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Changing Of The Swiss Guards

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Stan Wawrinka (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

The mere mention of Switzerland brings to mind numerous high priced or high altitude items. Chocolate, cheese, watches and money might be high on that list, but in the world of tennis, a couple of guys who began their careers as wee ones in the place that brought the world Swiss Guards in the late fifteenth century, tops the list.

 

Nearly twenty years ago, Roger Federer began to impress the world with his tennis prowess. (Actually, I remember watching him practice before he was “the” Roger Federer. He was fairly new to the scene when I excitedly told fellow journalists that I had seen greatness in the making. They laughed. No one from that alpine country had been a big star. But, a few took a look-see and there was a “maybe” reaction that flashed across their face.) Anyone who follows tennis knows that all of that changed when he took the crown at Wimbledon just a few years later in 2003. That was the starting point of a career that will be remembered as long as there’s tennis. He spent 302 weeks (nearly six years), ranked Number One. He’s won seventeen Grand Slams and more tournaments than almost anyone.

However, there is another tennis guy from Switzerland. He is ranked Number Three in the world. His name was Stanislas Wawrinka. (That “was” is because he had the ATP change his name to Stan and that’s the name to which he will respond.)

Today at Roland Garros, Wawrinka moved to the second round when he defeated Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3. It was a fairly fast three setter that lasted just a tick under two hours. The previous Saturday, Wawrinka took the trophy at Geneva just as he had last year. After today’s match, Wawrinka spoke with the media and reflected a bit on his play.

When asked about that second set where Kovalik had three set balls, he said, “I tried to play more aggressively; put more pressure on him. As long as the set isn’t over there is still room to win it. You know, especially when your opponent is down one set.” He went further, “All in all, I think this was a solid match. I’m very happy about how I managed it. I had good feelings playing.”

Even though it may seem as if he’s moving into the powering down side of tennis, he seems to have found that groove in his career where he can glide from tournament to tournament and finish very well. He’s thirty-two, and appears better than ever, and that’s a truth that can be verified by looking back at his career. He has taken home close to thirty million US dollars. That’s a tidy sum for anyone. He might have remained in Roger Federer’s shadow, but didn’t.

He won here in Paris in 2015 when he defeated Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. That was just a year after he lost in the first round. He won the junior title in 2003, and with his win in 2015, he became the first to accomplish that feat since Mats Wilander achieved the same in 1988. In 2016, he won the US Open when he was 31 years, 167 days old. That unexpected win made him the oldest winner there since Ken Rosewall in 1970.

His win at the Australian Open in 2014 made him the first man to defeat the number one and two seeds on the way to a grand slam title since Sergi Bruguera did it in Roland Garros in 1993.

This time out, he is looking to be the third man in the Open Era to win three or more Grand Slam titles after turning thirty. (Australians Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall chalked up a few of those coveted titles when they were in the senior citizenry of professional sports.)

Five sets can be a very long time to be on the court – just ask John Isner who played for 11 hours and five minutes at Wimbledon in 2010. With a 24 to 19 record in five setters, Wawrinka must feel as if he has a bit of an advantage when playing anyone with a lower ranking. Kovalik’s 152 ranking shouldn’t have been a problem for Wawrinka, but the second set today should have whispered to him – Beware!

Next up, he will face Alexandr Dolgopolov who has been ranked as high as 13 in the world, but now is ranked 89 due to some injuries that kept him away from the courts. Wawrinka has all the moves that should propel him through to the next round. He has one of the strongest one-handed backhands around. He has a wonderfully fast serve that has been clocked at 144 miles per hour. He has taken his previously weak forehand and turned it into an asset. He’s one of the few players who do not consistently bang balls from the baseline and is very skilled at serve and volleying, which to many may seem like a lost art.

His coach of three years, Magnus Norman, (who in the past was a great player himself), has helped him deal with that other part of a game that is often left by the wayside – the mental side. The ups and downs that seemed to be who Stan was in the past has leveled out and he has shown great skill defeating the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and of course, Rafael Nadal, when each was at the top of their game.

In the past, Dolgopolov has been a thorn in his side, having won two of the three matches they have contested. Wawrinka recalled that, “He moves a lot. He has a very fast arm and he moves very quickly. He has a lot of variety in his game. He slices a lot, so he really doesn’t have a steady pace. I guess what’s challenging with him is you never know what to expect. So, when you play him you really have to be focused.” At thirty-two, Wawrinka may now be able to will himself to stay on task. He summed it up when he added, “It’s really important to give him a strong ball every single time, to make it mentally more challenging for him. Otherwise he will take the lead.”

Lately, focus seems to be the name of Wawrinka’s game. He has a plan and sometimes that’s all one needs. Understanding the task at hand is often a winner, no matter what the challenge. Stan has a lot of work ahead of him, but he has a very solid foundation to draw on. Switzerland has given the world of tennis a couple of really good men who have nothing to do with chocolate, watches or snow. Money, however, may be a byproduct of their successes, though.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev And Taylor Fritz Looking Forward To Diriyah Cup

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz will start their Australian preparations in Saudi Arabia next week.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (@WeAreTennisTR - Twitter)

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz are looking forward to boosting their Australian Open preparations when they compete in the Diriyah Cup in Saudi Arabia.

 

The tournament takes place from the 8th-10th of December with the 12 player tournament offering the perfect preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year.

As well as Tsitsipas, Rublev and Fritz, the field includes some of the world’s best players including Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Cameron Norrie, Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka.

Speaking ahead of the event Tsitsipas claimed that the event will be very good preparation ahead of the Australian Open which starts on the 16th of January, “This is going to be very good preparation for me,” Tsitsipas told The National.

“Most players choose to have an off period from tennis but for me, it’s very important to get matches in before I travel to Australia. So having good competitors to compete against (top players), this is the best preparation that I can have before starting the 2023 season.

“I know that the people in Saudi Arabia may not have the opportunity to see tennis players like us very often. So, for sure, I’m going to give it my best. I’m going to have a good time.”

Saudi Arabia has held a whole host of events including formula one and Golf events with there being more and more concerns from fans over sports-washing given the country’s human rights record.

However the Greek isn’t too concerned about that and is looking forward to exploring the country’s culture:

“I’m happy they’re introducing a big event like this, and in the heart of Saudi Arabia to give opportunities to citizens from all over the world to explore this beautiful country, through its sports, through its very rich heritage and culture, and through other activities that are available within the country.”

As for Fritz, the American is coming off a career best season having won his maiden Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells as well as reaching the semi-finals at the ATP Finals.

The 25 year-old said that playing against the best players in the world will only help his preparations for the Australian Open, “I think it’s going to help prepare for the Australian Open and for the rest of the year because I can start out by playing against the best players in the world,” Fritz claimed.

“The field is so strong, so it’s always great to surround yourself with a lot of great players. People should come to support because hopefully it’ll be a lot of good tennis.

“Hopefully they’ll be cheering for me to win. They can expect a lot of big hitting, big serving, and hopefully some nice shot-making.”

Finally Rublev said that competing in Saudi Arabia will help find his level with the Russian having an inconsistent end to the season at the ATP Finals.

Rublev is looking to break more ground in 2023 as he searches for his Grand Slam breakthrough, “I think it’s really great because sometimes when you finish the season and you have eight weeks of not playing tournaments, you start to feel a bit stressed or nervous because you can’t tell if you’re improving or not,” Rublev admitted.

“So these kind of events help to check how your level is at the moment because you compete against other great players.”

The tournament begins on Thursday and will last for three days.

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Emma Raducanu Draws Inspiration From Andy Murray Ahead Of 2023

Emma Raducanu spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career.

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(@HeartThamesNews - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu has spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career and is optimistic about turning her form in 2023.

 

The former US Open hasn’t had too bad of an off-season after receiving her MBE for her services to sport.

Raducanu made history in 2021 as she won the US Open as a qualifier at 18 years of age.

However the Brit has yet to back that up with Raducanu changing coach on a number of occasions as she looks for some stability in 2023.

Speaking in a recent interview with Grazia Raducanu said that she believes that momentum can change quickly in tennis and that confidence is the key to success, “[In tennis] it could look like it’s all going down, down, down and just not getting any better,” Raducanu was quoted by tennishead as saying.

“Just one match can have a big influence on your confidence and once you have confidence and the momentum comes, you feel like you can’t lose. It’s a very individual sport – people are friendly but it’s difficult to be really close with those you’re competing with.”

One player that can relate to what Raducanu is saying is Andy Murray with confidence being a key theme of the highs and lows of Murray’s career.

Raducanu said that she talks to Murray regularly about the highs and lows of tennis, “Andy Murray is so good to talk to because he’s been through pretty much what I’ve been going through,” Raducanu said.

“I have always looked up to him and watched him winning his first Wimbledon and the Olympics.”

Raducanu will hope that she can use Murray’s words as inspiration for next season as she currently sits at 75 in the world.

The Brit will start her season in 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand on the 2nd of January.

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Fernando Verdasco Given Two Month Doping Ban

Fernando Verdasco has been banned from tennis until the 8th of January.

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Fernando Verdasco (@UniversTennis - Twitter)

Fernando Verdasco will miss the first week of the 2023 season after being provisionally suspended for two months after testing positive for the drug methylphenidate.

 

The former world number seven tested positive for the drug at the Challenger event in Rio De Janeiro and has accepted a voluntary ban until the 8th of January.

As well as testing positive for the drug methylphenidate, Verdasco had also forgot to renew his Therapeutic Use Exemption despite the Spaniard admitting that he was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In a statement published today the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), explained why his ban has been shortened from two years to two months, “The ITIA accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” they said in a statement on his website.

“In the specific circumstances of this case, based on the player’s degree of fault the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme allows for the applicable period of ineligibility to be reduced from two years to two months.”

The 39 year-old will as a result miss the first week of the new season with the Spaniard being currently ranked at world number 125.

In 2022, Verdasco’s best results on the ATP tour were quarter-final performances in Buenos Aires and Estoril while he also won a challenger title in Monterrey in March.

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