number 10 seed would have two match points on his opponent serve but the number seven seed did a good job saving both. The Montreal native would get a third chance to seal the victory but once again the world number 14 would deny him the opportunity.

He would save one more match point before holding serve and the world number 20 would serve it out. He will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas after he beat Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-3.

After the match Shapovalov told Ubitennis if he thinks his good friend Auger Aliassime has the upper edge on him on clay being that now he has beaten him in both Madrid and Barcelona.

“He was the just the better player today and I need to play more”

After the match in his post match press conference Auger Aliassime told Ubitennis his thoughts of having fans back in the stands this week in Barcelona.

“Little by little we are seeing tournaments having fans again, I think it gives hope that things are coming back to what we used to have and I hear in Madrid they will have fans too, It’s great to have fans again, I had a great time in Australia and Mexico and I’m happy to see faces again in the stands”

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(EXCLUSIVE) Q&A With Daria Abramowicz – The Psychologist Behind Iga Switek’s Historic French Open Run

From dealing with pressure on the Tour to what makes tennis unique compared to other sports. UbiTennis conducts an in-depth interview with Abramowicz who knows personally what it is like to be an athlete, coach and psychologist.

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Daria Abramowicz (image via https://www.facebook.com/abramowiczdaria)

Daria Abramowicz may only be in her early thirties but she has already established herself as one of the best known sports psychologists in women’s tennis.

 

A former competitive sailor from Poland, Abramowicz boasts an impressive resume in the world of sports. During her career, she has worked as both a coach and athlete. Although it is the field of psychology which is best known for. A graduate of the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities she studied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology before switching focus to sports for her postgraduate studies. She has worked with national teams of both swimmers and cyclists, as well as tennis players.

It was at last year’s French Open when Abramowicz’s name within the tennis circuit started to explode. Working with Iga Swiatek, she helped guide her to the title in what was an historic occasion. Not only did Swiatek become the first Polish player in history to win a major title, she achieved the milestone in clinical form by not dropping a set in the entire tournament. Something that hadn’t been achieved since Justine Henin back in 2007.

She just made me smarter. I know more about sports and I know more about psychology and I can understand my own feelings and I can say them out loud.” The world No.16 once commented on her work with Abramowicz.

With the French Open swiftly approaching and Swiatek facing the daunting prospect of trying to defend her title, UbiTennis spoke to her sports psychologist about her current training, as well as a closer look at tennis.

UBITENNIS: Daria you have worked in a variety of sports. From the view of a sports psychologist, what is it that makes tennis stand out compared to others?

ABRAMOWICZ: You know, every sport is different somehow. It has its own specifics and has its own details. It’s unique.

In tennis, from my point of view, it’s kind of a sport which is based on pauses, breaks. You have this short break between rallies, points, games, sets and matches. Then from a wider perspective, you have breaks between tournaments. This is really relevant in terms of how we approach tennis in terms of mental preparation. When do you use the mental training tools and how do you use it? How do you keep focus, manage stress and regulate emotions?

I think that the differences are the unique qualities of tennis that go far beyond what is happening on court. Tennis is extremely closely connected to business. It’s one of these sports that’s the business aspect is really important and it’s extremely relevant for people to understand how to connect these two areas. How to manage the time and put the effort into some scenarios. I do think that this connection to tennis is one thing that makes it unique.

The other is that the high-performance level is kind of unique. Travelling across the world for eight to nine months per year and you have to go to all these places every single year for sometimes 15 or even 20 years. It’s extremely challenging. How to be yourself in it and how to keep the social support system and how to enjoy all that for so many years.

These are the most relevant qualities.

UBITENNIS: There will be a lot of pressure on Iga Swiatek over the next couple of months leading up to her French Open title defence. What are you going to do differently with Iga compared to 12 months ago in terms of preparation?

ABRAMOWICZ: We are definitely talking about higher expectations. External but also internal expectations as Iga obviously has some.

There are some things that we are doing differently with this being one of them. There’s a lot of things that we do completely the same as we would have done if she didn’t win (the French Open). We are working on focusing on the performance and single tasks. We have discussed a lot about recovery and are implementing some tools.

It’s kind of a myth that everything has changed. There are a lot of things that are similar.

I think it is a combination of these two things. If an athlete is able to be solely focused on the performance, the quality and the single task. It just fades away that he or she is a defending champion and the expectations are lower I think.

UBITENNIS: How is Iga’s preparation going after having to pull out of Stuttgart?

ABRAMOWICZ: This is kind of the top-secret stuff for the team. We are practising on the clay, having some high-quality preparation before Madrid, Rome and the French Open. That’s how it is. The team has decided that it’s relevant and the key is to prepare well for the clay season.

UBITENNIS: After the Miami Open, Iga posted a written piece on social media opening up about her experiences. Some players on the Tour are quite introverted and don’t like sharing too much as they don’t want to show any weaknesses. Do you see any correlation between a player being more open about things and an improvement in their performance on court? Would you advise other players to do the same?

ABRAMOWICZ: There are more athletes who are open about their experiences on social media. This is a change that is happening in sport right now. For example, there is this website called The Players Tribune where you can read a lot of statements and blogs written by professional athletes. I think they have extreme value.

Sometimes this is kind of a way to show people what an athlete is thinking, how they are approaching the sport and what the particular experience does mean to them.

I tend to say that you are in your sport on your own terms and you can share a bit of light on how you approach things.

It might be a little bit helpful in terms of how you approach the sport. Writing might be like a breath of fresh air that helps you solve some things and work them out.

It also helps avoid hate speech. I think that it helps people understand that high-performance sport is not all rainbows. It’s challenging, sometimes lonely and sometimes you can feel helpless. It’s human.

UBITENNIS: You once said in an interview that sports psychology is still a bit stigmatized. What do you mean by this and what do you think tennis can do to overcome this?

ABRAMOWICZ: I did sort of say that sports psychology is stigmatised but I mean that Psychology (in general) is stigmatised. Seeking psychologists for help concerns the whole society and not only the sports environment.

I do not think that tennis itself is able to help overcome this. But every single athlete, every single human who is vocal about how important it is to implement mental preparation and taking care of their mental health has  the same importance as their physical health. It’s valuable and helps raise awareness.

UBITENNIS: Some players ranked outside the top 100 may not be able to work with a psychologist due to financial constraints. What can be done to help these players?

ABRAMOWICZ: I used to say and I repeat this on every single occasion that I have that the coach is always the person who is the closest to an athlete. He or she knows the player the best and has a lot of tools to work with an athlete. Not only in terms of tennis drills or strength and conditioning, but also about the mental aspect of the game.

If there is no possibility to work with a psychologist, psychology has some tools to help (athletes) work online. It’s absolutely an everyday thing, especially right now during the pandemic. It turns out that we are able to use online for almost everything.

The coaches are great people so sharing their resources with athletes so I would advise them to invest in their relationship. Also, social support systems are extremely important.

UBITENNIS: Poland also has a top player on the men’s Tour with Hubert Hurkacz. I was wondering if you have spotted any differences in the mental approach to tennis by the men compared to women? If yes, why do you think these differences occur?

ABRAMOWICZ: We could write a book about the differences between women and men. They obviously occur in terms of emotions, managing stress and focus sometimes. But the most important differences are actually connected to the way they are practising. Dealing with recovery and keeping in touch with social support systems.

At the end of the day every one of us is an individual and gender isn’t the key to how a particular human behaves.

Men are less intent to share their emotional state and their mood. For example in society, why do we have more data about women’s depression? Because men sometimes share their emotions less. Which is also relevant to sports.

Gender is just social psychology and biology, and that’s why differences occur. This is how we should approach each relationship, in a unique way.

UBITENNIS: You have also worked a lot on the mental health side of the sport. It has been documented that physical activity improves a person’s mental health and tennis’ governing bodies are making progress on this subject in recent years. Based on your experience, what more do you feel can be done to support players who might be experiencing some sort of issue?

ABRAMOWICZ: Psychology and sports are actually developing really well and it’s starting to have this tendency that we are not just talking anymore about the mental training and mental preparation for an athlete to use their potential the most effectively during competition. But also we’re talking more about mental health, especially during this pandemic. I think that all governing bodies, including tennis, should focus more on mental health.

I think there is a space for education and raising awareness in terms of how to use mental training tools and how technology could support this area. The most important thing to me is to work against stigma and raise awareness in terms of taking care of mental health.  

Daria can be followed on Twitter or Facebook. Her website (which is in Polish) is www.dariaabramowicz.com)

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‘Proud’ Novak Djokovic Thriving In Home Environment At Serbia Open

The Serbian produced a clinical performance in his opening match at the Belgrade Open but his focus isn’t just on himself.

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The week is very much a case of national pride for Novak Djokovic as he relishes in the rare opportunity of playing an ATP match in his home country.

 

The world No.1 is the headline act at the Serbia Open which is the most prestigious men’s event to take place in the country since 2012. It is being played at the Novak Tennis Center which is named in honour of the 18-time Grand Slam champion. It is somewhat of a sentimental experience for Djokovic considering the last time he played an ATP event in his native Serbia he had won only two major titles and was yet to reach the world No.1 position.

It is perhaps for this reason why the top seed felt at home in his opening match on Wednesday. 70 minutes was all Djokovic required to defeat South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-1, 6-3. The only blip he experienced was being broken in the penultimate game of the match as he won 74% of his service points.

“A lot of those people on the court I’ve known for over 20 years. It feels really special playing in front of them and it gives you an extra motivation to really give your best and leave it all out on the court,” he said afterwards.
“That made me feel comfortable and confident. I played really good and I’m very pleased with the quality of my tennis.”

If battling for a title this week wasn’t enough, Djokovic is keen to ensure the overall running of the tournament goes as smoothly as possible. Aiming to prove that Serbia has what it takes to stage a top event in tennis. His brother Djordje is the tournament director and they are determined to make sure the Serbian Open isn’t just a one-off on the calendar.

“It’s quite important for me and my brother that everyone or at least a majority of guests who came here (to Belgrade) have a good time,” he said.
“ So far we have heard a lot of positive feedback. That gives us more inspiration to organise it (the tournament) even better next year.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Djokovic tried to support his compatriots on the Tour by opening up his academy for them to train at his academy. Now his hope is that a surge of events being staged in Serbia will help raise their level of play. Belgrade will host a second 250 event next month thanks to the French Open being delayed by a week. Meanwhile, there are also tournaments for the women taking place too.

“It’s amazing. I’m very proud that we are able to bring this many quality tournaments (to Serbia),” Djokovic reflected. “One of the biggest goals of why we do this is because we want to allow the home players to have as many opportunities to compete at a high level.”

As for Djokovic’s participation in the second Belgrade event, it appears to be unlikely given the close proximity to the French Open. When asked about his plans for the event he replied ‘I love sleeping at home and spending time with my family.’

Djokovic will play eighth seed Miomir Kecmanović in the next round.

“It’s been a thrilling performance so far and lets hope I can go all the way this week.” He concluded.

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