Gerry Weber Open Showcase: Mikhail Youzhny - UBITENNIS
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Gerry Weber Open Showcase: Mikhail Youzhny

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Mikhail Youzhny (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

Mikhail Youzhny is still in competition on the professional tour nearly 19 years after he joined the ranks of “for pay” athletes that have of late found grass court tournaments that should help make their game ready for competition at Wimbledon. That stateliest of Grand Slams begins on July third.

 

In the past, Youzhny has had good luck at the Gerry Weber Open – not every year, but in what some may call his salad days. (Salad days are a reference to youthful inexperience and fearlessness. Shakespeare had Cleopatra regretting her “affair” with Julius Caesar by saying, “My salad days, When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…” That was penned in 1606. A bit later it came to mean that youth could be raw and unbounded by experience.)

Youzhny who is Russian began playing with his brother, Andrei when he was just six years old. He said that they used to scrounge equipment to learn the game and soon it was apparent that he was good. There was a problem though. He was temperamental. His frustration was not just a pout and then sullen demeanor. He broke racquets and cried – a lot. His coach, Boris Sobkin noted that it was difficult finding anyone to deal with the headstrong lad, but he has been with Youzhny since 2000 and that may be nearing a record for coaching longevity, given the frequency of changes many other players make.

Presently, he is ranked 88 – still in the top 100, but definitely far from his top ranking of number 8 in the world in January of 2008 and October of 2010. Even though it may seem to some that those days are not long ago, it’s nearly seven years since his last career high ranking. Still, the best of the best have fluctuations in their game and standing. He will be thirty-five on Sunday, the 25th of June, (coincidentally the final day of the Gerry Weber Open), and he must be tired. Today, he lost to a very young Russian player who is 19 and a member of the Next Generation of ATP players to watch. The three set match that ended with a rather lopsided, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 tally allowed fans to catch glimpses of the right-hander’s phenomenal backhand that can twist the ball exactly where he wants it to twist. But, it wasn’t enough to overcome the youth and fearlessness of his opponent who has been showing promise since he was named the number one junior player in the world in 2014.

But, tennis isn’t Youzhny’s only forte. He received a PhD in Philosophy in December of 2010. His thesis was titled, “Professional Tennis Players on the Court”, a subject he may not only have observed, but been a part of. He said, “You find out about other players and try to compare them with you. You look at what you have to do against them or what changes they may make before matches.” He went on to explain that it took time, which at that point in his life had meant spending over ten years being a part of a loosely directed caravan of migrant workers who play tennis for money. (Actually those workers are tennis professionals, but they do migrate to places where their kind of labor is highly valued and amply compensated.)

Youzhny is one of the eleven active players who have reached the quarterfinals of each of the grand slams. (FYI – The others are – Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Tommy Haas, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, JoWilfried Tsonga, and Stan Wawrinka.) After defeating World Number 2, Nadal in the quarterfinals, World Number 9, Andy Roddick took away his hopes of being a contender in the US Open final in 2006. But, now, it’s more than ten and a-half years later, and still he competes.

Today wasn’t his day. After nearly twenty years on the job, he may want to reflect on how to best use his time, energy and love of tennis. The Gerry Weber Open has been good to him over the years. In 2013, he reached the final, but was vanquished by Roger Federer 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 who is the all-time champ here in Halle.

Maybe he will spend a little time before Wimbledon evaluating his game. There isn’t a magic spell that can change the aging process, but a few have defied the inevitable and eked out a few more years. Actually Federer comes to mind, and today, he was on the court as the last match of the day. The Swiss Maestro will be thirty-seven this coming August, and on a very hot and humid evening in Halle, he faced Mischa Zverev, (brother of Alexander, who will face Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarterfinals, tomorrow). Federer was victorious in his good luck charm arena at Halle. He defeated Mischa Zverev 7-6, 6-4, to move into the quarterfinals where he will face last years champ, German Florian Mayer who defeated Lucas Pouille of France, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 early this afternoon.

Will it be another notch on the oldster racquet handle when Sunday’s matches are complete? That conundrum will be solved in a matter of days. Maybe it is as some folks say though, “age is merely a state of mind”. And right now, Federer’s outlook is definitely not searching out retirement.

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Liam Broady On Why He Wore Rainbow Laces During His Australian Open Match

Following his first round defeat, the Brit spoke about why he believes it is important to speak out in support of the LGBT community.

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Image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA/status/

It is sometimes the small gestures which go a long way and Liam Broady showed that during his first round match at the Australian Open.

 

Taking to the John Cain Arena for his night-time clash against Nick Kyrgios, the qualifier embarked upon a situation he had never experienced before with a boisterous crowd cheering on their home player. At times the atmosphere resembled that a football match with fans drinking beer and chanting Christiano Roinaldo’s ‘siu’ celebration. The reason as to why they were doing that particular chant was unclear.

Broady ended up falling 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, to Kyrgios who will next play the formidable Daniil Medvedev. Throughout the match the world No.128 was wearing rainbow laces and he did so for a special reason.

“I just kind of wanted to send the support. I know obviously within men’s tennis — is it a taboo? I don’t think it’s really a taboo, but I’ve seen questions before about why there aren’t any openly gay men on the tour, and I just wanted to kind of voice my support in that kind of general area,” Broady explained during his press conference.
“And the LGBTQ community, I mean, a lot of those guys have given me a lot of support throughout my career and have been there since day one, so I kind of wanted to give a thank you in my own sort of way.”

The Rainbow Laces initiative was created by LGBT charity Stonewall and initially marketed specifically towards football’s Premier League before later expanding into other sports. The idea is to get players to wear rainbow laces in order to raise awareness of LGBT representation within sport.

https://twitter.com/the_LTA/status/1483379917337534465

Tennis is renowned for having some of the most formidable LGBT athletes over the years with the likes of pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who were among some of the first to speak openly about their sexuality. However, on the men’s Tour it is somewhat different. There are currently no openly gay players and only a small handful in the past. Although most of those players, such as Brian Vahaly, came out after retiring from the sport.

“I saw that the first openly gay footballer just came out in Australia (Josh Cavallo) a month or two ago. And it’s difficult, right? I mean, it’s a big thing to do and at the end of the day in the 21st century, it’s pretty rubbish that people don’t feel like they can be openly gay. It’s quite sad, really,” Broady continued.
“Hopefully I will help raise awareness for it and if there are people in the locker rooms and you kind of, you don’t want to force them to come out, you know, especially if they don’t want to. It’s their choice.’
“So you just got to try and support in the way you can and just let them know that everything’s okay.”

It is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out about LGBT rights. In 2018 he criticized Margaret Court who likened gay-rights activists to Adolf Hitlef in terms of what she claims is ‘propaganda.’ Court has a history of making anti-LGBT remarks despite insisting that she has nothing against gay people.

Broady says he doesn’t personally know of any gay player on the Tour. Although if there was, he assumed that it would be known because the sport is a ‘pretty leaky ship’ when it comes to having private details revealed online.

On Monday the Australian Open will launch their first ever Pride Day at the tournament.

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Australian Open: Pablo Carreno Busta Through But Fabio Fognini Stunned

Busta has booked his place in the second round at Melbourne Park for the sixth year in a row.

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Pablo Carreno Busta - image via https://twitter.com/SuperTennisTv/

On day one of the Australian Open, Spanish ace Pablo Carreno Busta sealed an efficient straight-sets win to take his place in the second round.

 

The Spaniard was no match for Argentinian qualifier Tomas Etcheverry coming through 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

The 30-year-old from Giron sailed through the opening set that included two breaks in the fourth and sixth game.

Etcheverry, who won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open, improved in the second set.

However, it wasn’t enough as Carreno-Busta flicked through the gears breaking his younger opponent in the third and seventh game to seal the set.

In the third, the 2017 and 2020 US Open semi-finalist took an early break of serve, only to be pegged back by Etcheverry who forced a tie-break.

It wasn’t to be for the 22-year-old though as Carreno-Busta turned up the heat with some big groundstrokes to move into round two.

Next up for the world number 21 is Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor who thrashed a poor Fabio Fognini in straight sets.

The out of sorts Italian was beaten 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Having lost in the first round of the US Open in September, the former world number world number is nine is in danger of slipping outside the top 40.

Having shown much promise to win a first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo back in 2019, the husband of former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, looks desperately short of motivation and confidence.

Fognini is yet to go beyond the fourth-round of a major, and at 34 time is running out for him to mine the potential that made him one of the sports best juniors growing up alongside Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Elsewhere, former Australian Open star Lucas Pouille, was knocked out in round one by fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet.

Wildcard Pouille has endured a glut of injuries since making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park three years ago.

The 27-year-old has now fallen to 159 in the world. 

Pouille made a bright start to take the opening set 6-3, but his lack of fitness and confidence soon showed, as he lost the following sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

Czech Jiri Vesley, also slumped out to American wildcard Stefan Kozlov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

He will face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini next.

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Cameron Norrie Puzzled By Australian Open Defeat

It was a bad day at the office for the British number one.

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Cameron Norrie ad Indian Wells 2021 (Credits: @BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Cameron Norrie is finding it hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong for him in his first round match at the Australian Open.

 

The 12th seed could only win seven games against Sebastian Korda as he crashed out 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, after just over 100 minutes of play. It is the third time in four appearances that Norrie has fallen in the first round at Melbourne Park but last year he did manage to reach the third round. Against his American rival, he hit 29 unforced errors compared to 23 winners and was broken five times.

I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and I was just slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss,” Norrie said during his press conference.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on.’
“Any time I had a chance to kind of come back, he (Korda) served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me. I didn’t play well in any big points today.”

It has been a far from smooth start to 2022 for the 26-year-old who also suffered disappointment at the ATP Cup earlier this month. In the team tournament he lost all three of his singles matches to Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Zverev is the only one of the trio currently ranked higher than him.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Norrie’s latest defeat is the fact he seemed perplexed about why he played the way he did. Asked by one journalist if he was possibly suffering any lingering affects from catching COVID-19 during the festive period he replied ‘No, I think I prepared as well as I can, and I felt fine physically, fine mentally.’

Norrie was one of the breakthrough stars last year on the ATP Tour when he raced up the world rankings. He featured in six Tour finals across three different surfaces and won the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The stellar season earned him a place at the ATP Finals as a reserve and he even played two matches following the withdrawal of Stefanos Tsitsipas due to injury.

“I don’t know why I played the way I did today. I was feeling good physically,” he said. “Yeah, I played a lot of matches (last year) but this is what we (tennis players) are paid to do and just not good enough. I just need to raise my standards, practice, matches, and execute a lot better.”

Of course, credit has to be given to Korda, who is making his debut at Melbourne Park. The American had a far from ideal preparation for the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 which forced him to withdraw from two warm-up events.

21-year-old Korda has now beaten a top 20 player on six separate occasions. He will play France’s Corentin Moutet in the second round.

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