Gunther Bresnik Exclusive: Meet The Man Who Taught 27 Top-100 Players - UBITENNIS
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Gunther Bresnik Exclusive: Meet The Man Who Taught 27 Top-100 Players

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Dominic Thiem’s sensational run to the semi-final of the French Open is the latest accomplishment for his coach Gunther Bresnik.

Operating from his academy in South Vienna, Bresnik has worked with no fewer than 27 top-100 players in his career. Previous students include Henri Leconte, Stefan Koubek and Jeff Tarango. Two of his most recent prodigies are Theim and former French Open semifinalist Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis recently ended his collaboration with the 55-year-old because ‘he was at a different stage of his career’.

Reflecting on his work with Gulbis and Thiem, Brenik identified one key difference that separates the two men on the tour.

“If you talk about gifted, Gulbis is the most gifted player that I have ever worked with. If it comes to just physical ability.” He told ubitennis.
“If you consider working ethics, patience for the game and everything, Dominic is on top of a few other guys. He’s not gifted in a way that he doesn’t need to do anything, but he wins a lot. Whatever he achieves in his career is through a lot of work.”

Whilst Gulbis might have the natural talent, it is Thiem that has shined on the tour this year. The Austrian has won three ATP titles and he has moved inside the top-10 for the first time in his career following his run to the semifinals at Roland Garros.

The 22-year-old got acquainted with Bresnik at the age of eight after his dad applied to work at Bresnik’s academy in Vienna, leading to the birth of the Thiem-Bresnik era.

There is no denying of Thiem’s talent, which include of a sublime backhand that even the all-time greats would be proud of. On the other hand, Bresnik believes that more improvement is required from one of the most promising talents in tennis.

“If you look at his play today, he produces many faces.” An analytic Bresnik said.
“There is a lot of potential in his serve, but he is not using it well enough, especially on his first serve.”

Thiem is currently ranked third in the tournament with his service speed, producing a best of 222 MPH.

Bresnik doesn’t come across as a big headed know it all. His grounded approach to tennis and analytical outlook is one that other players on the tour require. Theim’s achievement’s are remarkable for his age, but it is questionable if he would have reached this level so early in his career without the guidance of Bresnik.

Full interview

Interview conducted by Ubitennis director Ubaldo Scanagatta, article written by ubitennis.net editor Adam Addicott

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ATP

EXCLUSIVE: Marian Vajda Opens up About Working With A ‘New Novak Djokovic’

Ubitennis has spoken with the coach of the 14-time grand slam champion ahead of his last round-robin match at the ATP Finals on Friday.

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Marian Vajda and Ubaldo Scanagatta - ATP Finals 2018 (photo Alberto Pezzali/Ubitennis)

It was losing the ‘fear of losing’ that has helped Novak Djokovic stage one of the most emphatic comebacks in the recent history of men’s tennis, according to his coach Marian Vajda.

Vajda reunited with the world No.1 in April after previously working together for an 11-year period (2006-2017). Under his guidance, Djokovic has produced a stellar second half of the year that has seen him win four titles, including both Wimbledon and the US Open. Since July, only two players have managed to defeat him (Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov). During that same period, he has achieved a perfect record of 10-0 against top 10 opposition.

“I’ve known him for many years, but I never expected him to return back to that way so fast,” Vajda told Ubitennis. “I had a feeling that I was starting all over again with a new Novak because he had doubts after the (elbow) injury.
“The toughest part was the comparison between now and the past. He always compared himself to a champion and it took a while to get there.”

After suffering a bitterly disappointing loss to Italy’s Marco Cecchinato at the French Open, it was the magic of the grass that turned things around for Djokovic. On the surface, he reached his first final of the season at Queen’s before triumphing at The All England Club for the fourth time in his career.

“When he lost a match point to Marin Cilic (in the final at Queen’s), he started to believe. He said ‘it’s a final, finally I have reached a final,’’ Vajda commented about the start of Djokovic’s turning point this season.

Less than two weeks after falling to Cilic, the Serbian got the better of nemesis Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic at Wimbledon. At the time the Spaniard was the highest ranked player he has defeated in 2018. An achievement Vajda said spurred on Djokovic’s resurgence.

“The biggest change for him, I think, was his win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. It was an unbelievable match. I think after that he got belief and lost the fear of losing.”

It is unclear what the future hold for the Vajda-Djokovic partnership. The Slovakian coach had previously said that traveling around the world was tough on his family. His daughter is also a promising tennis player that he guides. When asked about what his plans are, Vajda gave little away. Diplomatically saying that he will ‘wait and see’ how life on the tour goes.

The full interview with Marian Vajda

Note: Article by Adam Addicott, interview conducted by Ubaldo Scanagatta.

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Davis Cup

EXCLUSIVE: Davis Cup Revamp Continues To Draw Concern From Britain’s Barmy Army

One of the UK’s most prominent Davis Cup supporters group has spoken to Ubitennis about the radical changes coming to the competition.

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Next year will see the Davis Cup enter into a new era following a radical overhaul that has split opinion in the world of tennis.

For the first time in history, the men’s team tournament will take place during two stages of the year. In February will be a series of qualifying rounds where home and away ties will take place. The winners will then travel to Madrid to play in a week-long tournament held at the Caja Magica in November. A 18-team event that features 12 qualified teams, the four semi-finalists from the previous year and two wild cards. A controversial move that has angered some countries due to loss of the ability to host the finals on home soil.

It isn’t just the team that has their concerns, it is also their fans. The Stirling University Barmy Army (SUBA) has established themselves as one of the most loyal and prestigious fan groups of British tennis. Founded in 2009 by Jamie MacDonald, former president of Sterling University, more than 120 people have attended Britain’s Davis Cup ties on behalf of the SUBA. Overall, they have attended 19 ties, including the last 12.

“The loss of regular home and away ties which therefore reduces the amount of tennis played in the UK restricting the opportunities for fans to go and watch the team.” McDonald told Ubitennis about the concerns they have about the new Davis Cup format.

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The SUBA has already stated their public opposition to the new-look event. Earlier this year, 88.9% of members voted against the reforms. Expressing concerns about the negative impact it will have on costs and travelling for British fans.

The driving force behind the Davis Cup changes are investment group Kosmos. A company that was founded by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique. They have pledged to invest $3 billion over the next 25 years in a move they claim will see national tennis associations recieve more money. Kosmos’ plans came to life in August after being approved by a vote at the International Tennis Federation’s AGM meeting.

“We welcome new funding and new people to the sport. It is up to the sport’s governing bodies to regulate this and ensure that any changes to the sport are made in the best interests of tennis.” Said McDonald.

The ‘Change It Back’ Campaign

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After being awarded a wildcard into next year’s final, Great Britain will not play a Davis Cup tie on home soil until 2020 at the earliest. Leaving the SUBA in an uncertain position on if they will be able to cheer of their team from the sidelines next year. The group last missed a tie in 2014, when Britain took on America in San Diego.

“Less people will get to see live tennis which is a huge problem for the sport.” McDonald commented about the Davis Cup Finals.
“We would like to go to the finals but this depends on being able to access tickets and the cost of flights and accommodation not proving prohibitive.

Andrew McCrea is a member of the SUBA. Like McDonald, he is also concerned about the negative impact the new Davis Cup could have for fans of the sport. He is also a supporter of the #ChangItBack campaign on Twitter. Which urges the Davis Cup to revert back to their original format.

“The people who are involved in this are just a group of Great Britain Davis Cup fans (made up of people from a variety of supporters groups such as the Murraynators, We Are Tennis Fan Academy, British Association of Tennis Supporters etc) who initially just got in contact with one another via social media and brainstormed ideas as to what the fans could do to try and make their voices heard, and I’m actually the only person involved here who is in the Barmy Army.” McCrea explained.
“A few of us came up with the idea of tweeting the #ChangeItBack hashtag on posts relating to the Davis Cup, and these people have over the last month or so has been trying to contact other people who they think may be interested in getting involved.”

McCrea believes the new format will result in certain areas of the UK missing out on chances to engage in the sport. The Scottish city of Glasgow has hosted four ties since 2015, including their year’s clash between Britain and Uzbekistan. In September 3000 school children from schools across Glasgow was invited to watch the British team practice.

“It’s special for the players as well as they don’t get the chance to play professionally in their home country very often.” He said.
“The GB team also did a hugely successful Tennis for Kids Day a couple of days before the Uzbekistan tie last month – which is a brilliant way to try and get children inspired to take up tennis. With the new format they won’t be able to do this anymore.”

From a fan perspective, some fear that due to the finals being extended to a week it will put people off travelling to the event. At present, the Davis cup finals are contested between two teams and take place between Friday-Sunday. Kosmos has previously said that they have an attendance target of 200,000 for the 2019 finals.

“I don’t think the idea of having a one week finals event is a good idea at all from a fan perspective in terms of the arrangements they need to make in order to attend it, because the fans will need to provisionally book the full week off work, etc. (plus a day or two both sides of the week for travel) and also accommodation for the full week.”

The ATP Threat

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Amid the Davis Cup fallout, the ATP is quietly working on the rebirth of their team event. From 2020, the World Team Cup will be hosted in Australia at the start of each year. Besides prize money, ranking points will also be up for grabs. Something the Davis Cup is unable to offer. Should there be no adjustment to the calendar, both events will occur within two months (at the end of one season and at the beginning of the next). Meaning that some players may have to prioritise one over the other.

“There is no reason why tennis cannot have more than one team event.” Said McDonald.
“Tennis needs variety and at the moment nearly all tournaments are the same format. We (SUBA) welcome ingenuity and new ideas.
“What we are concerned about are changes to a 118-year-old competition that has served so many fans so well.” He added.

Some are concerned that the World Team Cup could be the start of the end for the Davis Cup. Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have indicated that they will prioritise the ATP’s event. Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev is the first player to confirm that he will skip the 2018 Davis Cup Finals due to its ‘crazy scheduling.’ Adding to the fiasco, the ITF and ATP are yet to find a common ground when it comes to their tournaments.

“If the new Davis Cup format does turn out to be a complete disaster, there may come a time that the ATP World Team Cup could completely take over as the main men’s national team event and could kill of the Davis Cup for good.” McCrea warns.

The 2019 Davis Cup finals will take place between November 18 to 24.

SUBA quick facts

  • Founded in 2009
  • First tie attended – GB vs Ukraine Euro-Africa Zone 1 tie in Glasgow (2009)
  • First away tie attended – GB vs Italy (2014 World Group quarter-finals)
  • Founder Jamie McDonald is the head of the group since
  • Most members they ever had at one tie – 45 (GB vs Argentina in September 2016)
  • Average number of members they have at each tie – between 20 and 40 people.

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Featured

EXCLUSIVE: Felix Auger Aliassime, The Coming-Of-Age Of A Champion

An exclusive interview with Guillaume Marx, one of the coaches of Felix Auger Aliassime

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Felix Auger-Aliassime - Toronto 2018 (via Twitter, @rogerscup)

After Denis Shapovalov’s memorable run to the Rogers Cup semifinals in Montreal in 2017, somebody thought that his “BFF” Felix Auger Aliassime (n. 120 ATP), one year his junior, could relive the same dream a year later in Toronto. But this is tennis, not Hollywood, and after his maiden Top 20 win in the first round against Lucas Pouille (a fairly out-of-form Top 20, to tell the truth), the Canadian boy who shares his birthday with Roger Federer (8th August) ended his run against Daniil Medveded, who edged him in the second round by 7-6 in the third set.

During the week we had the opportunity to catch up with one of Auger Aliassime’s two coaches, Guillaume Marx, a Tennis Canada coach who follows Felix almost full-time together with Frenchman Frederic Fontang.

This was the first Rogers Cup for Felix: one great win with Pouille and an unlucky loss with Medvedev. How did he live this first experience in his home-town tournament, with all the extra pressures and extra demands on his time?

He didn’t do anything drastic, such as shutting down his phone or avoid the newspapers. He managed the situation, he had been thinking about it for a long time. I think he has progressively gotten used to pressure, it’s not his first experience on a big stage, and he didn’t look nervous before his first match. And when you play well everything gets easier. But he was definitely more excited than stressed.

Did he manage to celebrate his eighteenth birthday?

I think he celebrated it the night before, because on his birthday he had a match, so I think he had his cake the night before.

From a technical point of view, how has his progress been compared to what was expected of him?

I believe that technically he currently is at the level we were expecting. Somebody believes that it’s taking him too long to break in the Top-100, but we think he is progressing very well. As coaches, we are more inclined to look at his game level rather than his ranking: he has improved a lot during the last few months, while at the beginning of the year he did not play well, partly because of his injury [an injured knee forced him to skip the Australian swing in January], but now he is expressing a good level of tennis.

If Felix had won his match against Medvedev, where he has been two points away from victory, he would have reached the 105-106th position in the ranking, meaning a probable direct acceptance into the Australian Open main draw. Well, that didn’t happen, so what are his plans for the immediate future?

Next week we will be in Vancouver for the Challenger tournament, then we would go to New York for the US Open qualifying tournament. After that, we will need to see whether he will be nominated as part of the Canadian team for the Davis Cup tie in Toronto [Canada will play the Netherlands on 13-15 September in the Davis Cup World Group Play-Off] and assess his ranking at that point to figure out his schedule for the rest of the season.

It was very surprising Felix’s decision to skip the grass season completely and continue playing Challengers tournaments on clay in Europe. How was that decision taken?

Before Roland Garros we had a very long tour on clay with good results from a technical standpoint and average results. We thought we were doing a good job, catching up with what we had not done at the beginning of the year because of his injury. Therefore, we thought we could buy some time and do some more work by skipping one surface switch. Playing on grass would have meant switching from clay to grass and then from grass to hard later in the summer. Changing surface takes quite some time because you need to get used to it and that slows down the development work. Furthermore, grass is a bit of a strange surface, you don’t know how it is going to turn out, so we thought it was best to take this decision.

And what did Felix think about it? In the end, he needs to be the one buying into it, did he need convincing?

In the end what Frederic and I were suggesting did make sense, so he thought ‘why not thinking outside the box?’, and he got on board very quickly. We only had one conversation about the whole issue and the decision was made.

Every time I see Felix he looks like he has grown up? Are you monitoring his height? Do you know if he is still growing or not?

We know for sure that he grew up last year. The last time we measured him it was in January, and I don’t think he grew up in the last few months.

Do you measure him with or without hair?

Without hair, otherwise he would be too tall.

What kind of program does he follow to prevent injuries?

Every day Felix does some exercises precisely aimed at preventing injuries. When we have time we do even more work towards this, but even during days when he has a match the program needs to be followed.

A few years ago, Felix announced that he has a heart condition [tachycardia] that affects his activity. Does he need to follow a specific fitness regime because of this or take medications?

No, there are no specific precautions that need to be taken. We believe the condition is linked to his growth and it is going to disappear with time. Episodes have been extremely rare during the past two years, so we don’t need to do anything specific. Of course, we try to be careful when we see he is tired, but nothing more than that.

Is that an inborn condition?

Yes, that’s what it is.

Is there a lot of pressure on Felix for him to obtain results quickly?

He puts a lot of expectations on himself, and this helps to cope with the pressures from the outside environment. The pressure he puts on himself is more than the pressure coming from the outside. Felix is very invested in his career, he is ready to do whatever it takes to obtain the results he expects from himself and the people around him expect from him, so from our point of view there is not much to do on this aspect.to impro

Do you think the great friendship existing between Denis [Shapovalov] and Felix is positive for their careers?

I think so, they are very good friends, they push each other and the fact that their careers have followed different paths has certainly helped them. Since last year the spotlight has mainly been focused on Denis, following his success at the Rogers Cup, and this has taken some pressure off Felix, who in turn had been in the spotlight for the previous two years. The current situation is ideal: the two boys can share the load of expectations and push each other to improve.

You have said that Felix’s schedule will depend partly on him making the Davis Cup Team or not. Do you think that being part of the team at this stage in his career is a positive thing or maybe it’s a week that he could use otherwise?

I believe it is positive. Now that there are five people in the Davis Cup team it is a good thing for Felix to participate to the tie. If he were to go there as the sixth player it would be a different matter: Felix is too good a player at this stage to be just the team’s hitting partner, and it would be more useful to play a tournament during that week. But being officially part of the team is good.

How do you and Frederic Fontang share the workload?

We communicate a lot and we make all the decisions together. We share the traveling because it would be too much to do for only one person, and I follow Felix when he is in North America and he follows him while he is in Europe. We also try to schedule some training weeks together when possible, but what’s most important is that we share the traveling time.

Where is the training base for Felix?

He is based here at the Tennis Canada National Training Centre in Montreal for the time being. Maybe in future we will consider moving to a warmer place, but at the moment we stay in Montreal.

 

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