Radek Stepanek Stays Silent Amid Rumours Of Coaching Partnership With Djokovic - UBITENNIS
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Radek Stepanek Stays Silent Amid Rumours Of Coaching Partnership With Djokovic

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Newly retired Radek Stepanek has said he is in the process of finding ’the right path’ as speculation about a potential collaboration with Novak Djokovic mounts.

The 38-year-old announced his retirement from professional tennis last week after 21 years on the tour. During his career, the Czech rose to a high of eighth in the world and won five ATP titles. In the doubles, he won a total of 15 titles, including two at grand slam level. Stepanek has been marred by injury problems within recent years with the back becoming his most recent problem.

“I have fought until my last breath but it’s time to go now,” he said about his retirement.

No longer a player, there is a chance that the former world No.8 could be making a return back to the tour soon, but as a coach. Earlier this year Serbian media reported that he was a contender to join Novak Djokovic’s coaching team. Djokovic is currently guided by Andre Agassi, who is balancing the role with other commitments he has.

Darren Cahill, who is Simona Halep’s mentor, recently confirmed that he has discussed the idea with Agassi. According to Cahill, who was commentating for ESPN, Stepanek’s potential role could see him managing Djokovic during the non-grand slam weeks of the year.

There has been no official word regarding the potential appointment of Stepanek, who didn’t mention the role in an interview with Idnes.cz. Asked about what his plans for the future were, he said he would take his time to think about what to do next.

“Now for a few days I’ll disappear. And I think what I’ll do next.” Said Stepanek. “For years, I hurried from the match to the hotel, from the hotel to the airport. I was in a hurry. Now I have plenty of time to find the right way forward (for me).”

The prospect of the two working together would come as no surprise. Earlier in the year Djokovic described the Czech as one of his ‘best friends’ on the tour. Praising him for his longevity on the tour. Stepanek was also once named as a potential coach for Nick Kyrgios.

“We know each other well. We practise many times. Great guy. Very interesting guy.” Djokovic said in January.

Stepanek has also insisted that he will not change his mind about retirement. Branding his decision as ‘irreversible.’

“No. I can imagine myself playing an an exhibition (match). But not back on the professional tour. I am convinced that my decision is irreversible.” He said about retirement.

With there being no timeframe set out, it remains to be seen is Stepanek will join forces with the Serbian. Djokovic will start his 2018 season at the Doha Open. The tournament will start on January 1st.

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Novak Djokovic accepts that playing in front of empty stands is the only solution to continue the tour

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Novak Djokovic talked about the problems tennis players are facing in this difficult period in a recent interview to three-time Grand Slam champion Guga Kuerten. The Serb said that he cannot imagine the idea of playing behind closed doors.

 

The interview was part of a promotion for Kuerten’s “Vencendo Juntos” programme to raise 10 Million Brazilian Real to help 35000 Brazilian families affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Djokovic and Roger Federer have agreed to show their support for the initiative.

“I honestly don’t dream to play in front of empty stands, but it looks like that it’s going to be the reality of tennis. We have probably to accept that if we want to continue the tour, then we have to be playing in restricted conditions that will at least allow us to play and compete. Of course it is not ideal. Of course, I play for me and my family. My opinion is that I personally don’t play tennis for me only. Of course, I play for me and my family. I feel like tennis gives me so much joy and I love playing it and of course, I practice. I don’t need to have people there every practice. I think the advantage of tennis in these circumstances compared to many other sports is that you can play national level tournaments if countries between themselves allow people and players to travel between the countries”, said Djokovic.  

Tennis players are going through a lot of challenges in this difficult period.

“We have earned enough money to have comfortable lives. We are lucky and grateful to have this life, but 95% of tennis players and also the people in the world, but also the people in the world, but we are talking about tennis now, they are fighting. This is the reality. Especially those in the lowest positions. They do not have the opportunity to compete and earn money. For many of those players, this is about surviving, continuing to play professional tennis or quitting. I have spent a lot of time in the last two months helping the Serbian Tennis Federation organize a tour. I also spend a lot of time talking to the ATP and the Council, trying to understand the players, with the ATP, with the President and player representatives, about the best ways to help lower-ranking players. I hold myself accountable not only because I am the President of the ATP Council but also as one of the best players in the world and someone was very successful in tennis and made a lot of money from it. I need to be present as much as I can, be available to contribute in any way possible. I spoke with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal there was a lot of communication. I am very happy with how the world of the men’s tennis responded in these difficult times”, said Djokovic.

Djokovic said that he would like to visit Rio de Janeiro to play an exhibition match with Kuerten. The Serb visited Rio de Janeiro in November 2012 for the opening of a tennis court in the Rocinha part of the city, one of the largest slums in South America.

“I remember the day we played at Macaranazinho. I remember Rio well. I remember well. It was one of the best days of my life”, said Djokovic.

 Djokovic showed his appreciation for Guga Kuerten.

“Guga is one of the most charismatic players to have been involved in tennis and today he showed why. Brazilian tennis has a great spirit and big soul. Serbia is a small country but it has a lot of common with Brazil. We are very emotive people”, said Djokovic.

 

Djokovic started the 2020 season with an unbeaten streak of 18 wins and claimed three titles at the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup in Australia, the Australian Open in Melbourne and Dubai.

 

The Serbian star saved two match points to beat Roger Federer in an epic five-set Wimbledon final last July. He won his 17th Grand Slam title in Melbourne by beating Dominic Thiem.

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Cut Prize Money In Doubles To Help Low-Ranked Players, Says Wimbledon Champion Bartoli

The former top 10 tennis star has come up with a controversial proposal to help bridge the pay gap in tennis.

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Former French tennis star Marion Bartoli has come under fire after suggesting how she would help financially support players ranked outside of the top 100.

 

Bartoli, who won the 2013 Wimbledon trophy, has come up with a radical idea that would see money earned from doubles tournaments get taken away and redistributed to singles players. Speaking to Tennis Majors, the 35-year-old said she couldn’t understand where there were so many doubles events taking place outside of the four grand slams and Olympics. Her argument stems from a claim that she has witnessed doubles players having teams of ‘like six people’ and therefore earn more than enough money.

“I know I’m not going to make myself friends but I think we have to say it: I don’t understand all these doubles competitions all year round,” Bartoli told the Match Points talk show.
“I understand during Grand Slams and the Olympics because doubles is part of tennis history (but) I’ve been to some tournaments now with my player and I see now, these (doubles) players, they have crews, like six people around them.’
“When I was a player, as a singles player, we couldn’t afford to pay six people to travel with us full-time. They can afford to pay six people and they just play doubles!”

The comment concerns the ongoing debate over how lower-ranked players are coping during the Tour suspension due to COVID-19. Recently it was announced that a $6 million Relief fund has been set up to support roughly 800 players. The money will be issued by the ATP and WTA as long as players meet certain criteria. Furthermore, the International Tennis Federation is currently in the process of coming up with their own plans.

Nevertheless, Bartoli believes it would be right to take some money away from the doubles Tour because those players don’t put in as much effort in her opinion. The Frenchwoman won three WTA titles in doubles during her career.

“Why don’t you get some of that money to qualifiers, to someone who plays only Challengers? I just don’t understand because in doubles, you just don’t make the same effort as a singles player,” she said.
“You don’t practice as much….they keep going, week in and week out, getting that money. I don’t know if we have to stop doubles completely, but to get less money and give that money to qualification and others, that should be a solution.”

Belgian tennis player Joran Vliegen has hit back at the criticism. The 26-year-old currently has a doubles ranking of 36. Last season he won three ATP titles and reached the quarter-finals of the French Open. During 2019 he earned $187,673, which is more than 20 times less than what Novak Djokovic has already earned in 2020.

“Marion Bartoli thinks we shouldn’t play doubles and give money to singles qualifiers and challengers because we can afford to have six people in our team. We’ve only recently added a traveling coach because we could never afford it. Also, we practice 5-6 hours a day. Guess that’s not enough for her,” Vliegen wrote on Twitter.
“I completely agree with her that there is a problem with prize money distribution towards the lower rankings. In my opinion however, this is not the way to change that,” he added.

Addressing the current structure of the Tour, Bartoli has also criticised the distribution of prize money to players at the big tournaments. Arguing that the current situation makes the rich richer and poor poorer. Citing the US Open, which awarded the 2019 men’s and women’s champion $3,850,000 each. Roughly a third of what the former world No.7 earned throughout her entire career.

“When I see someone winning the US Open, and taking 4 million…. I won Wimbledon and I didn’t take four million. I believe I took enough money out of it. Right now the numbers are way too high for the people who are winning. They don’t share the money enough.” She concluded.

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Return of British Tennis Tour Opens The Door For Andy Murray’s Latest Comeback

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Andy Murray at the 2019 Australian Open (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Great Britain has become the latest country to take the route of domestic tennis to fill in the void of the ongoing Tour suspension due to COVD-19.

 

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has announced the return of the British Tour during July. A total of four events will take place over as many weeks. Each tournament will have a field of 32 players with 16 men and 16 women. Participants are eligible to take part based on their current ranking providing they are a member of the LTA. All four tournaments will be held over three days (Friday-Sunday) at the National Tennis Center in Roehampton. There will also be doubles action with eight teams featuring in a FAST4 format over one day each week.

“Since the coronavirus crisis, we have been working incredibly hard to support all our players, venues, coaches and officials through this very challenging time,” LTA CEO Scott Lloyd said in a statement.
“I’m delighted to announce today the next stage of elite tennis’ return to competing safely behind closed doors as part of a five-phase plan coordinated by UK Sport with Government.”
“The LTA is actively engaged in developing the necessary guidelines for behind closed doors events, which we hope will be determined by the Government in the coming weeks to ensure the safest environment for anyone involved in returning to competition and look forward to bringing tennis back into people’s lives this summer.”

It is yet to be confirmed who will be playing at the tournament. Although both Andy Murray and Johanna Konta are expected to feature at some stage. Murray hasn’t played a competitive match since the Davis Cup finals last November due to pelvic bruising. The three-time grand slam champion had recently said that his rehabilitation is going according to plan but gave no further comment on when he expects to be back to full fitness. During an Instagram Live chat with Rafael Nadal on April 20th he said that he ‘felt pretty good’ without going into specifics.

In weeks two and four of the British tour there will be Premier-level events with a prize money pool of £16,000. Each of the winners will take home £2250. Meanwhile in weeks one and three those tournaments will be classed as a ‘Tier 1.’ The prize money is a 50% increase compared with previous British Tour events.

The British Tour is set to take place between July 3-26 but is still subject to government approval.

Top five British players

Men
1.Dan Evans (No.28)
2.Kyle Edmund (No.44)
3.Cameron Norrie (No.77)
4.Andy Murray (No.129)
5.Jay Clarke (No.167)

Women
1.Jo Kona (No.14)
2.Heather Watson (No.50)
3.Harriet Dart (No.146)
4.Sam Murray (No.180)
5.Naiktha Bains (No.212)

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