Australian Open draw updated with qualifiers, Peter Polansky benefits from Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrawal - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open draw updated with qualifiers, Peter Polansky benefits from Thanasi Kokkinakis withdrawal

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Polansky suffered a three-set defeat to Andre Rublev in the qualifying round, but is the first “lucky loser” of the tournament, benefiting from Thanasi Kokkinakis’ misfortune. (Zimbio.com)

The full draw for Australian Open is finally out, with the places marked “qualifiers” finally filled.

 

At the time the draw was made the final round of qualifying had not been completed, therefore places were marked qualifiers until such player’s identities could be determined.

(Q) Andrey Rublev vs Yen-Hsun Lu

Malek Jaziri vs (Q) Go Soeda

(Q) Alexander Bublik vs (16) Lucas Pouille

Thomas Berdych vs (Q) Luca Vanni

(Q) Bjorn Fratangelo vs (Q) Noah Rubin

(Q) Jurgen Melzer vs (17) Roger Federer

(26) Albert Ramos Vinolas vs (Q) Lukas Lacko

(Q) Thomas Fabbiano vs Donald Young

(Q Frances Tiafoe vs Mikhail Kukushkin

Yoshihito Nishioka vs (Q) Alex Bolt

Daniil Medvedev vs (Q) Ernesto Escobedo

Dmitry Tursunov vs (Q) Radek Stepanek

(Q) Reilly Opelka vs (11) David Goffin

(Q Blake Mott vs (18) Richard Gasquet

(30) Pablo Carreno Busta vs (LL) Peter Polansky

Denis Istomin vs (Q) Ivan Dodig

  • Polansky has made the main draw despite losing to Andrey Rublev in the qualifying round. Kokkinakis was forced to withdraw following an abdominal injury.

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The Tournaments At Stake: Madrid Is A Go, Rome A Definitely Maybe

Angelo Binaghi, the president of the Italian Tennis Federation, seeps optimism. However, there might be just one Master 1000 spot before Paris, were the French and the US Open to both take place, and in that case the Spanish event would prevail.

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Rafael Nadal - Conferenza Roma 2019 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

On Friday, Angelo Binaghi held a press conference to spread his (incautious?) optimism vis-à-vis the Internazionali d’Italia will be taking place in the latter half of September. Honestly, I don’t think he did it exclusively in order to eschew the refunding this year’s tickets, although, as a former PM used to say, to think ill of somebody is a sin, but it’s often the right thing to do.

 

Let me say that I dearly hope his buoyant predictions come true, for his own sake and for those of the Italian Federation, of UbiTennis, of myself, and of all tennis fans. However, it only seems right to go back to my Crystal Bald persona to obsequiously point out that:

  1. The clay season depends on the decision that will be made (collegially) by the US Open and the by the Master 1000 of Cincinnati, the apple of the USTA’s eye, as reported by L’Èquipe, the French sports newspaper, and by our own Vanni Gibertini.
  2. As of today, the Canadian Open is looking a ton shakier than Cincinnati does, and not just because it takes place a week earlier, allowing less time to gauge a potential decrease in the virus’s virulence (as many have speculated), but also because of the stance of the Canadian government on the Covid-19 situation. At the same time, though, were the US Open to be cancelled, no European standout would fly to North America to play solely in Cincinnati – a risky trip for the sake of a then senseless event.
  3. The widely held opinion is that Flushing Meadows will happen.
  4. While Binaghi is pushing to host the Italian Master 1000 event at all costs, regardless of the time of the year (maybe even moving it to Milan or Turin as an indoor tournament), the ownership of the Mutua Madrilena gig is of the unmovable opinion that the event must be played before the French Open, or else, sayonara to next year. Rumour is that there’s a chance that 50% of the usual crowd might be allowed in the Caja Magica – the futuristic building would allow for an easier adherence to the restrictions of the pandemic, something that would be a lot more complicated to pull off in Rome’s antiquated, albeit beautiful, spot.
  5. After perusing among folks with knowledge of the status of things (as I did myself), L’Equipe is reporting that the US Open will take place in the usual spot, between August 31 and September 13 – the likelihood of this happening has dramatically increased over the last 10 days. Inevitably, such punctuality and zest would open just one Master 1000 spot between New York and Paris.
  6. Think about it: how could the Flushing Meadows finalists precipitously fly to Europe to play a Master 1000 event that would begin literally the day after the North American showdown? How could they slither their way through post-match treatments and jetlag in order to play, possibly without fainting, on Wednesday at the latest?
  7. Madrid wouldn’t be game to this arrangement. Ion Tiriac’s tournament would be at the very concrete risk of not having a pair of big names, names that at that point would probably be the biggest, i.e. the US Open finalists who would have to perform a hard-clay switch over a 48-hour span. Even Rafa Nadal, who is the defending champion in New York and who would certainly struggle less than others to find his feet on the beloved red dirt, even he wouldn’t likely take such a risk only for the pleasure of playing in front of a home crowd. Needless to say, Madrid’s sponsors wouldn’t be enthusiastic of the arrangement either, were the tournament orphaned of Nadal himself or of another brace of marquee draws.

Intermission now. Thanks to a few exclusive sources from the organising team of Madrid, I’ve been told that a plan (with a current deadline set at June 15) is being developed in order to solve these logistical issues. The main points are as follows:

  • Both Madrid and Rome would axe eight main draw spots, going from 56 to 48, allowing more scheduling flexibility and allowing the 9-16 seeds to play five matches instead of six;
  • Madrid’s final would take place on Tuesday rather than on Sunday. This means that the best players (and that includes the US Open finalists) could play as late as Friday, which is still not ideal, but a great improvement in the effort to convince the players to fly in on such short notice;
  • Rome would start on the same day, albeit with no TV coverage in order to give the spotlight to the Madrid final – matches in Italy could be broadcast from Wednesday onwards;
  • Consequently, Rome’s final would take place on Monday, potentially a thorny issue, since the French Open is slated to start on Sunday. However, that overlapping would be far less problematic, because the two tournaments have different broadcasting arrangements, and could theoretically coexist on the cathode;
  • Both Madrid and Rome’s prize money would go down a cliff, understandably, seeing a 40-50% decrease, but that’s something athletes will need to get used to in all sporting domains.

what would happen if the pandemic struck again during the US Open?

A contingency plan is therefore being discussed, a very reassuring fact. However, there are a few issues that could still be problematic in this unpredictable year, so, going back to my bald-pated pessimism:

  1. Madrid’s worst fear is that New York ultimately takes place and that players, who are currently not thrilled about flying to the US (their fears are definitely not unfounded), would all end up going anyway, perhaps changing their mind halfway through July, at the latest available opportunity. Sure, the re-structuring of the calendar would work in their favour, but I think it’s fair to assume that a certain quantity of withdrawals could still happen.
  2. The challenge would then be to convince every sponsor that the best players would all play in Madrid anyway, not an easy reassuring pitch, although the current plan seems to work in that direction.
  3. What if someone were to get infected in New York though? Play would be instantly halted, and that wouldn’t be a good look for Madrid, where millions would have already been spent. As things stand, the current loss for a cancellation shouldn’t go over 4/5 million pounds, including marketing expenses and personnel. However, the real financial wormhole would get to be the amount of revenues that have already been budgeted, and the same would happen in Rome, as Binaghi laments every time he gets a mic under his nose.
  4. In the event of a single Master 1000 space becoming available between New York and Paris, Madrid’s brass is extremely confident that, when push comes to shove, ATP and WTA would favour them over Rome. This would be a no-brainer especially for the WTA, since Madrid is one of the few combined events (along with the Slams, Indian Wells, and Miami) with a “non-discriminating” prize money – in short, men and women make the same amount.
  5. At the same time, Madrid’s revenues on the men’s side far exceed those of Rome: the Italian prize money amounts to 9,243,818 euros, 5,791,280 for the men, and 3,452,538 for the women. Madrid’s own bounty is of 13,072,320. Even after the even split, Madrid would still be offering 744,880 euros more than Rome, hardly an inconsequential number – disclaimer, these are the regular amounts, which, as seen, could be heavily reduced, but, even in that case, the principle would stay the same.
  6. It should also be added that, according to Andrea Gaudenzi’s recent statements to the press, the ATP is trying to work towards a fairer distribution of income. Sure, he and ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli are Italian, but that’s actually one more reason why they should try to make a decision that couldn’t run into chauvinism accusations. Therefore, it seems extremely unlikely that the ATP would choose Rome over Madrid.
  7. Anyway, the plan is still quite a tight fit, so, if the US Open does indeed take place, it cannot be ruled out that Rome might have to take place after the French Open, thus losing quite a bit appeal-wise. Binaghi’s dream of having the Internazionali d’Italia take place right before Paris (God knows how much I wish to be wrong; it certainly wouldn’t be in UbiTennis’s best interests) could vanish.
  8. The best hope for Binaghi and the Italian Federation (whose finances would suffer grievously in the event of a cancellation, since over 60% of annual revenues come from Rome) could then be that the North American swing doesn’t happen at all, including the US Open, although that would certainly not be ideal for our readers. With no American hardcourts, the clay season could be salvaged almost in full, which means that both Madrid and Rome would be a go with no further ado. The latter point is also the ATP’s current aim, i.e. to have both Masters 1000 take place. The ATP brass has always declared that the Slams are the absolute priority for tennis – however, the US Open is managed by the USTA, not by the ATP.
  9. It would also be interesting to see what would happen to the Bercy tournament, slated for November 2: the French Open is supposed to be over by October 11, so would it make sense for the players to go back to the same city just three weeks later, when so many other places would have lost their own slots? What if Bercy’s week became the perfect week to make it up for Rome’s disappearance from the French Open’s build-up season, or, if everything goes according to plan, for some other important event? But, if that opportunity were to materialise, where would the event take place? Which Italian arena would be available?

Ubaldo

P.S. Many have noted that the Masters 1000 tournaments, rather than weep in the anguish of no revenues, should have considered putting in place a pandemic insurance like Wimbledon did. That’s all hindsight thinking though, since, throughout a 52-year-long Open Era, nothing like this had ever happened. Moreover, Wimbledon’s way of business is different, as it’s basically an LTA charity, and can afford to spend 180,000 pounds a year, whereas a private investor like Ion Tiriac would never dream of it – he even refused to spend 130,000 pounds for a terrorism insurance after Madrid was attacked.

Article translated by Tommaso Villa

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Tennis Legend McEnroe Ranks Nick Kyrgios Fifth Most Talented Player In Men’s Tennis

According to the multiple grand slam winner only these players are better than the current world No.40.

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John McEnroe has said he is ‘hopeful’ that Australian star Nick Kyrgios will be able to capitalize on his talent before retiring from the sport.

 

The former world No.1 has pledged his full backing behind Kyrgios by naming him one of the sports most talented players. During an interview with Australia’s Sport Sunday, McEnroe said only a select group of players have more talent than him on the ATP Tour. Naming the Big Three and Andy Murray as those who he considers are better.

Kyrgios, who has been hampered by various injury setbacks in recent months, is currently ranked 40th in the world. He has won six ATP titles so far in his career, including two in 2019. In the Grand Slams he has reached the quarter-finals twice at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships and the 2015 Australian Open.

“On talent alone I put him behind the top three. If you include [Andy] Murray, I’d throw him right behind the obvious three legends, Novak and Rafa and Roger. Murray’s won three so he’d be the next guy. He should have won some already if he had been able to keep his mind on the job,” TeamTalk media quoted McEnroe as telling Sports Sunday.

Amid the praise Kyrgios can be an at times controversial figure in the sport and has received numerous penalties. Last September he was hit with a 16-week suspended ban for ‘aggravated behaviour’ by the ATP. Nevertheless, McEnroe believes the 25-year-old can still reach the top of the sport should he fully commit to doing so.

“As we all know, people around sports and athletes, it’s not just about how much talent you have, it’s about how much fortitude you have mentally and what type of fitness you put yourself in mentally as well as physically and how deep you’re willing to go. How far you are willing to go to get the win? He’s not been able to do that,” he said.
“I don’t know if he will ever be able to do it. I hope he does because I happen to like him and it would be great for the game if he did.”

Kyrgios has scored at least one win over each member of the Big Three. He has defeated Rafael Nadal three times, Novak Djokovic twice and Roger Federer once. It could be argued that his progress on the Tour has been affected by physical problems. According to the ATP, he has withdrawn from 20 tournaments since 2018 (11 in 2018, seven in 2019 and two in 2020). The problems he has experienced concerned his right elbow, left wrist, hip, knee, shoulder and collarbone.

As for the future, McEnroe has said he would be ‘tempted’ to work with Kyrgios if he was ever presented with the opportunity. Something the American has previously said on multiple occasions that he would be interested in doing.

“Of course I’d be tempted,” he said. “He’d be like a no-brainer, if it worked it would be incredible.
“We’d probably be at each other’s throats within minutes, but it would certainly be tempting.
“Not only with me, it can be with someone else. I’m not the only guy who’s willing and able to do the job.
“He just doesn’t seem ready to have a coach. First of all, he’s got to be ready to want to do it.”

Kyrgios started 2020 with a win-loss record of 6-3.

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Wimbledon Champion Simona Halep Wary About Return To Tour

The world No.2 is expecting a tough time when she returns to action following the lengthy suspension of the sport due to COVID-19.

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Simona Halep has admitted that she has concerns about returning to tennis following a lengthy period away from the sport.

 

The two-time grand slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match since winning the Dubai Tennis Championships in February. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended or cancelled since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials are hoping to get the sport back on its feet during the summer but an exact return date is still to be confirmed with the US Open set to announce next month if their tournament will go ahead or not.

Spending her lockdown in Romania, Halep is expecting a tough time when she returns to action due to having a lack of match play. To fill the void, some top 10 players have entered into domestic tournaments. Both Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova are playing tournaments in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, Elina Svitolina is set to play in a behind the doors event in Berlin in July. Halep is yet to publicly commit to playing any such event.

“My longest break before the lockdown has been of 3-4 weeks and [returning to competitions] was very difficult for me. You lose pace, you lose focus … and then physically, if you idle about for a whole week you’ve lost half a year,” news agency AGERPRES quoted the 28-year-old as saying.
“ I don’t know what others have done during this time, maybe some did training runs, maybe they did strength workouts, I don’t know, I can’t assume. But I feel it on my own skin that it will be a bit difficult for me. It matters a lot that I haven’t had official matches. You can train five hours a day for a whole year, if you are not on an official game, you’re out when you step on court … I mean, you’re not in the game at all. There’s a big difference.”

Despite her concerns, Halep’s time away from the sport has allowed her to appreciate things she wouldn’t usually have time to do due to the demanding travelling requirements of tennis. Speaking about the lockdown, she says it has enabled her to evaluate her time on the Tour as well as the future.

“I learned a lot from the two-month isolation. I realized that in the last 6 years I’ve been actually on a total lockdown,” she explains.
“It occurred to me that I have to change something in my life, in order to also develop on the emotional and personal side. The fact that I’ve been on lockdown for 6 years has helped me become world No. 1, but now, for me to have a happy life without tennis, I am slowly trying to experience new feelings, see something else.”

Halep started 2020 by winning 10 out of 12 matches played. Besides her triumph in Dubai, she also reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open before losing to Garbine Muguruza. Halep is one of four women to have already made more than $1 million in prize money this season.

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