I remember writing about Andy Murray’s amazing end to 2015 for Ubitennis. He had won not only the Davis Cup with Team GB, but also earnt the admiration of his countryman with the Sports Personality of the Year Award too. Well little did I know that 2016 would be yet another amazing year for the Scotsman, who has scaled the dizzying heights of professional tennis and finally reached World Number One.
His victory at the ATP Paris Masters broke the longest ever wait, for a No2, to become No1. His combined 350+ weeks at second place dwarfs those of the other big three. Murray’s year has seen 8 titles, 12 finals, his 3rd Grand Slam and 2nd Olympic Gold Medal. He has won 74 matches in 2016 with 527 aces, banking an impressive £8.75m in prize money. And now he is the first British man in history to hold the World Number One spots since the records started 43 years ago.
His focus now turns to the season ending ATP World Tour Finals where he will start his tenure as number 1 against Milos Raonic, who he defeated in the Wimbledon final this year. Murray isn’t letting the excitement of his achievement distract him from the showcase event. “Yesterday was a great day, today has just been a normal day at home with the family,” Murray said after the draw for the O2 tournament. “Once you’re out on the court, you don’t think about your ranking. You’re playing against the top eight players in the world. I look forward to getting out there and playing at the O2. “I’ll try and take a few days’ rest now, start hitting again on Thursday. I need a few days’ break. It will be one big push for all the guys. Everyone has played a lot of tennis and hopefully everyone can play well.”
The achievement of becoming world number 1 is not, as many people outside the sport think, a gimmick or attempt to fill out the CV. It is a benchmark of a player’s ability and consistency against their peers. In Murray’s case this is an era where three of the greatest players of all time are also playing. Unfortunately holding such a position is not as easy as keeping it, and some have found in the past that just being there is bad enough. Andre Agassi claims he was at his most miserable during his tenure and John McEnroe who was world number 1 for 170 weeks said it came with a incredible sense of loneliness. “You’re out there on your own island,” he once said. “And you feel like you’re disengaged, not only with the rest of the world, but the rest of your competitors, some of them friends.”
It is not just Tennis where staying top dog is harder than actually getting there. The England Rugby team who won the World Cup in 2003 realised it was the pinnacle of their capabilities when they finished third in the next six nations, and fourth in the next two. It took them a good ten years to recover. The England Cricket team also discovered the curse after becoming the best test nation in 2011 only to be whitewashed in their next game against Pakistan. It also puts a target on your back and for Murray, the main hunter is arch nemesis Novak Djokovic.
It is by no means the mountain summit for Murray though, things could still get better for the Scot. The Australian Open is his best opportunity yet, with Nadal and Federer slowly disappearing and Djokovic looking slightly jaded. Five defeats will be a difficult thing to get over for Murray though. The other slam that is out of his reach has been the French Open, but his continued improvement on clay means that this too is likely to be his best chance to win so far. One thing that seems to be a shoe in is BBC’s Sports Personality yet again! Betting Tips all point to the scotsman. If it has any effect on his future like it did last year Murray could be in for another stellar year in 2017.
Murray has reached the pinnacle of his career so far but there seems to be a crossroads ahead of him. Being World Number One could be a difficult period but is he can keep breaking people’s expectations as he has done then even greater things could be on the horizon.
Svetlana Kuznetsova Wins First Title Since Return From Surgery In Washington
The two-time grand slam champion has returned back to the winners circle following her six-month absence due to injury.
Former world No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova saved four match points to defeat Donna Vekic 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, in the final of the Citi Open in Washington.
Kuznetsova, 33, fought back against the aggressive play of her opponent. Saving seven out of the 10 break points she faced in the match. Eventually, it was the experience of the Russian that guided her to the finish line as she hit 34 winners to 36 unforced errors to win her first title on the tour since the 2016 Moscow Open.
“It was a difficult week,” Kuznetsova reflected afterwards. “Tennis is always mental, if you lose or if you win, you always gotta stay focused.”
With both players contesting their first final of the season, it was Vekic who battled through what was a roller-coaster and tense opening set. At first, the seventh seed appeared on course to clinch the opener with ease after breaking Kuznetsova in the fourth game as she raced out to a 4-1 lead. Only to be pegged by the 2014 champion. Serving for the set at 5-3, a forehand error rewarded Kuznetsova the chance to break back. Prior to the following point, the Russian complained about the movement of the crowd just as Vekic was about to serve. Then the Croat hit a double fault with the two players exchanging words at the changeover.
Despite feeling hard done by, Vekic soon restored order in the match. As Kuznetsova served for a chance to level 5-5, she pounced one again as the former world No.2 faltered. Recovering from a 15-40 deficit to seal the opening set with the help of a Kuznetsova double fault on set point.
Vekic continued to fight with the help of her of some rapid shock-making. Fending off a break point to nudge ahead 4-3 in the second set. Although Kuznetsova refused to go away. Saving two match points, it was in the tiebreaker where the Russian managed to turn her fortunes around. Vekic missed out on another two chances to win the match, allowing Kuznetsova to nudge ahead 8-7. She was then able to force proceedings into a decider after a Vekic forehand slammed into the net.
Kuznetsova’s resilience eventually wore her opponent down, who was close to tears after the match. Vekic admitted afterwards that she was dealing with leg pain and took a medical time out just before the start of the final set.
A double break in Kuznetsova’s favor in the decider guided her to a 5-0 lead. Enough of a cushion to enable her to close out the match after two-and-a-half hours of play to win her second Washington title.
“I know I’ve been a little bit lucky today,” she said.
“There’s something going on with Washington. I never lose here. I played two times and I won both.”
The victory comes after what has been a testing first half of the year for Kuznetsova. Left wrist surgery forced her to miss six months of the tour. Meaning that she didn’t start the 2018 season until March. Prior to the Citi Open, she had only won four matches in 10 tournaments played. Making her latest triumph even more special.
“Those times I had after the surgery, I had difficulties everywhere — personal, working different things. I switched coaches. I had lots of issues,” Kuznetsova explained. “But still, I rise again, and it’s really good for me.”
As a result of her latest win, Kuznetsova has risen 41 places in 87th in the world. Meanwhile, Vekic has jumped seven places to 37th.
Davis Cup Reforms Face Late Opposition As Vote Looms
The proposed Davis Cup reforms have received strong criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe ahead of this month’s vote.
The upcoming Davis Cup reform vote has received some strong opposition and criticism from Tennis Australia and Tennis Europe.
The vote is set to take place on the 16th of August, where federations will vote to change the 118 year old format to a one week season finale at the end of the year. The proposed move by Kosmos, has received fierce criticism and will need a two-thirds majority in order for it to be approved.
However with the vote just two weeks away Tennis Australia has been among the federations to oppose these reforms and have pushed this even further as they have wrote a letter expressing their discontent at the idea. The letter has been signed by the likes of John Newcombe, current Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
The letter raises the following concerns, “We have written and spoken to the ITF President for several months now requesting clarity on the proposal from Kosmos, but this has not been forthcoming,” explained the letter, which is even signed by former ITF president Brian Tobin.
“Very large numbers are being referenced, but there is not enough detail to give us confidence this proposal will genuinely deliver enough additional value to players and the nations to offset the loss of home and away camaraderie and all the local marketing, facility investment and player development benefit that comes with those ties. In the absence of such important information, we have no choice other than to vote against the proposed amendments.”
However Tennis Australia isn’t the only federation to be against this move as Tennis Europe, who represent more than 50 member nations have also expressed their concern at the idea, “I am particularly concerned that there is hardly any information received from the ITF regarding bank guarantees for the proposed US$120 million per year which would be the $3 billion deal over 25 years, according to the original proposal,” President Vladimir Dimitriev explained in a separate letter.
“I have not yet seen a final and feasible explanation on how the business model or the governance structure will be either.”
The ITF do have the backing of Germany and France ahead of the move though with the AGM meeting set to take place in Orlando, Florida between the 13th and 16th of August.
Serena Williams Withdraws From Montreal Due To Personal Reasons
Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week due to personal reasons.
Former world number one Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Coupe Rogers in Montreal next week as she deals with some personal issues.
The American suffered the worst defeat of her career last week when she lost 6-1 6-0 to Johanna Konta in San Jose. The 23 grand slam champion clearly wasn’t at her best and it now turns out that she had personal problems to deal with as this is the reason for her withdrawal in Montreal next week.
The recent Wimbledon finalist also felt that she could not play Montreal and Cincinnati in back to back weeks as she continues her comeback from pregnancy. The tournament director, Eugene Lapierre, admits that he is disappointed but still recognises the high quality field that is left, “Of course, we are disappointed that Serena will not be joining us, Fans were very much looking forward to seeing her in action,” explained Eugene.
“But beyond the disappointment, the tournament, as a whole, remains a high-level competition. The entire Top 10 is here, along with 22 of the Top 25. There are exciting matches in store from the outset.”
The American was set to play in Canada for the first time since 2015 before withdrawing today. The 23 time grand slam champion has played five events since returning from pregnancy and the results have been mixed as you can see below:
Indian Wells – Third Round
Miami – First Round
Roland Garros – Fourth Round
Wimbledon – Final
San Jose – First Round
Tatjana Maria will now replace Serena Williams in the main draw and the German faces Alize Cornet in the first round.
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