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
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.
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.
EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’
Marcelo Demoliner celebrated his birthday in quarantine, his doubles partner isn’t allowed to leave his room for 14 days and he believes there is a difference in treatment between the top players and others. Yet, he refuses to complain about the situation he finds himself in.
Like his peers, Brazil’s Marcelo Demoliner passes his time in Melbourne quarantine by training, sleeping, eating and posting amusing videos on social media.
Demoliner, who currently has a doubles ranking of world No.44, is required by Australian law to abide by a strict isolation period before he is allowed to play any professional tournament. Although he is allowed to train unless he is deemed to be a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation 72 players find themselves in, including Demoliner’s doubles partner Santiago Gonzalez
During an email exchange with UbiTennis the Brazilian sheds light on what he labels as an ‘usual experience’ that has prompted criticism from some players. Roberto Bautista Agut was caught on camera describing conditions as a ‘prison’ in a video leaked to the press. Although he has since apologised for his comments. Demonliner himself is not as critical as others.
“It is an unusual experience that we will remember for a long time,” he told UbiTennis. “It is a very complicated situation that we are going through. Obviously, it is not ideal for us athletes to be able to go out for just 5 hours a day, but mainly for the other 72 players who cannot go out, like my partner Santiago Gonzalez. They have a complicated situation of possibly getting injured after not practicing for 14 days, but it is what it is.’
“We need to understand and adapt to this situation considering Australia did a great job containing Covid.”
With three ATP doubles titles to his name, Demoliner is playing at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row. He has played on the Tour for over a decade and has been ranked as high as 34th in the world.
Besides the players complaining about food, their rooms and even questioning the transparency of the rule making, Tennis Australia also encountered a slight blip regarding the scheduling of practice.
“I was a little lucky because I stayed in one of the hotels that we don’t need to take transportation to go to the training courts. It made the logistics issue much easier. The other two hotels had problems with transportation and logistics in the first two days, but I have nothing to complain about, honestly.”
Demoliner remains thankful for what Tennis Australia has managed to do in order for the Australian Open to be played. Quarantine can have a big impact on a person mentally, as well as physically. Each day players spend at least 19 hours in their hotel rooms which was no fun for the Brazilian who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday.
“Without a doubt, it is something we have never been through before. I’m luckily having 5 hours of training daily. I am managing to maintain my physical preparation and rhythm. It is not the ideal, of course, but I can’t even imagine the situation of other players who are in the more restricted quarantine.”
Priority given to the top names
As Demoliner resides in Melbourne, a selected handful of players are spending their time in Adelaide. Under a deal struck by Tennis Australia, officials have agreed for the top three players on the ATP and WTA Tour’s to be based in the city. The idea being is that it will relieve the strain on Melbourne who is hosting in the region of 1200 arrivals.
Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has insisted that all players will have to follow the same rules wherever they are based. Although some feel that those in Adelaide have some extra privileges such as a private gym they can use outside of the five-hour training bubble. Japan’s Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.” Daniel’s view is one echoed also by Demoliner.
“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda of used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”
Some players were recently bemused by a photo of Naomi Osaka that surfaced on social media before being removed. The reigning US Open champion was pictured on a court with four members of her team, which is more people than what those in Melbourne are allowed to train with.
As the Adelaide contingent continues their preparations, those most unhappy with them are likely to be the 72 players who are in strict quarantine. Demoliner is concerned about the elevated risk of injury that could occur due to the facts they are not allowed to leave their rooms. All players in this situation have been issued with gym equipment to use.
“I think that they will be at a considerable disadvantage compared to who can train. But we need to obey the law of the country, there is not much to do … until the 29th they will have to stay in the room and that is it,” he said.
“Whether it is fair or not, it is not up to me to say because I am not in this situation. The thing about having the other players who didn’t have contact with the positive cases to also stay in the rooms is the concern about the risk of injury, specially for singles players. It will be a tough challenge, especially at the beginning of the season.”
In recent days, officials have been holding video calls with players to discuss ways to address these concerns ahead of the Australian Open. Which will start a week after they are allowed to leave their rooms.
When the tournaments do get underway there are also questions about how the public will react to players who have made headlines across the country for their criticism of the quarantine process. A somewhat sore point for Australian’s with some nationals unable to return home due to the government restrictions. On top of that, people in Melbourne are concerned about a potential outbreak of COVID-19.
“It is a very complex situation. I fully understand the reaction of the Australian population considering the recent events… the effect that the players are bringing, the risks to the population,” Demoliner said of the current circumstances.
“We know this and obviously they are concerned with the whole situation, which is still very uncertain. On our side, though, they did allow us to come here to play. It is important to remember that the decision to welcome us was approved by the Australian Government, otherwise we would not be here.”
Demoliner is one of three Brazilian doubles players ranked to have a top 100 ranking on the ATP Tour along with Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.
Who Are The Best Hard Court Creators In The Last 12 Months?
Here are some of the best players at earning break points on a hard court in the last 12 months.
As the Australian Open, slowly, approaches UbiTennis looks at the biggest hard court creators from the last 52 weeks.
Although winning matches are determined on how many break point opportunities you convert, to convert the break points you need to create them in the first place.
This can be the biggest challenge but for the players below this isn’t a problem as they are able to consistently create break point opportunities on a hard court.
Starting with the women, it may be a surprise to nobody that Garbine Muguruza, one of the more aggressive returners on the tour leads the way, earning on average 10.4 break points in the last 52 weeks on a hard court.
Muguruza’s hard-hitting style mixed with controlled placement puts her in pole position to punish her opponents on return.
There are also other big hitters in the top 10 such as Petra Kvitova, who averages 9.6 break points while Aryna Sabalenka earns 9.5 break points on a hard court.
While 2020 grand slam champions Iga Swiatek (9.8) and Naomi Osaka (9.3) also feature on this list.
Meanwhile on the men’s side it is Roger Federer who leads this list on average earning 10.8 break points, slightly more than Garbine Muguruza who is on top of the women’s list.
Federer is just ahead of Roberto Bautista Agut with 10.5 break points. This shows just how much Bautista Agut has improved on hard courts in the last 12 months being able to create so many break point opportunities with his return game.
Also featuring on this list are Alexander Zverev (9.2), Novak Djokovic (8.5) and Daniil Medvedev (8.3).
These are the players to look out for when seeing the players who are most likely to create opportunities in their respective draws and who the biggest servers may want to avoid in the Australian Open.
Here are the full lists of the top 10 from each tour and remember the Australian Open is set to begin on the 8th of February.
WTA Top 11 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks
- Garbine Muguruza – 10.4
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – 10.2
- Saisai Zheng – 9.9
- Iga Swiatek – 9.8
- Anett Kontaveit – 9.6
- Petra Kvitova – 9.6
- Petra Martic – 9.6
- Aryna Sabalenka – 9.5
- Ons Jabeur – 9.5
- Simona Halep – 9.3
- Naomi Osaka – 9.3
ATP Top 12 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks
- Roger Federer – 10.8
- Roberto Bautista Agut – 10.5
- Alexander Zverev – 9.2
- John Millman – 8.9
- Dominic Thiem – 8.9
- Guido Pella – 8.8
- Cristian Garin – 8.5
- Novak Djokovic – 8.5
- David Goffin – 8.4
- Adrian Mannarino – 8.3
- Daniil Medvedev – 8.3
- Grigor Dimitrov – 8.3
Further 23 Players In Hard Quarantine After More Positive Tests On Charter Flight
More players head into hard quarantine ahead of the first grand slam of the year.
A further 23 players have been told that they are being placed into hard quarantine after another positive COVID-19 test on a charter flight from Abu Dhabi.
Players were notified this evening in Australia that there was a positive test on the Abu Dhabi charter flight. Although it looks it wasn’t a player who tested positive it now means 23 more players will now go into hard quarantine.
It is understood from several journalists that among those who are now being placed into hard quarantine from the Abu Dhabi flight are Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, Marta Kostyuk, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ons Jabeur.
Although there are only 47 players in hard quarantine so far, there is a fear that this number could rise with more COVID test results still waiting to come back.
Before the charter flights, Andy Murray, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova were denied entry into Australia via the chartered flights due to positive COVID results.
The first set of tournaments in Australia are set to begin on the 31st of January with the Australian Open due to begin on the 8th of February.
ATP Cup Draw Ceremony to be held on Friday in Melbourne
Ashleigh Barty and Jannik Sinner join super field at “A Day at the Drive” exhibition event in Adelaide
Roger Federer should make his come-back in Doha, according to Richard Krajicek
Tennis Umpire Bernardes Suffers Heart Attack In Melbourne Quarantine
The ATP updates the 2021 calendar with two new tournaments in Singapore and Marbella
Ion Tiriac Launches Fresh Tirade Against Serena Williams
REPORT: Novak Djokovic Sends Letter To Australian Open Chief Over Quarantine Measures
Fitness Not The Reason Behind Roger Federer’s Australian Open Withdrawal, Says Official
Australian Open Champion Sofia Kenin Loses Management Contract
EXCLUSIVE: How Matt Roberts Became One Of The Voices Behind The Tennis Podcast
Steve Flink: “Medvedev Deserved To Win, But Is This Really The Onset Of A New Era?”
Steve Flink On The Decline Of American Men’s Tennis: “We Need To Start Attracting The Best Athletes Again”
French Open, Steve Flink: “Nadal is inhuman. He can play three or four more years and retire with Djokovic”
Scanagatta And Flink: “We Both Think Djokovic Will Win The French Open, So Nadal Will Definitely Pull It Off!”
Steve Flink: “Djokovic Will Be Happy About The French Open Draw”
Latest news1 day ago
Roberto Bautista Agut apologizes after comparing the Australian Open bubble to prison
Hot Topics2 days ago
Novak Djokovic Never Demanded Changes To Quarantine Rules, Says Tennis Australia
Hot Topics2 days ago
Victoria Azarenka Calls For Calm As Two Australian Open Players Test Positive For COVID-19
Hot Topics2 days ago
What Does The Future Hold For Ekaterina Alexandrova?
Hot Topics24 hours ago
EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Players Can’t Act Like Spoilt People’
Focus24 hours ago
EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’
Latest news2 days ago
Rafael Nadal joins star-studded Rotterdam field
Latest news2 days ago
Lorenzo Musetti reaches the second round at the ATP Challenger in Istanbul