Australian Open Day Two: From Djokovic’s revolution to Maria’s kiss - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day Two: From Djokovic’s revolution to Maria’s kiss

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MELBOURNE – After Novak Djokovic organized a secret meeting with about a hundred fellow ATP Tour players during the ongoing Australian Open, most of the athletes were asked thousands of questions about the real purpose behind such gathering. None of them revealed any significant detail, even if the Daily Mail yesterday published an article that talked about how the players are asking for a bigger piece of the pie in terms of revenues currently distributed amongst other entities and governing bodies.

 

Despite being the least lucrative of the four Slams, the Australian Open has recently decided to invest a billion dollars to rebuild Melbourne Park, which on the one hand will certainly please the players, but on the other hand could trigger some skepticism. The players somehow feel exploited.

“The tournament director Craig Tiley is doing an amazing job to accommodate our needs and make us feel like home,” Djokovic said in his post-match press conference while denying the rumors of a possible players’ boycott at next year’s Australian Open.

At the end of the day, the players – who are the main characters of the worldwide tennis circus – are tired of picking up the scraps. The prize money at this year’s Australian Open is 55 million Australian dollars, but the tournament’s financial value is approximately 10 times more.

A few years ago, Nadal was particularly angry after leaving a meeting organized by the board of the Pro Council, as he felt that the players didn’t have enough power. Roger Federer candidly admitted: “The players should have more power, instead of leaving it to other entities and bodies. We are not trying to create a new union, but it would be very positive if only us players were able to meet once a year to talk about our problems – without involving federations, promoters and agents. The problem is that the younger players are exclusively focusing on emerging from the pack and are often represented by their agents, while the older players feel that most problems regarding the tour are not their concern anymore. Finally, the top players are too worried about winning and remaining part of the elite.”   

As a matter of fact, most of the decisions concerning the ATP, WTA and ITF have been taken by the same chairmen and boards for years Djokovic and the rest of his fellow players are now demanding more power and money, without officially declaring war to the tennis governing bodies or founding a new union.

Roger Federer has been the overwhelming favorite to capture this year’s Australian Open since the tournament started. Not only is he the defending champion, but he also appeared to be in great form at the Hopman Cup a couple of weeks ago. There were plenty of question marks concerning his main rivals – Nadal, Djokovic and Wawrinka.

The first two days of competition confirmed that Federer – who easily dismissed Bedene last night – remains the favorite, but his rivals are not so far off like many thought before the tournament started. Nadal is moving as well as ever without any knee problems, Djokovic’s elbow doesn’t seem to bother him and Wawrinka showed that he is in for a fight despite a precarious physical condition. Rafa lost only three games to Estrella Burgos, Djokovic dominated Young and Wawrinka prevailed over Berankis in four hard-fought sets. It is safe to say that all three champions can exponentially improve their form throughout the two weeks of competition.  Juan Martin del Potro – who has recently made his way back into the top ten after a long tortuous road – is also another serious contender for the title and yesterday opened his campaign with a convincing three-set victory over Tiafoe.

While day one provided us with the surprising elimination of 10 seeded players – 5 men and 5 women, day two featured more predictable results. The defeat of Milos Raonic – who has been suffering from injuries in the past few months – can’t be considered a surprise anymore. The Canadian lost to the Slovakian Lukas Lacko, whose first-round draws at previous Grand Slam events had always provided him with almost unsurmountable tasks: He faced Nadal twice and Federer, Djokovic and Tipsarevic once – when Tipsy was ranked No. 9 in the world. Facing No. 22 ranked Raonic must have been some sort of a relief for the Slovakian.

Raonic’s frailty reminds me of another giant – Richard Krajicek, who won Wimbledon in 1996. Like Raonic, who was a Wimbledon finalist in 2016 after upsetting Roger Federer in the semifinals, Krajicek was injured very often. Andre Agassi once said: “As soon as Richard starts thinking about tennis, he feels pain somewhere in his body.” The Dutchman is 6′ 4″ and Raonic is 6′ 5″, so I wonder if their height could be the possible cause of their multiple injuries. Raonic also has to deal with a posture problem since one of his legs is slightly longer than the other.

After winning the title in Auckland last week, Bautista Agut seemed to run out of steam in Melbourne against his countryman Fernando Verdasco – a veteran and former Australian Open semifinalist. Verdasco’s epic semifinal against Nadal in 2009 is considered one of the most spectacular matches in Australian Open history.

Many fans were disappointed by Petra Kvitova’s unexpected loss to Andrea Petkovic in an enthralling encounter during which the Czech served twice for the match but failed to capitalize on her opportunities. Martina Navratilova predicted that Kvitova was ready to win the title, but apparently Petra hasn’t fully recovered from the home invasion that occurred in her apartment 13 months ago in the Czech Republic. Andrea Petkovic is a former top ten player with enough personality to rise to the occasion when the opportunity presents itself.

In her post-match press conference, I asked Maria Sharapova if she is willing to continue to play tennis for many more years. “Years ago, I would have never thought that I would still be playing at 30. Here I am instead,” the Russian said. In the next round, Sharapova will face Anastasia Sevastosa, who defeated her at last year’s US Open.

At the end of the press conference, Maria – whom I have known for many years – came up to me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I probably turned red and told her that this year in Rome I will take her around the city. “On your Vespa?” she asked. “Yes, like Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn,” I said. “Oh, I love that movie!” she confessed. Please don’t tell my wife. She never reads my articles anyway.

(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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