SPECIAL REPORT: Dressing Up In Australia - UBITENNIS
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SPECIAL REPORT: Dressing Up In Australia

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By Cheryl Jones and Mark Winters

It is Australian Open time. The first of the 2017 Grand Slam tournaments is roiling and broiling. But, it is Melbourne…so what else is new?

The tennis season is off to a colorful beginning as tennis fans anxiously watch the way the “names” are playing. The major focus is on the men who are returning from medical sabbaticals. Roger Federer is back, and so is Rafael Nadal. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova are not. But, there is, as always, more going on.

Watching players who could make an impact during the year with significant results on the men and women’s tours is part of Melbourne’s unveiling. Catching a glimpse of the new fashions sported by the competitors is another aspect, (though one that is often overlooked), of the Australian Open. In the past, women have usually been the focal point of the fashion frenzy found at the Grand Slam tournaments. Now, both women and men sport innovative colors and combinations for their sponsoring company’s entry in the showy world of the latest colors and design.

Each of the four majors gives “Tennis Fashionistas” a two-week period to see what the clothing and shoe manufactures are showcasing. It is a real opportunity, with the players serving as models, to call attention to just introduced products by apparel giants such as adidas, ASICS, Nike, Under Armor and several others. Though different company logos adorn the blouses, shirts, shorts and so on, the combination of patterns and hues, are often similar.

Last year at Roland Garros, adidas opened eyes and earned approval and some vocal chagrin with the “Zebra Look.” Many thought it was a fashion

May 25, 2016; Paris, France; Simona Halep (ROU) in action during her match against Zarina Diyas (KAZ) on day four of the 2016 French Open.

May 25, 2016; Paris, France; Simona Halep (ROU) in action during her match against Zarina Diyas (KAZ) on day four of the 2016 French Open.

catastrophe, that is similar to what used to be the norm in Tijuana, (Mexico), with burros painted white with stripes, so that the animal resembled a zebra. Others believed it was a bold move like the faded denim look pioneered by Andre Agassi. The look, in time, carried over to both men and women’s clothing.

Melbourne has premiered Federer sporting the Nike version of the “Zebra”. The swoosh look is much more ordered and appears more like a geometry lesson that’s been turned into a crazy quilt. The women of Nike follow the company line in similar dresses and blouse and skirt combinations. Actually, it isn’t reminiscent of matching bowling shirts but more like updated costumes for Dancing With The Stars.

Serena Williams, who could be the Naomi Campbell of tennis fashion, is wearing a “Subtle Zebra” with a less glaring black and white blouse and stair-step length skirt that rises up on left side, almost like a sarong. Some of the other women who wear Nike apparel are in the Vintage Denim Agassi Skirt.

Angelique Kerber, who was the answer to “Who was the adidas pastel Tennis Player of 2016?” was trotting about the courts in much more subtle combinations (until she crashed out of Melbourne). Actually, this year there are shades of Orange that are reminiscent of the Day-Glo era of days gone by. There are stunning examples of the deep-sea blue being worn in Melbourne. The standard red, white and blues are still scattered here and there on the courts. In fact, some of the adidas’ women players are sporting a bandeau top with a puffy, swirly princess style that releases a skirt constructed of various colors that are reminiscent of car lot advertising banners swaying in the wind.

Not every player has a clothing/shoe contract, but that doesn’t always mean they are lacking in their ability to have design magic.  Before hooking up with Under Armor, Bethanie Mattek-Sands swore she shopped for her clothing in thrift stores. Actually, it was quite believable after watching her court performances. Now, her court wear still includes those iconic knee-high stockings that she explains are compression hosiery for circulation issues.

There is little deviation in the styles of each of the clothing manufacturers. If the “in” color is tangerine, even the men’s shorts are glowing shades of orange. If it’s pink – well, can we remember Rafael Nadal’s shorts?

It’s no wonder that the search for something unique can be next too fruitless.  Obviously the top players have contracts with clothing manufacturers. They are bound by those contracts to model their sponsor’s fashions. Vania King, the talented Wimbledon and US Open doubles winner with Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, was ranked No. 349 at the beginning of last year’s Australian Open because she had been injured and was occupied with rehab. Moving forward with her quest to be back in the game in 2017, after recovering from a variety of issues, she is now ranked No. 80.  In Melbourne, she is wearing a line of clothing designed by her older sister, Mindy, who knows the game very well. Mindy and her twin, Ivana, played college tennis. They come from a family of tennis players.

Vania King Photo Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

The line is called MINX, and Mindy King explained, “MINX is actually a play on my name. My family calls me ‘Min’ and when I started dating the man who is now my husband, Will, my online username was Minx so MINX was born. The logo is a three-pointed crown that ties to our last name King. Each crown point stands for one of the three King sisters.”

She said of the year-old line, “It’s been great that people like the product once they see it, but it’s hard to compete with adidas, Nike and the other big companies without big bucks behind it. So I am just focusing on homegrown awareness (in Long Beach, California) of the brand and once we get that we’ll start to expand to different types of products that include menswear, etc.” Others may envy the simple but beautiful lines of MINX, but the colors (fuchsia and rich shades of blue) are what stand out – vibrant and chic.

It’s summer in Australia. Europe and North America will have to wait for a bit before the season changes. In the meantime, “Fashionistas” following the color and cut showings in Melbourne can plan some shopping before looking forward to the next major tennis style presentation that will take place in Paris at Roland Garros.

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ATP Finals: Zverev Enchanted London, Djokovic And Federer Disappointed

Ubitennis director Ubaldo Scanagatta breaks down this year’s ATP Finals with a list of the most remarkable storylines.

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  1. In my opinion, this year’s ATP Finals turned out to be a mediocre tournament, failing to produce any memorable matches. Sometimes a few matches might not be spectacular, but at least they can produce drama. This year we didn’t get any drama at all. Cilic-Isner was the only match out of 15 to be decided in a third set, even though none of the two players reached the semifinals.
  2. All of the matches – including the final – seemed to be uninspired. As soon as one player jumped to a lead, his opponent did very little to turn the match around and continued to play very poorly.
  3. Nevertheless, the tournament could go down in the history books as Sasha Zverev’s first big title just when nobody expected him to win. Who knows how many big titles the young German will win in the future.
  4. Zverev is only the fourth player to defeat Federer and Djokovic in the same tournament. Nalbandian achieved the double at the 2007 Madrid Masters, Murray defeated both the Swiss and the Serb at Wimbledon during the 2012 Olympics, while Nadal had the best of his two rivals in Hamburg and at Roland Garros in 2008. To say that Zverev achieved an incredible feat is an understatement and his future is certainly very bright. He might also become a little more likable. He definitely took a step in the right direction throughout the weekend, keeping his composure and showing good sportsmanship when a very pro-Federer British crowd started booing him at the end of their semifinal match.
  5. Zverev captured his first ATP title in St. Petersburg in 2016, but his first memorable win took place at the Masters 1000 event in Rome in 2017. His maiden Italian Open title will probably be remembered in the same way we all remember Stefan Edberg’s first title in Milan in 1984 or Federer’s first victory also in Milan in 2001. The Swede went on to win a total of 41 titles in his illustrious career, while Roger has captured a staggering 99 titles so far.
  6. While Zverev deserves all the credit for playing an impeccable final despite being only 21 years of age, Djokovic was the shadow of the player that dominated his younger rival 64 61 on Wednesday. On his way to the final, Djokovic never dropped serve and only conceded 32 points in 36 service games. At some point in the final, he was broken three consecutive times. Unrecognizable.
  7. In their round-robin match on Wednesday, we witnessed the opposite situation: After Zverev failed to capitalize on two break-points at 4-4 in the first set, he started missing left and right. From 1-1 in the second set, the German won only three points for the rest of the match.
  8. The final of the year-end championships was contested 19 times by two players who previously faced each other in the group stages. 10 of those 19 finals have been won by the player who lost the round-robin match. Zverev was unaware of this strange coincidence before the match and when a reporter asked him about it, he joked: “Well, next time I’ll remember to lose a match in the round-robin stage.” Djokovic wasn’t obviously as happy about the outcome: “You would think that the player that won the first match in the round-robin should have a psychological advantage and play with more confidence. I knew that he would have changed something and played better. As for me, I played below my best level, especially compared to all the matches that I played during the week.”
  9. The final will be remembered more for producing an upset and giving us a young champion than for the quality of play. After Djokovic won 35 of his last 37 matches, nobody thought that he could lose to Zverev. The bookmakers paid Zverev’s win at 6 – an unbelievable odd.
  10. Looking back at recent finals that were contested at the year-end championships, very few have been appealing and interesting. The last remarkable final was played in 2012 when Djokovic defeated Federer 76 75. When the final used to be a best-of-five match, we had memorable clashes in 2005 when Nalbandian prevailed over Federer 67 67 61 62 76, in 1996 when Sampras defeated Becker 36 76 76 67 64 and in 1994 when Sampras once again had the best of Becker 46 63 75 64. The 1993 final when Stich defeated Sampras 76 26 76 62 was also a good match, even if the court speed in Frankfurt was so fast that the serves were sometimes too dominant. A legendary final was certainly played by Becker and Lendl at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1988, when the German captured the last point with a shocking net cord after a gruelling 36 shot rally: 57 76 36 62 76 was the final score in Becker’s favor. Another memorable final was won by Lendl over Gerulaitis 67 26 76 62 64, with Ivan saving a match-point in the third set. McEnroe-Ashe in 1978 saw John prevail 63 67 75, while Vilas defeated Nastase 76 62 36 36 64 on the Kooyong grass in 1974.
  11. Speaking of Lendl, Ivan captured the year-end championships 5 times and contested an astonishing 9 finals. He qualified for the championships for 12 years in a row between 1980 and 1991, winning 39 out of 49 matches. Djokovic and Connors qualified 10 times, Nadal 14 times (even if he withdrew in 5 occasions) and Federer 16 times.
  12. The three matches that Novak Djokovic lost since Wimbledon are great advertisement for the Next-Gen ATP Finals. He lost to Tsitsipas in Toronto, Khachanov in Paris-Bercy and Zverev at the ATP Finals in London.
  13. The Next-Gen Finals in Milan offered better and more interesting matches than the ATP Finals in London. The level expressed by Tsitsipas and de Minaur in the Milan final was higher than most of the matches that were contested at the O2 Arena, even if the shorter sets, tie-breakers at 3-3 and no-ad games are almost a different sport.
  14. Which was a better match: The semifinal between Zverev and Federer or the final between Zverev and Djokovic? It’s hard to say. Zverev played a better match in the final. Djokovic probably played worse than Federer. The what-ifs are certainly not the best way to analyze a match, but had Federer captured the second set, I believe that he would have ended up winning the match.
  15. Zverev was brilliant in his speech during the trophy presentation. He thanked the sponsors, chair umpires, line judges and ballkids. At that point, I started thinking that he could have mentioned the ballkid who accidentally dropped a ball mid-rally in a crucial moment of the semifinal against Federer. I think the organizers should have brought the same ballkind back for the final as well.
  16. I used to truly love doubles and I would have probably followed the doubles event if an Italian team had qualified. Instead I didn’t watch it at all. Shame on me.
  17. Sasha Zverev is the first German year-end champion in 23 years, since Boris Becker defeated Michael Chang. Boris won six Grand Slam titles and was world No. 1 for “only” 12 weeks. I think that Zverev will eventually achieve more than Becker in the future. He will also win more and probably spend less money than his legendary countryman. Unlike Boris, he will be more careful with women, but I doubt that he will become more popular. Will Sasha win a Slam in 2019? Yes and no, but he will certainly be one of the favorites, especially after his win in London.
  18. The most recurring question is: Will Roger Federer qualify for next year’s ATP Finals and win another Slam? In my opinion, he will qualify for London as I don’t think that there are eight better players than him. I also think that he will not win another major title. Best-of-five tennis is probably going to take a toll on him, even if he could keep his hopes high on grass with a favorable draw.
  19. Nadal will be the favorite at Roland Garros once again. He could win his 12th title in Paris, but I don’t think that he will capture a major title anywhere else.
  20. Had Djokovic not showed a certain mental fragility in his final loss at the year-end championships, I would have said that the Serb could be a strong candidate to capture the calendar year Grand Slam in 2019. These last two or three losses against rising Next-Gen stars put a few doubts on my mind.

 

Ubaldo Scanagatta

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )

 

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ATP Finals Day 7 Preview: Will It Be A Dream Showdown Between Djokovic And Federer?

The top four seeds have advanced out of the round robin stage, and will fight for the trophy this weekend in a single elimination format.

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Saturday’s semifinals feature two of the greatest players of all-time, who have dominated this tournament for a decade and a half. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have combined to win this event 11 of the last 15 years. Standing in their way of playing for another championship on Sunday are two men who have advanced to the semifinals of the ATP Finals for the first time. One is a 32-year-old veteran in his first year qualifying for this event. The other is a 21-year-old who is likely playing in his first of many championship weekends at this event.

Roger Federer vs. Sascha Zverev

Alexander Zverev (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

Federer and Zverev have an intriguing history. Federer took their first match, on clay at the 2016 Rome Masters. A month later, Zverev pulled off the upset in the Halle semifinals on grass. A year later at the same event, Roger prevailed in a final that lasted less than an hour. Just weeks later, Sascha won in the final of the Rogers Cup on a hard court. And one year ago at this event, Federer was victorious in a three-set round robin match. Since they’ve alternated wins thus far, perhaps it’s Zverev’s turn to win today.

“It’s going to be a very difficult match. I mean, him (Federer) on this surface, an indoor court, he’s an unbelievable player.” Said Zverev. “I’ve Played him a few times in all different conditions, all different surfaces.”

While Federer got off to a very slow start this week, he has upped his level with each match, as he has gotten more comfortable with the playing surface at the O2. Now into his fifteenth semifinal at this tournament, Roger is 10-4 at this stage. But I’m more curious to see how Zverev performs on Saturday. He’s yet to breakthrough to the latter stages at a Major, yet this is a huge opportunity to advance his career at the biggest non-Major tournament of the year.

“I’m happy I gave myself the opportunity. I’m happy that I’m raising my level of play throughout this week. This is what I hope to do.” Federer commented about his run to the last four.

The crowd will likely play a considerable role, as London loves Federer and will be extremely vocal in supporting him as we’ve seen all week. How will Sascha respond to the crowd, the significance of the match, and his opponent? Well he showed a lack of resilience on Wednesday, as he completely went away after dropping the first set to Djokovic. And as Gigi Salmon pointed out on ATP Tennis Radio, Zverev has looked pretty spent this week at the end of a long season. I suspect Zverev will be motivated on Saturday, and he’ll keep the scoreline close, but I still like Federer’s chances to advance to his 11th final.

Novak Djokovic vs. Kevin Anderson

Novak Djokovic (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

As far as official ATP matches are concerned, Djokovic is 7-1 against Anderson, with the South African’s only victory coming the first time they played over 10 years ago in Miami. However, Anderson did get the best of Djokovic at the Laver Cup this past September, in a match decided by a 10-point final set tiebreak. Djokovic has defeated Anderson three times in London, though all three matches took place at the All England Club. Of course Novak easily dispatched of Anderson in this year’s Wimbledon final, following Kevin’s near-seven-hour semifinal with John Isner. Their best previous meeting was at SW19 in 2015, when Djokovic came back from two sets down to defeat Anderson in five. Most recently, Novak won in straight sets last month in Shanghai. If you count the Laver Cup, this is their fourth meeting in 2018.

“He has played some big tennis throughout this year. It’s definitely his best season.” The current US Open champion said of Anderson. “The last couple of years he has been playing his best tennis. He continued doing that throughout the tournament.
He’s serving well, playing well and being aggressive. I know what to expect.”

Djokovic is the only man to go undefeated in this week’s round robin play. He’s yet to drop a set, and has truly been at the top of his game with first-rate returns and unrivaled movement around the court. Novak is averaging just above five unforced errors per set thus far at this tournament, with a total of only four double faults in six sets played. During one stretch of Friday’s match against Marin Cilic, Djokovic won 31 straight points on serve, as highlighted by Steph Trudel on Twitter. Bottom line: Novak is giving his opponents nothing to work with. While Kevin Anderson played well in his first two round robin matches, he was thoroughly outplayed by Federer on Thursday night. The slow-bouncing hard court at the O2 will only allow Djokovic extra time to handle Anderson’s power. And considering Novak is 5-1 in the semifinal round of this event, this should be smooth sailing for Djokovic to reach his seventh championship match at the ATP Finals.

 

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Zverev Defeats Isner to Advance to Semi-Finals of ATP Finals

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London, England

The youngest player in the eight man field at the ATP Finals in London is into the Final Four. Alexander Zverev fired 18 aces to defeat John Isner 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in the he their final Round-Robin singles matches of the tournament.

The 21-year old Zverev with two wins and just two sets lost advanced into the Semi-Finals out of the Guga Kuerten Group. Marin Cilic, who will play his final Round-Robin match on Friday night can not catch Zverev even if he defeats Novak Djokovic tonight as he has already lost three sets. Isner has been eliminated losing all three contests.

Zverev was firing on all cylinders in the match hitting 25 winners and making just 10 unforced errors. He out-aced his American opponent by eight, something you don’t see very often. He also won 75-percent of his points on first serve and he lost just one of 11 points at the net in the match.

“I don’t think anybody matches up well against John, to be honest,” said Zverev. ” It’s always one or two points that decide the match. We have had so many tight matches. This is only the second time that has gone to two sets.”

The two players went back and forth in the opening set, both players nearly untouchable on serve. Through the first ten games of the match each player combined for 13 aces and lost just a total of 11 points on serve.

Isner’s best chance to make something happen came at 6-5 when he hit a huge crosscourt forehand for a winner setting up set point. But then Zverev’s ninth ace of the match followed by two more big serves sent the first set into a tiebreak.

At 5-5 Isner tried to sneak into the net after returning a Zverev second serve but the young German came up with a forehand shot that the big 6’10 American could not handle. Shortly thereafter, Isner then fired a forehand into the net and the set belonged to Zverev.

In the second, the 6’6 Zverev continued his hot serving. On two separate occasions he fired three straight aces to capture service games. He got the only break of the set when he was up 4-3. A shank forehand from the 33-year old and then a good second serve return low to Isner’s backhand side gave him a chance to close out the match. Moments later he did. The match ending on an Isner backhand return which sailed long.

Zverev finished second in Group B behind Novak Djokovic. He will face Roger Federer in the first of Saturday’s Semi-Finals at 2pm local time.

“It’s obviously great getting to the semifinals,” said Zverev. “But the tournament isn’t over. I am in the semifinals. There’s only good opponents left. There’s only the best in the world. I’m playing Roger tomorrow, which is going to be a very difficult but hopefully very nice match. We’ll see how far I can go.”

As for Isner’s take on the match: “I think he was pretty dialed in on his serve, which was of course very important. A lot of times with me it comes down to a few points here or there. I had the one breakpoint, and he aced me. That’s a credit to him. That’s why he’s ranked what he’s ranked, 4 or 5 in the world. He was better.

@Sportshorn

 

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