Australian Open: Is Camila Giorgi too old to become a top player? - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open: Is Camila Giorgi too old to become a top player?

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MELBOURNE –  After a strong showing in Sydney and a hard-fought battle against world No. 18 and local star Ashleigh Barty in Melbourne, Camila Giorgi proved that she can compete with the best players in the world. Will the talented Italian ever fulfill her massive potential and become part of the elite? At 26 years of age, is she too old to make such a significant jump? In recent years, other fellow Italian players such as Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta won Grand Slam titles in their late twenties or early thirties. In 2016, Angelique Kerber had the best season of her career after she turned 28. And the list of late bloomers in tennis has gotten longer and longer in the past few years. “Thirties are the new twenties,” Venus Williams always reminds everyone when asked whether she is ready for retirement or not.

 

Camila Giorgi’s game has often been highly praised and at the same time extremely criticized. Her powerful ground-strokes and the boldness with which she takes on higher ranked opponents are unquestionably her major strengths, but many criticize a certain lack of variety in her game and the fact that Italian never relies on a plan B. There is certainly room for improvement in Camila’s game, especially from a tactical point of view.

Today’s physical game is not a sport for teenagers anymore. The years when Martina Hingis, Arantxa Sanchez, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles used to win Grand Slams as teenagers are long gone. The average of women’s players ranked in the top 100 is 26.5 years of age. Players ranked in the top 50 are on average 27.4 years old, while 26.6 is the average of the players ranked in the top 20. A few exceptions might still materialize with players such as 15-year-old Kostyuk, who this year reached the third round in Melbourne. Last year we saw 20-year-old Ostapenko shock the tennis world with an unexpected victory at Roland Garros, but winning a Grand Slam at 17 or 18 years doesn’t seem feasible in today’s game anymore.

Camila Giorgi’s life hasn’t always been peaches and cream. Her 23-year-old sister Antonella died in a car accident in Paris in 2011. For the entire Giorgi family, it was a very traumatic experience to overcome. Camila’s father Sergio is certainly an interesting character with an exuberant personality and a very difficult role: Being both a father and a coach is never an easy task.

The Giorgis’ finances went through many difficult moments and Camila was surely affected by the multiple moves to different countries, legal disputes with certain sponsors and lawyers and – later in her career – controversy with the Italian Tennis Federation. She grew up in a very challenging environment for an athlete that would need serenity, tranquility and concentration.

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Italian tennis never produced teenage phenoms in its long history. Pietrangeli started winning at 24 years old, Panatta had his first few important victories at 20 but his best year was 1976 after Adriano turned 26 and Barazzutti peaked at 25. Among the women, Silvia Farina was a late bloomer, Francesca Schiavone won the French Open at 30 and Flavia Pennetta won the US Open at 33 against 32-year-old Roberta Vinci.

Why hasn’t Italy been able to produce any young champions? It probably has to do with the Italian education, culture, traditions and disorder. Italians grow up with an education based on traditional family values: Parents always provide a warm and pleasant environment for their kids. There is no reason for a teenager to run away: Life at home is very good. Italy doesn’t have colleges away from home where teenagers are sent to study and experience life on their own. Italians always look for schools as close to their families as possible, that way they can go home during lunch breaks and enjoy some good meals prepared by their mothers or grandmothers. Without underestimating the fact that this lifestyle certainly saves a lot of money to Italian families, it is fair to say that it provides Italian kids with a less challenging, safer and more comfortable environment. That is why Italian teenagers are less independent than French, American, Spanish or German kids, and the same applies to those kids that start a career in sports.

Italian tennis players usually come from upper middle-class families, sometimes even upper class and they are certainly lacking the same motivation that Easter European players have in abundance. Access to coaches, tennis clubs and tournaments is extremely easy and financed by the player’s family.

In Italy there is also a great deal of disorder when it comes to the entities that should promote the sport, build solid infrastructures and provide knowledgeable staff. The Italian Tennis Federation should be managed by passionate, motivated and skilled individuals, but unfortunately it is not. Most of the Italian tennis centers don’t rely on the best and most valuable coaches that are available in the country. There are a few tennis federations in South America that are financially very poor, which is certainly not the case in Italy. Italians can only blame themselves for their bad management.

I still think that Camila Giorgi has a lot of room for improvement and eventually become a top player in the next few years. At the end of the day, she’s 26 years old, but, considering the Italian standards, she could be 22.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )

 

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Laver Back In the Conversation For Greatest Player?

Daniil Medvedev thwarted Djokovic’s Calendar Year Grand Slam ambitions and is ready to take over as the best in the game.

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Who’s the greatest player ever?

 

How about Rod Laver, the owner of two Calendar Grand Slams?

Or what about Rafa Nadal, the owner of 21 major singles titles (including Olympic Gold)?

Or what about 20-20-20-Laver?

HOW DOES 20-20-20-LAVER SOUND?

Since Novak Djokovic failed in his bid to win a Calendar Grand Slam on Sunday, I nominate the last of the three possibilities. 20-20-20-Laver sounds like a winner.

For Djokovic just to enter the conversation was a major achievement, and that was spurred by the Serbian’s bid for a Calendar Grand Slam.

Daniil Medvedev ended that conversation on Sunday, at least for now, with his straight-set 4-4-4 dismantling of Djokovic in the U.S. Open final.

DISAPPOINTING YEAR FOR NOVAK

As 2021 turned out, it was a really disappointing year for Djokovic, even though he won the year’s first three Grand Slam events. Most players would be out celebrating if they won three Grand Slams in one year.

The loss to Alexander Zverev in the Tokyo Olympics ended Novak’s Golden Grand Slam. And then Medvedev took care of the Calendar Grand Slam talk and the possibility of Djokovic breaking a 20-20-20 deadlock with Nadal and Roger Federer.

So, what’s next? I doubt that Novak is planning to skip the Australian Open in January. Even that one won’t be easy for Djokovic as a result of what has happened in late summer.

NO PICNIC DOWN UNDER FOR NOVAK

Djokovic has practically owned the Australian Open with nine titles in Melbourne, and eight of the last 11. But Medvedev and Zverev will be major obstacles for Djokovic in Melbourne, along with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Australian Open isn’t likely to be a picnic for Novak, even if Federer and Nadal skip the trip. If so, Federer and Nadal will be leaving the Australian Open in capable hands.

Things should start heating up by the quarterfinals Down Under.

By the way, Djokovic is 34 years old. That’s about the age Nadal started having trouble winning Grand Slams.

A DOMINANT VICTORY FOR THE RUSSIAN

Medvedev beat Djokovic at just about everything he tried on Sunday. Djokovic was never in the game on serving competition or powerful forehands.

Those areas belonged to the 25-year-old Russian.

And movement? On this day, Medvedev had a picnic. The 6-6 first-time Grand Slam winner was everywhere with his amazing quickness. Djokovic couldn’t put a dent in his baseline defense.

Medvedev even out-did Djokovic in the Serbian’s usually solid drop shot department, pinning  even more disappointment on Novak.

Novak even caused a ball girl to change directions during the match as he swung his racket near the surface in  frustration after losing a point. Later, he punished his racket by smashing it into the court and destroying it.

MEDVEDEV’S SERVE MADE THE DIFFERENCE

The key to the relatively easy win for Medvedev was his serve. He was a perfect 15-for-15 on first-serve points in the opening set.

Medvedev obviously had little trouble with his serve until he was ready to end the match. With Medvedev owning a match point at 5-2 in the third set, the crowd tried to help Djokovic. Only then when the crowd got into the act of trying to break Medvedev’s attention did he double-fault twice in a row before netting a forehand to give Djokovic the game.

But in the final game of the match, Medvedev was ready for the crowd attack, although he double-faulted another match point away before ending the match with a big serve out wide for a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory. Djokovic managed only to hit the bottom of the net with his backhand return.

And suddenly, the tall Russian looks like the best player in the game.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Raducanu Proved She’s The Better Player

The British sensation shocked the tennis world – can she keep it up in the coming years?

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They played in the largest tennis stadium in the world.

 

They were teenagers. They achieved a dream early in their careers.

It just as easily could have been a junior championship a year earlier in their careers.

Only a few people would have been watching then. Such an event might not even have drawn newspaper coverage.

REAL LIFE NOW SETS IN

This meeting was much bigger and more important. The two participants would be $2.7 million richer between them before the day ended. They would become famous the world over, at least for now.

But this was Saturday, 9/11/21.

Real life now sets in. There probably are at least 100 other players in the world who are just as outstanding as Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez. Yet, most of them will never be involved in a Grand Slam singles final.

NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN

What Raducanu and Fernandez accomplished will never be forgotten, always listed in tennis annals.

England will always be proud of its new Grand Slam champion. At long last, Virginia Wade has company.

And Canada will never forget its feisty Grand Slam runner-up.

They stood the test while other more touted and talented players buckled at the knees. High-ranked players crumbled at the thought of losing to a mere teenager.

Next time, that advantage probably won’t exist.

BRITISH 18-YEAR-OLD WAS THE STRONGER PLAYER

Raducanu and Fernandez played the final like the teenagers they are.

Raducanu came close to making it a one-sided result when she held match point twice with a 5-2 lead in the second set. But Fernandez did not give up on her left-handed game that Raducanu had conquered before in the junior ranks.

After losing both points and the game to make the match closer, Raducanu fought off a pair of break points in the next game before making good on her third match point for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The British 18-year-old generally outplayed the 19-year-old Fernandez most of the 111-minute final. Raducanu had more firepower on her serve and ground strokes.

RADUCANU A PERFECT 10

Raducanu played like a tour veteran, even if it was only her fourth tour-level event. It was her 10th straight win without dropping a set, counting her three wins in qualifying just to get into the main draw. No women’s qualifier before even had advanced to a Grand Slam final.

She has the game to win consistently on the tour, but probably not strong enough to challenge the Top 10 players and Grand Slam titlists right away. She’s now no longer under the radar. Everyone wants to beat a Grand Slam champion.

This may have been just a one-shot opening that Raducanu took full advantage of to win a Grand Slam title.  Just in case the road ahead gets bumpy, she might want to be thrifty with the $1.8 million payday.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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Novak Djokovic Was Pushed To An Amazing Performance

Zverev fell just short of beating the world N.1, and now Medvedev is the last obstacle still standing on his path to a Calendar Year Grand Slam

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Novak Djokovic was simply amazing Friday night.

 

True, he made a few mistakes against Alexander Zverev, but not when they counted most.

Zverev also was superb, but his mistakes came when they counted really big.

For those reasons, Djokovic is getting ready to play for the unthinkable. No one had thought much about a Calendar Grand Slam until back in June when Djokovic shocked the tennis world with a victory over Rafa Nadal at the French Open.

By the time Wimbledon came around without Roger Federer and Nadal in the field, the odds were high that Djokovic actually could achieve a Calendar Grand Slam. And then he won Wimbledon and in the process turned the race for most Grand Slam titles into a 20-20-20 battle.

ZVEREV CAME CLOSE TO SPOILING THINGS

When Federer and Nadal pulled out of the U.S. Open, all of Djokovic’s goals except a Golden Grand Slam when he lost to Zverev at the Olympics were in play.

Nearly two weeks later, Djokovic is one victory away from breaking out of the 20-20-20 deadlock as well as completing a rare Calendar Grand Slam.

Zverev pressed Djokovic into playing his very best to escape with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory in the U.S. Open semifinals. Only a cold start to the fifth set chilled Zverev’s hopes of spoiling Novak’s dreams.

Even after losing the first five games of the fifth set, Zverev still came close to making things interesting by winning the next two games and going to 30-30 in the eighth game.

MEDVEDEV HAS THE GAME TO WIN

Zverev’s improving game, and his big strokes and serves probably were enough to make Novak hope he won’t have to face Zverev’s hard balls again in January at the Australian Open.

That leaves only Daniil Medvedev between Djokovic and immortality.

Medvedev will have to be at his best to beat Novak. The slender 6-6 Russian can’t afford even a brief meltdown if he is to take Djokovic to the wire.

Medvedev appeared to be in awe of Djokovic when the two met in  this year’s Australian Open final.  Djokovic won that one easily in straight sets.

DANIIL IS DUE TO MAKE HIS MARK; IT’S HIS TIME

Medvedev’s game is a piece of work. He is completely unpredictable.

His whip forehand is one of the best shots in tennis. He backs it up with incredible movement.

It all depends on whether Medvedev can stick with Novak until the end. If Medvedev is still there, Novak likely will feel the heavy legs from his 214-minute bout with Zverev.

Not even Djokovic can out-move Medvedev. And the Russian’s uniquely quick serve has plenty of pop. He is due to win a Grand Slam.

But Medvedev will have to pull off a miracle against one of the smartest and slyest players tennis has ever seen if he is to win this U.S. Open.


James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

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