Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic could not afford to take 6 months off without any consequences. Roger Federer is the most universally loved hero for the finest fairy tale.
WIMBLEDON – Since the Olympics were born in ancient Greece, sports fans have always loved to celebrate their heroes. Thousands of years later, things haven’t changed. At Wimbledon – the most prestigious sports temple – tennis is celebrating its most beloved hero. On Sunday Roger Federer captured his 8th Wimbledon title in a magnificent fairy tale.
Besides Federer, tennis can count on other popular champions, such as Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, but none of them seem to unanimously enjoy the same respect as Roger when it comes to their rivals’ biggest fans. Sometimes I wonder if Roger could be granted an honorary passport in the 196 countries that populate our planet. Everywhere he plays or whoever he faces across the net, most of the crowd’s support is always for him, which is something that doesn’t happen in other sports. Perhaps the Ferrari brand might enjoy similar support around the world, but a single athlete with such unanimous support is truly unique.
Roger’s extraordinary and miraculous 2017 season isn’t anything that could have been predicted. After a six-month hiatus from the game, he started the year seeded No. 17 at the Australian Open in January. For the first time in 15 years, he wasn’t included in the top 16 seeds.
After winning in Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami, Roger took another ten-week break skipping the entire clay-court season. Rafa Nadal admitted that he couldn’t afford to take such long breaks from the sport and come back as if nothing happened.
Roger won 5 out of 7 tournaments in 2017, and the losses to Donskoy in Dubai and Haas in Stuttgart materialized after he squandered a match point. He captured two Slams, two Masters 1000 and the grass-court event in Halle for the ninth time. He really couldn’t have played any better.
Roger’s Wimbledon title materialized without dropping a set, 41 years after Bjorn Borg managed to accomplish the same feat.
“Creating history here at Wimbledon means a lot to me. Wimbledon has always been my favorite tournament, all my heroes triumphed on these lawns. I became a better player thanks to them,” Roger said in his post-match press conference.
This year’s tournament provided us with only one great men’s match (Muller-Nadal) and one and a half women’s match (Muguruza-Kerber and the first set of Muguruza-Venus). The tournament exposed the currently shaky psychological and physical conditions of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and showed the poor form of Juan Martin Del Potro, who is a shadow of the player that we admired at last year’s Olympics and Davis Cup. The Argentinian’s two handed-backhand is still non-existent.
Except for the two finalists and the young Ostapenko, no other female player is worth mentioning. Women’s tennis is certainly missing Serena Williams, even if Muguruza could become one of the leading players in the future. Garbine is only 23 years-old and has already won two Slams, if she plays until 36 years of age like Federer, she will have plenty of time to break a few interesting records.
Roger won his Wimbledon titles at 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 30 and 35 years of age. In my opinion, Muguruza (1993), Kvitova (1990) and Ostapenko (1997) are the players with more chances to enhance the record books of our sport.
Federer will be the big favorite at the next US Open with a realistic chance at Grand Slam title No. 20 and a shot at the No. 1 ranking. He is currently No. 3 in the ATP rankings and No. 2 in the Race to London, trailing Rafael Nadal by only 550 points. The two legendary rivals have captured the first three majors of the year, which was unthinkable in 2016 when Novak Djokovic dominated the first semester and Andy Murray ruled the second.
Marin Cilic was very unlucky during Sunday’s final: a terrible blister under his left foot deeply affected his performance. The Croatian could have been a dangerous opponent for Roger, after the Swiss overcame the challenge presented in the semifinal by Tomas Berdych. The Czech was the only opponent to push Roger to two tie-breaks throughout the tournament.
Federer never seemed to play under pressure and always looked calm and serene during the entire fortnight. Roger rightly attributed his calmness and composure to his wife Mirka, who masterfully manages his travels, family, parents, two coaches and physio. The entire crew stayed in two mega-apartments at Wimbledon for the whole two weeks.
(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com)
Forgive Us, Roger, We Took One More Piece Of You
(Abstract) We’ve written a letter to Roger Federer, who’s been forced to take a break, and who’ll be forced to come back.
Roger Federer, you’ve given yourself away long ago. This is hardly news, it’s what happens to many, if not to every public figure. This is what’s happened to you more than to others, and it usually goes down this way.
Generally, you begin by giving away your liberties, your privacy – and in so doing you lose your first piece of yourself. You can’t hide anymore, nor can you pretend that it’s not happening. You can’t fall in love nor mourn privately, nor can you do it in the company of just your loved ones. There is a whole army of aspiring VIPs who flood social media with their entire being. For you Instagram comes as a package deal, even though you can’t switch on a laptop. You could wear a wig in public, like Boris Becker did a few years back, but they’ll track you down anyway. Your intimacy is gone – you were born in silence, but ended up on Love Island.
After that, you give away your image. You suddenly give it up and let the world dissect it in a kaleidoscope of shiny shafts. Wholly fragmented, it appears where you’d have least expected to. Your face is everywhere, your name is everywhere. You give away your image to endorse a pair of sneakers, and a graphite racquet. You give it away for a Swiss bank, and live with the criticism, and for an Italian brand of pasta. You grow to be inextricably tied to these things: you were born free and your image is theirs. You didn’t have to, the mortgage was fine. It’s just that there’s never existed someone who didn’t do it.
On the other hand, you also give yourself away for millions of kids in tennis clubs at every latitude, kids who who try to imitate your serve motion, or try to hit a forehand in the hope that their hair may fall on their forehead like it does for you. They never succeed, God forbid, but if they manage to come up with something that remotely resembles your style, they just cry out a single “Roger!”, and feel some elctricity down their spine for the very first time. Your image is with them when they play, when they trail off in school, when the door to their room and don’t need a video game or a poster hanging on the wall to own it. All they need is the space to conjure you. We could almost say that they take away your soul, if only a kid knew how to do it.
Then other things were given away, things that you didn’t expect, and that perhaps we took without your consent. We took our tears – in Paris, in London. In Australia, we had tears for both elation and despair, in the years 2006 and 2009, respectively. No-one was able to bottle them and brew a talent elixir. They fell on Rod Laver’s blazer, on Rafa’s tracksuit. They mingled with the rain and the clay at Porte d’Auteuil, while in London they wetted the grass at your seat’s feet. How many among us have wept in front of millions of people? How many would be okay with it?
Finally, we took a few worthless items, mere mementos. We picked your brains on stuff you wouldn’t have wanted to discuss: politics, the environment, psychoanalysis. We picked your brains on Freud, and on things you don’t know, so you learned to reply walking on the thin line between what we wanted and what you didn’t. Someone even stole a fragment of your voice, undetected yet harmless, after having asked you a question in a press conference. He recorded it as it was, glued to his own inquiring tone. He listened back just once, to check if he’d actually recorded it, and then treasured it in a box.
When we got tired of immaterial things, those we can’t touch, we became morbid, and we began to demand pieces of your body. We took your bout of mononucleosis in 2008, so short-lived and yet so fierce. At regular intervals, we got some small pieces of your back. Since 2008, your body has been on a lease, as we were reminded during the serendipitous run at the 2012 Championships, when you were forced to wear a top under your Nike outfit.
We wanted you on court no matter what. We’ve showered you in obsequious praise for being the only one who’s never retired during a match, talking you into wearing yourself out for us. We exploited you a month ago too, for four hours straight against Sandgren, while your groin strained and ached, and for two more hours against Nole, well aware that you couldn’t win. Now we’ve taken one of your knees. We were quite content with the other one, which we took four years ago, feeding on its cartilage while tenderly recalling our generosity. That time, you told us an incredible story of nemeses and comebacks, gifting us with the most re-watched fifth set in tennis history.
Now you’ve given us the other knee. We’re still unsure as to which altar it was immolated on: perhaps on that of too many exhibition matches, the Cape Town altar, where it was crunched by 52,000 South Africans, cannibalistic like in Livingstone’s short stories. Maybe the altar is that of one more crazed run for another Wimbledon title, or better for one more crazed run to flee from Nadal and Djokovic, who’ve been chasing you down, their breath on their prey’s neck who can’t do anything if not run with no more caution. We’ve taken your knee because we need to live through the wait for your comeback. We hold it at ransom: do you want it back? Surprise us, because the game has been the same for ten years and we need some romance. This is why we’re booking a place for one more comeback. The 2020 Championships just like Australia back in ’17. That day, there will be no room for any pain in your arm, or your heart. C’mon Roger, entertain us, even if you’re sad.
There’s no complex explanation for such sadism. For this crave to have on court a man who, at 38, has every right but no wish whatsoever to give up – it’s just a crave, and love. Because we want you. We’re like husbands who abuse their wives and say they they do it out of love. If that’s the way it is, then it isn’t love, nor admiration. We’re getting confused too. When we get exhalted for a volley and we, too, cry out your name, all we’re doing is actually crying out our own. We’ve taken your whole being, you and your victories, piece after piece. You’re necessary to us who know nothing of winning what we want.
This is why I’d like to give something back to you in return, even if just in small part. I’d like to give back to you some time to make a choice, because we ended up taking that too. I’m not saying it panned out badly for you, not in the slightest. But your years have also been chomped by newspapers that would sell a lot less without you, they have been belittled by octogenarian ladies who beg you to hold on, unimpressed by your age- you’ve become a finger food for them. Enzo Ferrari used to say that a racer loses one full second on the track for every child he begets. Of course we’re talking about a second per lap, the comparison doesn’t really hold. And yet, even I know that out of the races that second dilates beyond every reasonable time and beyond every reasonable engagement – and I would only drop a second. You have four children, and still it looks like you don’t get a right to drop your four seconds.
Thus, I’m now offering them to you, and the same do all those who wish for your knee to be okay in no time, but we do it without demanding the impossible to become possible at all costs, once again. We offer them to you the only way we know how to. Count them down with us, exhaling at every number. One. Two. Three. And four. In four seconds you can say everything that is remotely important: I’m leaving, you’re a father, I’ll wait for you, I’m coming back. And if you wish, you can say goodbye as well.
Note: This article was originally published in Italian on ubitennis.com by Agostino Nigro and translated into english by Tommaso Villa.
Tennis Braces Itself For Potential Coronavirus Chaos
No tennis player have tested positive for the virus, but the world of tennis could face multiple challenges over the coming months.
In a recent interview with ESPN China’s top player says he starts conversations by stating how many days he has been out of his country.
World No.136 Zhizhen Zhang continues to play on the tour around the world as his homeland deals with a serious disease that has now been declared as a global epidemic by the World Health Organisation. Coronavirus, which also goes by the name of Covid-19, has claimed the lives of more than 1000 people worldwide with the majority of the fatalities being in China. Officials believe the outbreak originated at a food market in Wuhan where the illegal trade of wild animals takes place.
“Whenever my parents call me, all they tell me is to not come back now,” Zhang told ESPN. “They want me to stay away from home and stay safe.”
Zhang is currently playing in India on the Challenger circuit, but lost his opening match in Bengaluru earlier this week. Due to his nationality, any signs of illness alert the doctors and those around him. As he recently found out.
“I visited the tournament doctor’s room because I was feeling uneasy and running a bit of a fever. When he learnt I’m from China, he was worried. Since I didn’t have a cough and I’d been out of the country for a while, it helped put everyone at ease,” the 23-year-old said. “Now wherever I go, when I tell people I’m from China, I make sure I add that I’ve not been to the country in two weeks.”
It isn’t just Asia, where there are concerns about the illness and how it can affect the world of tennis. Cases have also been identified in the UK, USA and Spain. However, it believed those infections was started by somebody who had travelled to the region.
In South America the Buenos Aires Open is currently taking place. This year’s field features six top 40 players, headlined by world No.14 Diego Schwartzman. They may be a long way away from China, but concerns remain.
“I was a little relieved to leave the Australian Open at the end of last month, because I knew it was a matter of days or weeks before the first case of coronavirus arrived. We were just a few hours by plane from the infectious outbreak in Asia.” La Nacion quoted Guido Pella as saying.
“We suffered the issue of forest fires (in Australia) which was terrible for everyone, but then the coronavirus approached. We are living a difficult and sensitive moment in the world.”
Horacio Zeballos is one of many parents on the tour who travel with both his wife and children to certain tournaments. The top seed in the men’s doubles tournament says he is always mindful of germs when going to various countries. A mindset he had before the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We try to have extreme cleanliness and always travel with alcohol gel. My wife is constantly washing the hands of the boys, mostly at airports. Then, we take some measures as not to put the suitcase on top of the bed to undo it or leave the stroller, which walks through all the streets, outside the room. With regard to the Coronavirus we do not take any action yet.” He said.
Tough times for Asian tennis
A series of tournaments have already been cancelled in China. Including multiple Challenger tournaments as well as a regional Fed Cup tie being moved to Dubai. Many understand that reason as to why, but nevertheless it is a financial issue for some on the tour.
World No.289 Sasikumar Mukund had planned to play no fewer than five tournaments in China over the next two months. Now they are cancelled, he has been left in limbo. The country was set to hold 14 Challenger tournaments in 2020.
“I don’t have a schedule, where can I plan next?” Sasikumar told The Hindu’s Sportstar on February 6th. “The tournaments got cancelled last Tuesday. For now the plan is to stay in Europe. I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward. The Olympics are at stake if it goes on like this!”
-Qujing CH 50 (Week of 2 March 2020)
-Zhuhai CH 80 (Week of 9 March 2020)
-Shenzhen CH 90 (Week of 16 March 2020)
-Zhangjiagang CH 80 (Week of 23 March 2020)
Strong chance of being cancelled/moved but not confirmed
-Taipei CH 125 (Week of 30 March 2020)
-Nanchang CH 80 (Week of 6 April 2020)
-Changsha CH 80 (Week of 13 April 2020)
-Anning CH 125 (Week of 20 April 2020)
If the outbreak isn’t contained later this year for whatever reason, the tennis calendar could be thrown into chaos. After the US Open, China will host a series of prestigious tournaments that will feature the best players in the world. Including the WTA Wuhan Open, which is the city where Coronavirus is said to originate from. In total the country will host eight WTA events between September and November, including the prestigious WTA Finals. On the ATP Tour four events are scheduled to take place during that period with the most high-profile being the Shanghai Masters.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for tennis in the region. This week the Thailand Open is taking place that features world No.4 Elina Svitolina. According to The Bangkok Post, officials have sprayed the venue with ‘environmentally friendly products’ to relieve fears about the virus.
“We want to show to the world that Thailand is safe after the coronavirus outbreak [in China],” said Suwat Liptapanlop, chief adviser of the organising committee.
“We want to tell foreigners that they can come to Thailand because this is a safe place.”
Another talking point concerns the Olympic Games, which will get underway on July 24th. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are just some of the players who will be bidding to claim a gold medal in Tokyo. Japan has recently pledged to use 10.3 billion yen ofd the country’s budget in the fight against Coronavirus.
“I want to again state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered.” 2020 Games chief Toshiro Muto told reporters on Wednesday.
Tennis officials are hoping that they can take the same stance as Muto later this year during the Asian swing of the season. But for now it remains a nervous waiting game to see how much worse it will get.
Mr. Djokovic Isn’t Ready To Turn Over The Slams To Youth
Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier journalist James Beck reflects of the latest achievement of the world No.1.
The amazing Mr. Djokovic isn’t ready to turn over the Grand Slams to youth just yet. Not at just 32 years old.
Look at Roger Federer. He’s six years older and still capable of beating anyone on any surface on any given day.
And Rafa Nadal certainly isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Not at 33 years old, and just a tiebreaker or two from maybe replacing Dominic Thiem in Sunday night’s Australian Open men’s singles final.
There you have it, the Three Legends — Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. It’s highly unlikely they’re finished for the year at the Grand Slam level.
NOVAK SPECTACULAR DOWN THE STRETCH
For the last two sets of the Australian Open final, Novak Djokovic was just as spectacular as he was in 2008 when he won his first of eight Australian Open singles titles.
Djokovic brushed aside the talented Thiem when it appeared the new crop of stars was ready to take over from the Legends. That was the last two sets in a riveting 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 Djokovic win over the 26-year-old Thiem.
Unless Nadal gets hot the way he did last year when he won a pair of Grand Slam titles to give the Spaniard five of what now is 13 consecutive Grand Slam titles by the Three Legends, Djokovic could make the all-time Grand Slam title race really tight by the time he returns to Melbourne in a year from now.
FEDERER AND NADAL OBVIOUSLY FELT PRESSURE
Federer obviously was feeling the pressure in a semifinal loss to Djokovic a few days ago, even though Nadal’s chase of Federer’s record total of 20 Grand Slam titles was put on hold until at least the French Open by a loss to Thiem in the quarterfinals. Nadal also didn’t seem to be his self in the long match against Thiem in which he lost three tiebreakers.
But now Djokovic is only two shy of Nadal’s total of 19 Grand Slams, and three less than Federer.
Of course, passing or matching another legend’s all-time mark isn’t easy. Just ask Serena Williams about her chase of Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles. Yes, Serena failed again at the Australian Open. We didn’t hear much from Serena after her third-round loss Down Under.
But Serena will keep trying, and maybe one of these remaining three opportunities of 2020 will be Serena’s day.
DJOKOVIC WASN’T HIMSELF IN THE MIDDLE SETS
Djokovic just wasn’t himself in the second and third sets, especially late in the second set when a double fault and two time violations, all in succession, took their toll on Novak and probably cost him the second set when he was serving at 4-4. Not only did he lose those three points and the game to fall behind 5-4, he lost seven straight points and six consecutive games.
That took care of the second set and most of the third set.
Suddenly, Novak was in a hole he had never before been in and survived at the Grand Slam final level. He was down two sets to one.
A LEGENDARY CAREER STILL GOING STRONG
Djokovic added a footnote to his still unfinished, but already legendary career by playing two of the greatest sets of his life to end Thiem’s immediate quest for a first Grand Slam title.
Thiem isn’t to be overlooked, however. He is amazingly talented. For awhile, Djokovic had no answer for Thiem’s powerful forehands and one-handed backhands, and super serve, not to mention his outstanding court coverage.
Outside of the Three Legends, Thiem appears to be in a class by himself. If he can last long enough, he almost certainly will become a legend himself one of these days.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
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