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.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Names His Best Personality Trait Ahead of Wimbledon Showdown With Kyrgios
The Greek has named one ‘defining aspect’ of her personality but will it have any relevance for his next match?
Stefanos Tsitsipas says he is ‘thrilled’ to book a Wimbledon third round meeting with Nick Kyrgios later this week after seeing off Jordan Thompson in straight sets on Thursday.
The world No.5 rallied his way to a 6-2, 6-3, 7-5, over Thompson to record only his fifth main draw win at the tournament in his career. Despite his accolades on the Tour, Tsitsipas has endured disappointment at The All England Club. In his four previous appearances, he lost in the first round three times.
Nevertheless, the Greek appears to be heading in the right direction on the grass after winning the Mallorca Open less than a week ago. Although he will be truly tested on Saturday when he faces the dangerous Kyrgios who he lost to in Halle earlier this year after winning the first set. Kyrgios produced a clinical performance in his second round match which he said was a message sent to media criticism him.
“Nick has more matches on me in these courts. He claims to like grass. I think his game is good for the grass,” said Tsitsipas.
“I am definitely thrilled to be facing him. I respect him a lot, on the court, what he’s trying to do. Although he has been a little controversial in the past, I think he’s playing good tennis.’
“I’m going to try and concentrate on doing my thing and pay attention to my own game from start to finish. Hopefully I can stay there and do something great, have a great competitive match against him.”
Kyrgios’ talent has never been disputed but it is his mentality which has at times been his downfall. In his first round match, he was aggravated by the crowd, argued with a match official and spat in front of some people in the stands who were ‘disrespecting’ him.
As for Tsitsipas, the 23-year-old believes his mental strength is one of his best personality traits.
“My mentality is pretty strong. If I fall, I’ll always get up and work hard. I never really have these days where I’m saying, I don’t want to practice today,” he said
“I feel like other players would have that a bit more often than I do. If I fall, I always get up, one thing to get stronger.”
It remains to be seen if Tsitsipas will come back stronger against Kyrgios as he seeks revenge for his recent loss. Although he has lost to the Australian on two other occasions with his only victory in their rivalry being at the Laver Cup.
“You just go out on the court hoping to have a good match, hoping to be able to get balls back, be precise with your shot selection. That comes with good preparation. The rest will hopefully follow if you’re able to approach that with the right mindset.” Tsitsipas explained.
Tsitsipas is the only seeded player remaining in his section of the draw after two rounds played.
Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer form dream team for London’s Laver Cup
Build-up to September’s Laver Cup has already begun and some big names are set to feature.
Andy Murray’s Wimbledon may have come to a disappointing end yesterday, but there is hope on the horizon yet.
It was announced shortly before his second-round encounter with John Isner, that the three-time Grand Slam champion has signed up to play in September’s Laver Cup.
This would mark Murray’s first appearance in the competition.
Being a home tournament for the Brit, fans will be hoping and praying he stays fit for September’s showpiece at the O2 Arena.
Team Europe assembles dream team
With the confirmation of tennis legends Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, the addition of Murray adds more stellar firepower and history to Europe’s cast.
With three of six confirmed, who could the other three names be?
Surely, teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz should be given a place at the table.
The Spaniard has taken the ATP Tour by storm this season, winning not one but TWO Masters 1000’s in Miami and Madrid.
He also became the youngest member of the top ten since you guessed it, his idol Nadal.
Another strong contender would be Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
Having spent three months out with a hand injury, he stormed to titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s proving to be the season’s standout player on grass.
He unfortunately had to pull out of Wimbledon on the eve of his first-round match after contracting Coronavirus.
If fit, he would be a worthy addition after debuting at the event last year.
The romantics would love for another big name in Stan Wawrinka.
The Swiss is well and truly in the twilight of his career.
Like Andy, he has won three Grand Slam’s and would be warmly welcomed by close friend Roger, who he won the 2008 Beijing Olympics doubles gold alongside.
And then there’s Marin Cilic who was in fine form to reach the semi-finals of the French Open, making him only one of five active players to reach all four Grand Slam semi-finals.
The former US Open champion played in the inaugural Laver Cup back in 2017.
Team World – Diego Schwartzman, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger Aliassime confirmed
The challenge of Team Captain John McEnroe is that his counterpart, Bjorn Borg has a wealth of talent at his disposal.
Whilst, the American doesn’t quite have the same luxury.
Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Indian Wells winner Taylor Fritz were the first two confirmed names.
Canadian talents Felix Auger Aliassime (confirmed) and Denis Shapovalov (not yet confirmed), are the standout names that Team World will bolster their ranks with.
That would then leave two places left with McEnroe likely to call on past stalwarts from previous editions.
This could be 37-year-old Isner, who was highly impressive in defeating Murray yesterday at Wimbledon.
Meanwhile, the seven-time Grand Slam champion is a known fan and admirer of the feisty Nick Kyrgios.
The two big servers could therefore be the final names.
Other possibilities would be American’s Frances Tiafoe, who has played the Laver Cup before, and the talented Sebastian Korda.
Following the announcement of Murray, more confirmations cannot be far away.
Spain’s Bautista Agut Latest Player To Test Positive For Covid At Wimbledon
It is understood that The All England Club is reviewing their Covid-19 policy amid fears of an outbreak.
This year’s Wimbledon men’s tournament has had a third seeded player forced to pull out after testing positive for COVID-19.
Roberto Bautista Agut, who was the 17th seed in the draw, has withdrawn from his second-round match against Daniel Elahi Galan which was set to get underway on Thursday afternoon on Court Three. Announcing his decision on Twitter, the Spaniard said his symptoms are ‘not very serious‘ but he believes not playing is the right thing to do.
“Today I have notified Wimbledon of my withdrawal. I have tested positive for Covid-19. Fortunately, the symptoms are not very serious but I think it is the best decision (not to play).” Bautista Agut wrote.
“I hope to be back soon.”
The 34-year-old was making his eighth main draw appearance at The All England Club this year. In 2019 he reached the semi-finals in what is his best-ever result at a Grand Slam tournament to date.
Earlier this week Marin Cilic and Matteo Berrettini also withdrew from Wimbledon after positive Covid tests. However, they hadn’t played their first round match which Bautista Agut did. The trio of cases raise fears of a possible outbreak in the tournament given how contagious it can be.
Wimbledon’s Covid-19 policy is made in conjunction with advice issued by local health officials. Although it is unclear if a player is required to withdraw from an event if they have the virus. Ubitennis asked a spokesperson for clarity on the matter but was instead given a generic statement.
As a major event we have and continue to work in conjunction with the UK Public Health Security Agency and our Local Authority,’ An All England Club spokesperson said via email on June 26th.
“As a major event we have and continue to work in conjunction with the UK Public Health Security Agency and our Local Authority.
“We have maintained enhanced cleaning and hand sanitising operations, and offer full medical support for anyone feeling unwell. We are following UK guidance around assessment and isolation of any potential infectious disease.
“Our player medical team also continue to wear face masks for any consultation.”
The Guardian has reported that a review of Wimbledon’s guidelines is underway. This was before Agut said he had also contracted the virus. However, there has been no formal announcement concerning any review.
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