LONDON: World No.2 Roger Federer has hit back at critics of the current ATP Tour calendar, arguing that the surge in injured players is due to age.
The 36-year-old weighed in on the debate moments after qualifying for the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals for the 14th time in his career. This year’s event has been marred by notable absentees. Defending champion Andy Murray is nursing a hip injury, Novak Djokovic is recovering from an elbow problem and Kei Nishikori has been troubled by his wrist. On top of that, world No.1 Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament on Monday due to a knee injury.
“Shave 10 years of our age, and we probably will do better.” Federer joked about resolving the extensive casualty list.
The men’s tour has previously been criticized for their long season, with tournaments taking place between January-November. Former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, who also ended his season early due to physical problems, has been very vocal in his opposition. Calling for the calendar to be reduced to seven months.
Raonic’s calls have been met with scepticism from tour veteran Federer, who points out that more players are playing into their 30s. Meaning that injury is more likely to occur. In the 2016 ATP year-end rankings, 36 players inside the top 100 were over the age of 30. Furthermore, 12 of those were either at or tied with their ranking best.
“A lot of the guys are just touching 30 plus. Back in the day, at 30, a lot of guys were retiring. Edberg, Sampras, it was like normal at 29, 32, to start looking towards the end of your career.” Federer pointed out.
“Now you guys expect everybody to play till 36. When somebody is injured at 31, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, how is this possible?’”
Of course people like 26-year-old Raonic disproves Federer’s theory. Although, he explains why so many younger players are being hit with wrist injuries. Once again insisting that it isn’t due to the scheduling of tournaments.
“Wrist to me is not something that comes from overplaying, especially if it’s your left hand.” Said Federer. “ From what I’ve been told, the wrist is always in a troubled position with that flicking that’s going on more and more these days.”
So what is the solution to the problem? Should tennis fans just accept that in the future more players will be spending time away from the sport to recover? Federer has an answer to that, illustrated by his own approach to the tour. His decision to skip the entire clay-court season raised eyebrows, but it enabled him to return stronger. An approach he urges his rivals to follow.
“The season has been the same for many, many years, as we know.” He explained.
“I think just when you get older, you maybe have to manage your schedule, maybe a little bit differently.’
“But some guys, they just go maybe all out for 15 years, and they do it until you sort of break down, then they just reset.”
List of injured players
Novak Djokovic Out To Continue Recent Grand Slam Dominance With Federer’s Record In Sight
The world No.1 speaks out about chasing grand slam history and the controversy surrounding Justin Gimelstob.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic has proven to be the ultimate player to be beaten in the majors over the past 15 months.
Austria’s Dominic Thiem is the only player to have defeat Djokovic during the last five grand slam tournaments dating back to the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. Within that period the Serbian has improved his grand slam tally from 12 to 16. Placing him third on the all-time list behind rivals Rafael Nadal (18) and Roger Federer (20).
Djokovic will be chasing for his 17th major title next week at the US Open where he is the defending champion. He only entered one event before Flushing Meadows which was at the Cincinnati Masters. At the tournament, Djokovic reached the semi-finals before losing to Daniil Medvedev.
“I, personally, have enjoyed lots of success and have been blessed to play well on these courts here at the US Open, especially the Arthur Ashe Stadium,” Djokovic told reporters on Saturday in New York. “I have not lost too many matches in my career playing night session, and a lot of matches that I get to play in Arthur Ashe Stadium are night sessions. So, I really do enjoy that loud atmosphere that happens in there, which is quite the opposite of, for example, Wimbledon, except the last finals match.”
Besides adding to his trophy collection, there is another motivation for Djokovic to triumph at the US Open. That is to close in and one day break Federer’s all-time grand slam record. He is six years younger than his Swiss rival and is currently on the right trajectory to one day break the record. If his form holds up.
“I’m aware of it, of course. I mean, I’m part of this world. Of course I can’t completely switch off and eliminate what people are talking about. And it’s flattering, obviously,” he commented about the record.
“But at the same time, it’s still a very long way ahead of me. It does also put a certain level of responsibility to me as well, because I’m aiming to do that. You know, it’s definitely one of my ambitions and goals.
“Things are a little bit different than they were ten years ago, but I still feel young inside and outside. And I still am very motivated to keep going… especially now, more or less everything is about Grand Slams.”
Djokovic has won his four most recent meetings against Federer, including their clash in the final at Wimbledon. Against Nadal, who won the 2017 US Open title, he has won just two out of their five most recent meetings. However, all of those three losses occurred on the clay. Nadal’s strongest surface.
The Gimelstob fallout
Amid his preparations for the tournament, Djokovic faced more questions about former ATP player representative Justin Gimelstob. Who resigned from the board after being caught up in a high-profile assault case. Gimelstob pleaded no contest to the allegation. Meaning he doesn’t accept or deny the charges in exchange for a lighter sentence.
“He has taken the responsibility for his actions and what has happened that night,” Djokovic said. “So he went back to deal with this himself. Obviously there is a lot of work in his private life that needs addressing. And that’s all there is.
“You know, he’s not part of the ATP political system at the moment, and I think it’s for the best for all of us. What future holds for him and for us, we don’t know. But I’m still in touch with him. He’s going to try to handle this matter in the best possible way. I really wish him all the best.”
The 32-year-old has previously praised the work of the American, who is a former top 20 doubles player. However, Djokovic has been criticised by indicating that he would welcome Gimelstob’s return despite not reading the court files related to the case. Something he has now done.
“It’s unfortunate that that has happened. Because I think he was a great asset, as I was mentioning in Wimbledon and before, for the players.” He stated.
“But he has taken the responsibility. I have read what you wanted me to read in Wimbledon, and that’s all there is to it. I have no further comments for you.”
Djokovic will play Spain’s Roberto Carballés Baena in the first round of the US Open on Monday.
A new documentary, and the rekindling of Serena Williams’ tryst with 2018 US Open destiny
It’s almost a year since Serena Williams got embroiled in a war of words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the 2018 US Open final. The subject is yet to ebb entirely from memory though. The first episode of ESPN’s new documentary series Backstory – featured on the incident involving the 23-time Grand Slam champion – does its bit to ensure that on the eve of the 2019 US Open, attention is centred on what occurred a year ago.
Titled Serena vs the Umpire, the episode is an extrapolation of the match’s progression and what transpired within it. It presents facts through the pros and cons of Williams and Ramos’, and also of Patrick Mouratoglou’s actions that charted the match. Yet, in spite of this, the program makes Williams out as the wronged one.
First, by her coach, Mouratoglou, who displayed his commitment as a mentor by using hand signals to try and guide her. Then, by Ramos who penalised her for the Frenchman’s infraction. Without heeding her vehemence that she was not a party to her coach’s decision-making. The narrative of the program puts it out that regardless of Williams’ behaviour that saw her scream and rant at the umpire and call him a liar and thief, she did not deserve to be termed as the pariah of the match.
The program’s one-sided leaning does not change the problematic aspects of Williams’ and Mouratoglou’s behaviours. Williams, in protesting her innocence about receiving (and accepting) coaching, did cross the line with her aggressiveness. There was – and is – no denying her disrespect towards the authority on the chair officiating the match. And, rationales like the momentousness of the occasion getting to her do not justify her stance at all. Rather, they hinted at her being ill-equipped to handle the scenario in what turned out be the proverbial repeating of history, at the same tournament.
Mouratoglou’s near-immediate (after the end of the match) admission that he tried to help her – and his maintaining to do so, even now – also debilitates Williams’ position. The 49-year-old’s statements about what he thought was Ramos’ inability in letting the match spiral out of bands, is a bemusing segue as well.
“Ramos’ job is also to keep the match under control. He totally lost control of the match, completely, because he reacted with emotions. And he’s not supposed to — he’s a chair umpire, he’s not a player,” Mouratoglou said. Ironically, had Ramos lashed out emotionally instead of abiding the rules, the repercussions would have been far serious for Williams for name-calling him and for continuously challenging his authority.
Mouratoglou’s comments are revealing of how the program does not consider the ramifications of that fracas for Ramos.
Since the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) rules do not permit Ramos from speaking to the media – including to ESPN for this program – the 48-year-old has been short-changed as he cannot present his point-of-view countering the acclaimed coach. Also, in the year that has almost gone by, the veteran official’s on-court calls have been scrutinised and compared with his umpiring of that match. Moreover, Ramos will not be umpiring any of Williams’ matches at Flushing Meadows in 2019. All of these are indicative of how Ramos’ professionalism has been denigrated.
Players have the right to request to not have certain umpires officiate their matches and many have done so for reasons of their own. The avoidance of the tension between such a player and umpire is undeniably a positive to come out of the move. Yet, what does it leave the umpire with, since, irrespective of how a player behaves with the official, the latter does not have the same means to put forth his officiating preference.
Speaking of preferences, proffering his concluding thoughts on the match, Mouratoglou opined, “It was horrible for us. It was horrible for Serena. It’s fantastic for tennis. It was unbelievable, that was the best moment in tennis of the past 10 years. Tennis was everywhere. You don’t have any drama in tennis. We have drama in all the other sports, but not tennis. People should be allowed to be herself and show emotion. You want passion, that’s why people watch sport. They want things to happen. They want to feel emotion, they want to root for someone, they want to be shocked, they want to be happy, they want to be sad. That’s what they want and everybody felt something that day.”
Indeed, the match prompted reactions from everybody who watched it. Nonetheless, its proceedings overshadowed the game of tennis so much so that the bigger picture was not that of the sport but that of egoism.
Janko Tipsarevic retires from tennis
Janko Tipsarevic has announced that he will retire from professional tennis at the age of 35 next November. The Belgrade native enjoyed his best seasons in 2011, when he qualified for the ATP Finals, and in 2012, when he reached the quarter final at the US Open for the second consecutive year. In 2012 he reached the quarter final or better in 14 tournaments, including the semifinal at Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Toronto.
He reached his best ranking of world number 8 in April 2012 after qualifying for the quarter final in Miami. He won four titles in his career and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Australian Open.
He returned to action at the Australian Open last January after a long absence of 16 months following two harmstring surgeries. The Serbian player lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at the Australian Open. Later this year he reached the quarter final in Houston.
Tipsarevic is planning after the Davis Cup finals in Madrid next November.
“It has been a great 16 years. After a lot of sour searching and thinking what is important to me in this stage of my life and what does make make me happy, I have decided to retire from professional tennis. My last competition will be the Davis Cup in Madrid. In the following years my focus will be my family, franchising our Tennis Academy and International coaching for several weeks per year. Thank you for your ongoing support”, announced Tipsarevic via social media.
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