Davis Cup Australia USA day 3: Isner, solid like a rock, gives USA the victory 3-1 over Australia - UBITENNIS
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Davis Cup Australia USA day 3: Isner, solid like a rock, gives USA the victory 3-1 over Australia

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While Isner focuses on serving aces – a total of 49 – Tomic blames Kyrgios for faking his illness and his injured wrist; as a result the USA win the rubber and the tie

 
49 aces for John Isner today

49 aces for John Isner today

It could have been Australia’s resurrection, taking the USA to the decider (with Hewitt possibly taking to court again), instead Isner displayed a spotless performance and his huge serve (“it’s breath-taking watching him serve the way he did” says Jim Courier at the press conference) against a listless Tomic (“it looked like he was playing possum during the warm up” says Isner at the press conference) who showed intensity only in a few games. Isner was always in control during his serving games and took every opportunity on Tomic’s soft flat balls to bury down Australia’s hope.

A sunny Sunday in Melbourne and perfect conditions for a tennis match with temperature just shy of 30C; the centre court at Kooyong Lawn Tennis club is as crowded as loud, hoping in a comeback by the Aussies, trailing 1-2 after yesterday’s doubles. The stakes are high and the Aussie crowd responded splendidly filling every seat at Kooyong. The Fanatics are chanting and singing and inspiring the rest of the patrons. A few minutes past 11AM the rubber starts, with Isner trying to get the decisive point against Tomic to give USA the victory.

Tomic starts serving well, Isner better. Tomic is a baseline player, but it’s usually Isner to win the medium-length rallies, waiting for a slow sliced backhand by Tomic and then attacking him with an inside out forehand on Tomic’s backhand and closing with a volley. On 2-2 Tomic is up 40-15 but then faces a break point which the American converts with the usual attack on Tomic’s backhand and easy forehand volley. That is basically a set point. Isner keeps on serving brilliantly with 72% of first serve, aces (10 for him in the first set) travelling at 247 km/h and kick serves on the second serve, leaving only 2 points to Tomic on his serve in the first set. Tomic’s ball is usually flat and soft, giving Isner plenty of opportunities to move on the forehand and put pressure on the Aussie. On 5-4 Isner goes up 40-0 and converts the first set point, for a final 6-4 in less than half an hour.

The second set flows very similar, with Tomic losing mobility, and sending some backhands wide. The notorious 7th game is the key: Isner has just changed his racquet. The American passes Tomic with a great forehand along the line passing shot, and a successful attack brings him to 0-30 and then 15-40. The 2 break points are saved by a serve and a forehand unforced error by Isner. Tomic is stiff on his legs and is surprised by a return landing at his feet. A double fault gives the American a third break point, which is saved, but it’s just a matter of time and Tomic again still on his legs sends an easy backhand in the net. USA leads 4-3 and 2 minutes later 5-3 with an ace on a kicked second serve by Isner, who then take the set 6-4 with a trivial error on the net by  Tomic which reminds me of my social tennis matches rather than World Group Davis Cup. A total of five points so far for Tomic on Isner’s serve.

Nothing really changes in the third set, despite the Fanatics singing “Eyes of the Tiger” at every point by the Aussie. Tomic does not put any pressure on Isner when returning. His body language suggests he would rather be anywhere else rather than on a tennis court, and during a change of ends says to Hewitt “He [Kyrgios] has faked it twice, sitting down there in Canberra. Bullshit that he’s sick“. Can’t wait for Nick’s reply on Twitter. The accident was discussed at the press conference with Tomic confirming his stand, especially after talking to Kyrgios over the phone after the match “He told me he is still ill but will be better tomorrow and is playing in Indian Wells. If he plays Indian Wells he will lose a lot of my respect […] It’s the same situation as it happened last year […]” Hewitt instead dismisses any doubt “we had a fitness check on Thursday morning and he just was not fit”.

Tomic manages one way or another to hold serve and for the first time goes up 6-5. Then out of nowhere he is up 40-30. That’s not only the first break point of the match, but also a set point. Isner saves it with his serve followed by a forehand winner. Finally you can see intensity in Tomic’s eyes. Tomic gets a second set point, saved by an ace and a fourth, guess what? saved by an ace. Either there is something wrong is the speed camera or Isner aces now at 253 km/h (16 in this set only). However, a backhand passing shot along the line gives the Aussie the set point number 5 which is finally converted thanks to a forehand in the net by Isner. 7-5 Tomic and the match is unexpectedly re-opened. Tomic has made more point on Isner’s serve in that game than in all previous returning games together.

Aussie Fanatics chanting Eyes of the Tiger: not enough to shake Tomic

Aussie Fanatics chanting Eyes of the Tiger: not enough to shake Tomic

Tomic now shows belief in himself and hold serves to love in 2 consecutive games, but Isner keeps on serving formidably well and pressing from the baseline in case Tomic returns the serve. The tension surges and the central court explodes at every point Tomic makes. It’s 4-4 with 41 aces by Isner so far and 74% of first serve in. Isner though is not as sharp as before when returning Tomic serve, which is often slow but very sliced, sliding away on the grass (a total of 15 aces for him in the rubber). We reach the same situation of the previous set, with Isner serving to stay in the set. This time though he delivers 3 aces in the first three points and then holds serve taking Tomic to a dramatic tie-break which could mean the rubber and tie.

Tomic starts with an ace, followed by a cross court forehand winner to take a 2-0 lead. On 3-1 Isner breaks back: it’s the decisive momentum swing, which the American consolidates with ace n. 48 and a winning serve. In the only real rally of the tie-break a funky bounce makes Tomic losing his rhythm and committing an unforced error, which gives USA the break 4-5. Isner serves an ace but the net machine calls a let … a replica of the previous serve, which Tomic can just touch but cannot control, takes the USA to 6-4: it’s tie point. And guess what? Isner closes it with an ace (n.49), for a final 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 in 2:15 and 3-1 USA.

Isner has been absolutely impressive on serve with 49 aces, 76% of first serve, but the key has been the percentage of points won on second serve: 68% for Isner, only 56% for Tomic, who  was never able to put pressure on the American when returning, apart from the 12th game of the third set, and showed lack of energy, mobility and fighting spirit for at least 2 sets and a half. “After the last couple of years it has been massive for us” comments Jim Courier at the press conference “It was a tough match on paper and on the court“.

From Melbourne, Robbie Cappuccio

Davis Cup

Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics

After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.

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The area around the Olympic Rings and Olympic Stadium - (image via olympics.com)

Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics. 

 

The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events. 

Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.

“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”

The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.  

“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”

In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).

Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”

Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.

The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th. 

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Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade

A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.

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London's O2 Arena, venue of the ATP World Tour Finals between 2009-2020 (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.

 

UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.

“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”

When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.

The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.

This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.

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Davis Cup Finals To Become Three-City Event From 2021

Austria and Italy join Spain in hosting the finale of the men’s team competition.

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The International Tennis Federation has approved a plan to transform the Davis Cup finals into a three-city event with it taking place over a longer duration.

 

Starting from 2021 the finals of the 121-year-old men’s team competition will be held across three European venues which are set to have ‘similar conditions.’ Madrid, who hosted the event back in 2019, will remain the location for both the semi-finals and finals. Additionally, Turin in Italy and Innsbruck in Austria will co-host the event with each of them staging two of the six groups, as well as one quarter-final.

The development is the latest change made by the ITF in partnership with Kosmos, who have pledged to invest $3 billion in the sport over a 25-year period. Kosmos is the key driving force being the recent transformation of the competition and was founded by footballer Gerard Pique.

“The proposals announced in January were aimed at providing a better schedule for players while bringing the competition to new audiences and improving the experience for fans. Following a thorough bid process, we are delighted to be able to confirm Innsbruck and Turin as co-hosts alongside Madrid. We are confident that, together, they will deliver an outstanding world championship event for players and fans alike.” ITF Senior Executive Director, Professional Tennis, Kris Dent, said in a statement.

As a result of Turin’s and Innsburk’s inclusion in the finals, the competition has been extended from seven days to 11 days. A total of 18 teams are set to take part in the finals which wasn’t held last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From next year the number of teams will be reduced to 16. The ITF confirmed the schedule of tournaments will be issued in the ‘coming weeks.’

Former French Open champion Albert Costa says the two cities have been selected to ‘ensure a smooth transition’ between countries for players. Costa, who is Director of the Davis Cup Finals, has stressed that the conditions of each venue are similar to each other.

We are very excited to bring the Davis Cup Finals to Innsbruck and Turin. Both cities submitted impressive bids that not only promise a world class experience for players and fans, but also include stringent measures to ensure the health and safety of all in attendance,” said Costa.
“It was important to find two European cities that were well connected to Madrid, with similar playing conditions, to provide a smooth transition for players travelling from other venues. With confirmation of the three venues, we are already working hard to offer the best possible event in 2021. We are also liaising closely with the Region of Madrid and the City Council as thanks to their support, Madrid remains as the main venue for this year.”

There are questions about if the move will be enough to attract the top names. Due to the extension, the event will result in the off-season being reduced by a week. A key period for many players who used it for training.There are also questions about the decision to launch a multi-county tournament this year during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will each country having their own rules.

The Davis Cup finals are set to take place between November 25th and December 5th.

Venues of 2021 Davis Cup Finals

Madrid Arena, Madrid (ESP)

  • Group A: Spain, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Ecuador
  • Group B: Canada, Kazakhstan, Sweden
  • Quarter-finals: Winner Group A v group runner-up; Winner Group B v group runner-up
  • Semi-finals and final

Olympia-Halle, Innsbruck (AUT)

  • Group C: France, Great Britain, Czech Republic
  • Group F: Serbia, Germany, Austria
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group C v Winner Group F

Pala Alpitour Arena, Turin (ITA)

  • Group D: Croatia, Australia, Hungary
  • Group E: USA, Italy, Colombia
  • Quarter-final: Winner Group D v Winner Group E

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