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An Indian Wells Grounds Pass From A Fans Perspective

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In a special report for Ubitennis, Matt Marolf writes about what is like to attend one of the biggest tennis tournaments outside of the grand slams.

 

Following all the action from court-to-court during the early rounds of big tournaments like this can be a thrilling day for a tennis fan. Here’s a log of what my day in the desert looked like on Sunday, March 11th.

11:00am – Start the day at a soon-to-be standing room only Stadium 2 for John Isner against Gael Monfils. Isner is Isner, hitting 143 mph serves but doing little to get into Monfils’ service games. Monfils is Monfils, showing off his athleticism even when the point doesn’t require it. To the surprise of no one, they end up in a first set tiebreak, which Isner serves out 7-5.

12:30 – I take a break from the sun and grab lunch. I follow the action on the TV screens in a Stadium 2 restaurant, as well as via the new free radios they give out which feature the Tennis Channel play-by-play. Get to catch a big upset from Stadium 1, as 16-year-old American Amanda Anisimova takes out Petra Kvitova. Anisimova had never won a tour level match prior to this week, and now she’s in the fourth round after upsetting a two-time Wimbledon champion. There’s been many teenagers pulling off upsets in the first week here, a fun peak into tennis’ future.

1:45 – On Stadium 1, Djokovic looks shaky as he drops the first set to Taro Daniel. Meanwhile on Stadium 2, a refreshingly motivated and fired-up Monfils saves a match point. The Frenchman then finds a way to break Isner for the first time in the match, and serves it out to the delight of many in the crowd. Even though we’re in the US, Monfils remains a crowd favorite. Isner continues to struggle since the Paris Indoors, where he let a golden opportunity to win the title and qualify for the ATP Finals slip through his fingers.

2:30 – Settle into a shady spot in the grass under the big screen on the side of Stadium 1, which shows multiple matches and live score updates. Eager to see if Djokovic can mount a comeback. He takes the second set, but can’t capitalize on multiple break points to start the third and quickly becomes pretty frustrated with himself. As the third set progresses, Novak struggles to get much power behind his shots, and stops running down some balls. He is thoroughly defeated 6-1 in the third by the qualifier, and hits a total of 61 errors in the match. Was his lack of competitive spirit due to physical or mental elements, or both? There’s no indication as to when Djokovic will rediscover his form of a few years ago, and that question is starting to change from when to if.

3:15 – On Stadium 2, Sloane Stephens gets one of her first wins since winning the US Open six months prior, ousting a rusty former champion in Victoria Azarenka. As that match concludes, Roger Federer takes the court to resume his match from Saturday night, held over due to rare rain in the desert. In a tight second set, Federer saves a set point to salvage a straight set win. Federer was not too sharp in the re-start today, and looked relieved to win in straights. He’ll need to play better in the coming week to defend his title.

4:30 – Back over to Stadium 2 now for another resumption from last night: a battle of the lefties in Angelique Kerber and Ekaterina Makarova. On Saturday Makarova was in control, but today (Sunday) Kerber has too much movement and variety. The German wins in three, and continues he resurgence in 2018.

5:15 – Over to Stadium 3 as Sam Querrey finishes out a tight two-setter against Mischa Zverev. At the same time, I’m following the radio commentary of a big upset in the making. World number one Simona Halep wins just one game in the first set against 165th-ranked American wildcard Caroline Dolehide. Has any top player had more dramatic matches in the past year than Halep?

5:45: Hanging around Stadium 3 for the all-Canadian battle between Milos Raonic and 17-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the youngster, who took out another Canadian on Friday (Vasek Pospisil) for his first tour-level win. On this day against the number one Canadian, Felix doesn’t show off much of the talent that many think will make him special in the future. Milos wins comfortably in straights.
Meanwhile, Halep survives a second set tiebreak and then runs away with the third to avoid the big upset.

7:15 – I try to check out Court 4 and the match with Diego Schwartzman and Marcos Baghdatis, but there are no seats to be had. That happens often here on the outer courts, especially in the evening when less matches are taking place. Indian Wells attracts extremely knowledgeable tennis fans, many of whom will choose a good match with lesser names on an outer court.

8:45– After a dinner break, I get to see Juan Martin Del Potro taking on Alex de Minaur on Stadium 1. The 19-year-old Australian made a name for himself in January with impressive runs in Brisbane and Sydney. But Del Potro gives the Aussie nothing to work with on this night. He drops just three games and looks like a legitimate contender for this title.

Just another day in (tennis) paradise.

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EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’

Marcelo Demoliner celebrated his birthday in quarantine, his doubles partner isn’t allowed to leave his room for 14 days and he believes there is a difference in treatment between the top players and others. Yet, he refuses to complain about the situation he finds himself in.

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Marcelo Demoliner pictured during the 2020 Australian Open. image via https://www.facebook.com/mdemoliner89)

Like his peers, Brazil’s Marcelo Demoliner passes his time in Melbourne quarantine by training, sleeping, eating and posting amusing videos on social media.

 

Demoliner, who currently has a doubles ranking of world No.44, is required by Australian law to abide by a strict isolation period before he is allowed to play any professional tournament. Although he is allowed to train unless he is deemed to be a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation 72 players find themselves in, including Demoliner’s doubles partner Santiago Gonzalez

During an email exchange with UbiTennis the Brazilian sheds light on what he labels as an ‘usual experience’ that has prompted criticism from some players. Roberto Bautista Agut was caught on camera describing conditions as a ‘prison’ in a video leaked to the press. Although he has since apologised for his comments. Demonliner himself is not as critical as others.

“It is an unusual experience that we will remember for a long time,” he told UbiTennis. “It is a very complicated situation that we are going through. Obviously, it is not ideal for us athletes to be able to go out for just 5 hours a day, but mainly for the other 72 players who cannot go out, like my partner Santiago Gonzalez. They have a complicated situation of possibly getting injured after not practicing for 14 days, but it is what it is.’
“We need to understand and adapt to this situation considering Australia did a great job containing Covid.”

With three ATP doubles titles to his name, Demoliner is playing at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row. He has played on the Tour for over a decade and has been ranked as high as 34th in the world.

Besides the players complaining about food, their rooms and even questioning the transparency of the rule making, Tennis Australia also encountered a slight blip regarding the scheduling of practice.

“I was a little lucky because I stayed in one of the hotels that we don’t need to take transportation to go to the training courts. It made the logistics issue much easier. The other two hotels had problems with transportation and logistics in the first two days, but I have nothing to complain about, honestly.”

Demoliner remains thankful for what Tennis Australia has managed to do in order for the Australian Open to be played. Quarantine can have a big impact on a person mentally, as well as physically. Each day players spend at least 19 hours in their hotel rooms which was no fun for the Brazilian who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday.

“Without a doubt, it is something we have never been through before. I’m luckily having 5 hours of training daily. I am managing to maintain my physical preparation and rhythm. It is not the ideal, of course, but I can’t even imagine the situation of other players who are in the more restricted quarantine.”

image via https://www.instagram.com/MDemoliner/

Priority given to the top names

As Demoliner resides in Melbourne, a selected handful of players are spending their time in Adelaide. Under a deal struck by Tennis Australia, officials have agreed for the top three players on the ATP and WTA Tour’s to be based in the city. The idea being is that it will relieve the strain on Melbourne who is hosting in the region of 1200 arrivals.

Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has insisted that all players will have to follow the same rules wherever they are based. Although some feel that those in Adelaide have some extra privileges such as a private gym they can use outside of the five-hour training bubble. Japan’s Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.” Daniel’s view is one echoed also by Demoliner.

“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda of used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”

Some players were recently bemused by a photo of Naomi Osaka that surfaced on social media before being removed. The reigning US Open champion was pictured on a court with four members of her team, which is more people than what those in Melbourne are allowed to train with.

https://twitter.com/mdemoliner89/status/1351079924719898632

As the Adelaide contingent continues their preparations, those most unhappy with them are likely to be the 72 players who are in strict quarantine. Demoliner is concerned about the elevated risk of injury that could occur due to the facts they are not allowed to leave their rooms. All players in this situation have been issued with gym equipment to use.

“I think that they will be at a considerable disadvantage compared to who can train. But we need to obey the law of the country, there is not much to do … until the 29th they will have to stay in the room and that is it,” he said.
“Whether it is fair or not, it is not up to me to say because I am not in this situation. The thing about having the other players who didn’t have contact with the positive cases to also stay in the rooms is the concern about the risk of injury, specially for singles players. It will be a tough challenge, especially at the beginning of the season.”

In recent days, officials have been holding video calls with players to discuss ways to address these concerns ahead of the Australian Open. Which will start a week after they are allowed to leave their rooms.

When the tournaments do get underway there are also questions about how the public will react to players who have made headlines across the country for their criticism of the quarantine process. A somewhat sore point for Australian’s with some nationals unable to return home due to the government restrictions. On top of that, people in Melbourne are concerned about a potential outbreak of COVID-19.

It is a very complex situation. I fully understand the reaction of the Australian population considering the recent events… the effect that the players are bringing, the risks to the population,” Demoliner said of the current circumstances.
“We know this and obviously they are concerned with the whole situation, which is still very uncertain. On our side, though, they did allow us to come here to play. It is important to remember that the decision to welcome us was approved by the Australian Government, otherwise we would not be here.”

Demoliner is one of three Brazilian doubles players ranked to have a top 100 ranking on the ATP Tour along with Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.

SEE ALSO EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Players Can’t Act Like Spoilt People’

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Who Are The Best Hard Court Creators In The Last 12 Months?

Here are some of the best players at earning break points on a hard court in the last 12 months.

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Garbine Muguruza (@Tennis - Twitter)

As the Australian Open, slowly, approaches UbiTennis looks at the biggest hard court creators from the last 52 weeks.

 

Although winning matches are determined on how many break point opportunities you convert, to convert the break points you need to create them in the first place.

This can be the biggest challenge but for the players below this isn’t a problem as they are able to consistently create break point opportunities on a hard court.

Starting with the women, it may be a surprise to nobody that Garbine Muguruza, one of the more aggressive returners on the tour leads the way, earning on average 10.4 break points in the last 52 weeks on a hard court.

Muguruza’s hard-hitting style mixed with controlled placement puts her in pole position to punish her opponents on return.

There are also other big hitters in the top 10 such as Petra Kvitova, who averages 9.6 break points while Aryna Sabalenka earns 9.5 break points on a hard court.

While 2020 grand slam champions Iga Swiatek (9.8) and Naomi Osaka (9.3) also feature on this list.

Meanwhile on the men’s side it is Roger Federer who leads this list on average earning 10.8 break points, slightly more than Garbine Muguruza who is on top of the women’s list.

Federer is just ahead of Roberto Bautista Agut with 10.5 break points. This shows just how much Bautista Agut has improved on hard courts in the last 12 months being able to create so many break point opportunities with his return game.

Also featuring on this list are Alexander Zverev (9.2), Novak Djokovic (8.5) and Daniil Medvedev (8.3).

These are the players to look out for when seeing the players who are most likely to create opportunities in their respective draws and who the biggest servers may want to avoid in the Australian Open.

Here are the full lists of the top 10 from each tour and remember the Australian Open is set to begin on the 8th of February.

WTA Top 11 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks

  1. Garbine Muguruza – 10.4
  2. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – 10.2
  3. Saisai Zheng – 9.9
  4. Iga Swiatek – 9.8
  5. Anett Kontaveit – 9.6
  6. Petra Kvitova – 9.6
  7. Petra Martic – 9.6
  8. Aryna Sabalenka – 9.5
  9. Ons Jabeur – 9.5
  10. Simona Halep – 9.3
  11. Naomi Osaka – 9.3

ATP Top 12 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks

  1. Roger Federer – 10.8
  2. Roberto Bautista Agut – 10.5
  3. Alexander Zverev – 9.2
  4. John Millman – 8.9
  5. Dominic Thiem – 8.9
  6. Guido Pella – 8.8
  7. Cristian Garin – 8.5
  8. Novak Djokovic – 8.5
  9. David Goffin – 8.4
  10. Adrian Mannarino – 8.3
  11. Daniil Medvedev – 8.3
  12. Grigor Dimitrov – 8.3

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Further 23 Players In Hard Quarantine After More Positive Tests On Charter Flight

More players head into hard quarantine ahead of the first grand slam of the year.

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(@emirates - Twitter)

A further 23 players have been told that they are being placed into hard quarantine after another positive COVID-19 test on a charter flight from Abu Dhabi.

 

Players were notified this evening in Australia that there was a positive test on the Abu Dhabi charter flight. Although it looks it wasn’t a player who tested positive it now means 23 more players will now go into hard quarantine.

This follows the news of 24 players going into hard quarantine after two positive tests from a charter flight from Los Angeles.

It is understood from several journalists that among those who are now being placed into hard quarantine from the Abu Dhabi flight are Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, Marta Kostyuk, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ons Jabeur.

Although there are only 47 players in hard quarantine so far, there is a fear that this number could rise with more COVID test results still waiting to come back.

Before the charter flights, Andy Murray, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova were denied entry into Australia via the chartered flights due to positive COVID results.

The first set of tournaments in Australia are set to begin on the 31st of January with the Australian Open due to begin on the 8th of February.

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