EXCLUSIVE: Roland Garros Aims To Become A Global Leader In The Tennis Gaming Industry - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Roland Garros Aims To Become A Global Leader In The Tennis Gaming Industry

Officials from the French Open have spoken to Ubitennis about the reasons why they have decided to venture into online gaming.

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Later this week a group of individuals from across Great Britain will travel to London to participate in a brand new event that promises to bring the worlds of tennis and e-gaming together.

The qualifying leg of the RGeSeries by BNP Paribas will get underway on Friday. It will be the latest in a series of events taking place around the world. The winners will travel to Roland Garros, venue of the French Open, on May 25th for the finals. The inaugural e-gaming tournament follows the examples set out by other sports such as football with Spain’s La Liga and the German Bundesliga having their own leagues.

Interest in the tournament has been reported as ‘quite satisfactory’ by its European coordinator Adrien Groscolas, who has spoken with ubitennis.net. A total of 32 participants will feature in the London event. The majority of entrants got in on a first come, first serve basis. Although a select few has been awarded a wild card by BNP Paribas, the sponsor of the event. The game they will play is a special Roland Garros demo of Bigben’s World Tennis Tour, which will be released on May 22nd.

“The interest for the event has been quite satisfactory so far, this is mostly due, we believe, to the fact that we are the first major tennis event to launch this kind of competition.” Said Groscolas.
“Regarding the UK event in particular, things are moving well, we shall be having a good draw.”

Full list of qualifying events
China (Beijing, March 26th)
Brazil (Belo Horizonte, April 15th)
France (Paris, April 25th)
Italy (Rome, May 2nd)
UK (London, May 4th)
India (Delhi, May 5th)
Belgium (Brussels, May 9th)
Spain (Madrid, May 16th)

New plan, big ideas

The rapid growth of esports is the principal driving force behind Roland Garros’ latest initiative. According to industry figures, it is set to generate more than £1bn in revenue by 2020. In 2016 the revenue was estimated at £400 million. Furthermore, the global audience is on course to surge to almost 600 million in 2020. Organisers of the 2024 Olympic Games are already in talks with the IOC about introducing esports as one of their demonstration sports.

“Roland-Garros launched the Roland-Garros eSeries by BNP Paribas as an answer to the global growth of e-gaming and to bring together the international gaming and tennis fans communities, which have both been waiting for a competition of that kind for a long time.” Deputy CEO Stéphane Morel told Ubitennis.

It is for this reason why many have welcome the move by the French Open. Although they are not contempt of just being the first, organisers are set on being the market leader in the sport.

“Hosting the finals of the event within the Roland-Garros stadium clearly shows that Roland-Garros fully integrates e-gaming into its strategy.” Said Morel.
“As the first ever Grand Slam to organize this kind of competition, the Roland-Garros eSeries by BNP Paribas are a significant first step towards more developments into the tennis gaming industry and Roland-Garros looks forward to being a leader on that topic.”

Roland Garros hopes their e-gaming series will become a regular fixture. There is currently no fixed deal in place concerning the future of the event.

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EXCLUSIVE: Cori Gauff Talks First WTA Win, Rapid Rise To Fame And Love For Pasta

Ubitennis sat down with the teenage prodigy and her marketing agent at the Miami Open.

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Cori Gauff (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

It is not unusual for a 12-year-old to proclaim that they want ‘to be the greatest of all time’ in their sport. But when Cori Gauff said it in 2017, she attracted a rapid rise in interest and with good reason.

Eight days after celebrating her 15th birthday, the American recorded her first ever win in the main draw of a WTA event. Playing in the Miami Open she defeated compatriot and friend Caty McNally in three sets. Becoming the youngest player in a decade to win a main draw match on the women’s tour. In 2009 Madison Keys defeated Alla Kudryavtseva at the age of 14 years and 54 days.

“I’m still trying to process it. Like on the golf cart on the ride back, I was like ‘did this just happen?’ It’s so surreal.” A delighted Gauff began during her interview with Ubitennis. “You know, playing the same players like Serena, I’m just like can’t believe this is happening actually.”

Born in Florida, Gauff has been gifted at sport since she was a child. Participating in gymnastics, athletics and basketball prior to switching her focus to tennis. She comes from a sporting background. Her father, Corey, played basketball at Golden State University. Meanwhile, her mother, Candi, excelled in Track and Field whilst at Florida State University.

“I did basketball and track (athletics). Those were my favourite besides tennis. I was the only girl on the all-boys team for basketball. Which I actually kind of liked. On the track I did 800 meters and the 4x400M relay.” She explained.
“Obviously tennis would be the best.”

Her decision to choose tennis was a very wise one. At the age of 14, she had already been crowned a junior grand slam champion twice. Last year she won the French Open girls’ title before triumphing in the doubles at the US Open. On the ITF tour, she has only lost nine out of 52 matches played on the junior tour in singles.

It is clear that part of Gauff’s rise at such a young age is due to her maturity. She openly admits that she is far from perfect. Although she thrives on the challenges she faces.

“The other sports I mentioned you’re on a team. You’re running for someone else and that puts a lot more pressure because you’re not just playing for yourself, but also you can’t control what other people do.” She said. “Whereas tennis you are out there by yourself. You get to make your own decision. You get coaching, but at the end of the day you’re making the decision, making the plays you want.”
“I like tennis because you get to be out there by yourself and in the moment by yourself.”

The Barilla deal and family values

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Earlier this week, a deal was scored with Barilla. An Italian company famous for their production of pasta. Coincidentally Pasta is one of Gauff’s favourite meals. Saying she likes to mix sauces and cheese whilst eating penne or Spaghetti. Perhaps not the best combination for an emerging athlete, but still.

“I never saw this coming, but they’re super nice.” She commented on the sponsorship deal. “They value what I value, it’s a family company and I really enjoy family-related things. All my family is here with me.”
“I’m just looking forward to getting some free pasta.” She then jokes.

Barilla is the latest company recruiting the teenager. Last year she gained endorsements with both New Balance and Head. The combination of all three endorsements means Gauff is expected to earn roughly $1 million this year. Not too bad for a 15-year-old.

Whilst the rise to fame is one to relish, it can also be as stressful time. There have been numerous cases of athletes suffering from the effects of early fame. So how does Gauff deal with the pressure? For her, it is the support of her family that keeps her grounded.

“It doesn’t make me nervous because even if I’m playing somewhere like Timbuktu my family are always watching. I really like having my brothers at the tournaments, they kind of ease things. There might be a lot of tension because of playing such a big tournament like this (Miami), but they help minimise the moment and make things fun.”

Family plays an important role in her team too. Her father travels with her on the tour and occasionally her mother, depending on the location of the tournament. In addition, her fitness trainer is Richard Williams, who is based at FTX Wellness in Florida. Finally, coach Bobby Poole completes the team.

The only female In Team8

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It was at the age of 13 when Gauff was recruited by management company Team8, which was set up by Roger Federer and his agent Tony Godsick. Still, she is the only female athlete to be represented by them. Their other clients include Juan Martin del Potro.

Alessandro Barel Di Sant Albano is Gauff’s marketing agent. He has been the client manager of the company since November 2016 and has been supporting the teenager throughout her development.

“She was 13 and already playing at 18s level. She was already way ahead of people and we were told that she was going to be one of the next great talents in tennis.” Barel told Ubitennis.
“She has an incredibly professionally minded brain already at that age and was focusing on getting better.“

Team8 isn’t solely focused on tennis, but understandably intends to maintain their links to the sport given their founders. As for Gauff, Barel believes she is everything Team8 is looking for.

“People with integrity who clearly stick with their family. Belonging and people that share a desire to grow a brand and something bigger than themselves.” He said.

Despite her links with Federer, Gauff had never practiced with the 20-time grand slam champion. Although he did give her some ‘advice’ during the Australian Open. As to what that was, she didn’t elaborate.

“I haven’t got the chance to hit with Roger, but I had the chance to meet him a couple of times.” She said.

The future

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Now officially in the top 400, Gauff’s rise up the rankings will not be as quick as she would like. Due to her age, she is restricted by WTA rules. Under the Age Eligibility Rule, she is only allowed to play in a certain number of tournaments. A policy brought into place to prevent rising stars from suffering from early burnout. Something Gauff sees a silver lining to.

“Since I’m not allowed to play a lot of tournaments, it gives me the opportunity to have a lot of training blocks. Right now my game isn’t fully developed.” She states.
“After this (Miami Open) I am going to go to the Mouratoglou academy and train for I don’t know how many weeks.’
“Maybe play a 80K, but it depends on if I can get into the tournament. I’m only allowed a couple wild cards, so I have pick and choose them wisely.”

It is her underdeveloped game that is exciting to many. Growing up playing on hard courts, the American has already claimed a top title on the clay and is becoming a fan of the grass too.

“I played only Roehampton and Wimbledon on grass. But I like it. It wasn’t that hard to get used to. Maybe that was because of my playing style.” Gauff outlined.
“After having time on it. I prefer the red clay to the green clay. It’s more true to balance, easier to slide and you can actually see the marks (on the court).” She added.

A player not afraid to play on any surface at the age of 15, Gauff is a star in the making. On Friday she has a shot of defeating a top 20 player for the first time when she plays Daria Kasatkina.

The match will be a tough ask, but never rule out the fearless teenager.

You can listen to our full interview with Gauff below

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Mouratoglou On The Rise Of Teenage Prodigy Cori Gauff

The teenage sensation once declared that she wanted to be ‘the greatest of all time.’

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In history few tennis players have been able to achieve their first professional main draw win and secure an estimated $1 million in endorsements at the age of 15. But for Cori Gauff she has ticked both of those boxes just eight days after her 15th birthday.

Despite being born during the same year Maria Sharapova claimed her maiden grand slam title (2004), the American right-hander has already created a pathway to become one of the world’s best. At the age of 13, she reached the final of the 2017 US Open girls tournament. Becoming the youngest player in history to do so. A year later she won the French Open junior title and then triumphed in the doubles at the US Open. Ensuring that she would top the junior rankings at only 14.

One person that truly knows what Gauff is capable of is Patrick Mouratoglou. The Frenchman best known for being the mentor of 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams. Mouratoglou has been following the progress of the teenager since she was young and has worked with her at his prestigious academy in Sophia Antipolis, France.

“I first meet Cori when she was 10 at my academy.” Mouratoglou said during an interview with Ubitennis.
“She’s very special and has the two major qualities that you cannot teach. First of all, she is a great competitor. That is something very difficult to teach. Secondly, she’s a natural athlete. You can build (a player) physically, but natural athleticism is something you have or don’t have.’
“She’s a hard worker, which is something not everybody has and this is very important to reach the top of the game.” He added.

Athleticism runs in the family of the current world No.2 junior, who goesa by the nickname of Coco. Her father, Corey, played basketball at Golden State University. Meanwhile, her mother, Candi, excelled in Track and Field whilst at Florida State University.

The WTA Tour received a taste of Gauff’s potential at the Miami Open on Thursday. In the first round she took on Caty McNally in what was a rematch of the 2018 French Open girls final. After falling behind early on in the match, Gauff battled back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in what was her main WTA victory. Coming back from a 2-4 deficit in the final set.

“I would say that her tennis is physical.” Mouratoglou said of the teenager’s game. “It is based on her ability to move well on the court and the ball that comes off of her racket is a lot of high quality. It bounces high, fast and she is an aggressive player. She likes to dictate. She likes to be in control of the points and attack.”
“But if she has to defend, she can thanks to her speed.”

The endorsements

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Coinciding with her rise in the sport, Gauff has scored a new endorsement deal with Barilla. An Italian food company known famously for their pasta. Founded in 1877, the company was recently named the number one Italian consumer goods company in terms of turnover by IRI Research. Barilla also has deals with former world No.1 Roger Federer and Olympic skiing champion Mikaela Shiffrin.

“Passion, dedication and fair play are values that inspire Barilla’s way of working. They are also fundamental qualities that we also look for in a sports personality,” said Luca Barilla, Vice Chairman of the Barilla Group. “We extend our warm welcome to Cori, an emerging star of American tennis, and we hope that she will be able to continue to interpret this spirit in the best possible way.”

Barilla is the latest brand to sign up the rising star. Towards the end of 2018 Gauff also signed long-term deals with New Balance (who won a bidding war with Nike) and racket manufacturer Head. According to Kurt Badenhausen from Forbes Magazine, the trio of deals amount to an estimated $1 million this year. To put that into perspective, it’s estimated that Simona Halep’s endorsements was $1.5M in 2018.

“I’m very proud of what she is achieving because she had had a little bit of pressure on her shoulders.” Said Mouratoglou. “She’s the player everybody looks at. Everybody expects her to win all the time. To experience that at young and to handle that is really impressive.”

Here to win, not just play

Given the massive amount of money being passed around, it is easy to forget Gauff’s age. She is only allowed to play a limited amount of WTA tournaments within a season under the age eligibility rule. A regulation put into place to prevent early burnout. Nevertheless, she is relishing her Miami debut.

“This is a dream. I have been dreaming of this moment for years, just playing in the Miami Open.” She said after her win over McNally. “I have been coming to this tournament since I was eight or nine years old. Watching the players here and actually being in the same tournament, being in the same area as players that I’ve watched since practically I was born, it’s so surreal to me.”

Once proclaiming that she wants to be ‘the greatest of all time,’ Gauff in on a trajectory to the top of the sport. Following her opening win in Miami, she will break into the world’s top 400 for the first time.

Whilst she will be the underdog in her upcoming clash with 14th seed Daria Kasatkina, Gauff is refusing to let her lack of experience or nerves get in her way.

“My goal for every tournament is to win the tournament. I don’t want to say I will just win this next match and be done. My goal is to win the tournament. I’m going to keep that goal there and just keep fighting for it.” She concluded.

Such an audacious comment could be interpreted as a bit unrealistic, but Gauff has no fear. Making her development on the tour even more fascinating. And with the likes of Mouratoglou on her side, there is no reason why she may not one day emulate the achievements of her idol Williams.

Gauff is just getting started and the world of tennis better watch out.

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EXCLUSIVE: Dirk Hordorff On Accepting The New Davis Cup And The ITF Presidency

The second part of Ubitennis’ interview with the Vice-president of The German Tennis Federation.

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Croatia celebrating winning the 2018 Davis cup (photo by Gianni Ciaccia)

Two weeks ago marked the start of a new era in the world of men’s professional tennis with the revamped Davis Cup getting underway.

In August 2018, the ITF voted in favour of making a series of controversial changes to the 119-year-old team competition. A move that divided the tennis community. In November the finals of the tournament will be held over a week and hosted at one location in Madrid. Removing the tradition of home and away ties. As a compromise, the governing body agreed for the February play-offs to be still held under the old system, but the matches would only be played in a best-of-three.

Dirk Hordorff is the vice-president of the German Tennis Federation (DTB). An association that has been against the Davis Cup changes from the beginning. Hordorff had previously named the European countries that voted for the changes, which has been backed by a 25-year $3 billion investment from Kosmos. A company founded by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique.

“For sure, if you lose a vote you want to make others responsible for this. To be honest, the ITF and Kosmos tried to Campaign for the new Davis Cup System, and they made this very professionally.” Hordorff told Ubitennis on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, some countries only believed in the promised money and voted against their Tennis interest, other voted for the new System just because they thought, the old System needed a Reform, and some other voted without even understanding what they did.”

Under the new format, the ITF has stated that many tennis federations around the world will be better off. Pointing out an increase in nations income from the competition and a new player prize fund of $20 million will be in place for the finals.

“My only hope is that the given promises of the ITF and Kosmos will be fulfilled and the whole Davis Cup will not be damaged in reason that Kosmos will reject after they are losing money.” Hordorff reflected.

The rankings

Another new development involved the ranking of the teams in the competition. Countries have been assigned a ranking based on their results over the past four years. Something that has infuriated the Polish Tennis Federation (PZT). Poland has been placed into World Group III under the new format. Even though they scored wins over Romania, Slovenia and Zimbabwe last year to qualify for Group I under the old system. The PZT has launched an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Supporting Poland, Luxembourg has sent a formal letter to the ITF. In it, the federation said they ‘disagreed’ and was ‘disappointed’ by the new system. The letter has also been signed by the national director of the Davis Cup, Markus Stegmann. Whilst the move have been welcomed, Hordorff points out Luxemburg’s absence from the Davis Cup vote last year.

“Luxembourg should have attended the AGM in Orlando and vote against the Davis Cup Reform.” He said.
“The DTB had a clear position in Orlando, we voted against the Davis Cup Reform and we still have the same point of view.
“We also made clear, that we believe that the Transition Tour is badly planned and we are not in favour of this. But there was no vote about this, in fact that this is a management decision and they don’t need the nations vote to make this happen.” He added.

Poland’s situation is not a unique one. Both Namibia and Kenya qualified for the Euro/Africa Group II in 2018, but now they are not ranked high enough to play in that category. James Kenani, who is the chairman of Tennis Kenya, said his country has a disadvantage because they didn’t play in the Davis Cup during 2015. Therefore they were unable to win any ranking points.

Kenya, along with Poland, launched an appeal to the ITF Arbitration Committee in London, but were unsuccessful.

The 2019 election

In September there are set to be presidential elections taking place at the ITF. The position has been held by David Haggerty since 2015. A longtime tennis industry executive, Haggerty had previously served as the chairman of Head U.S.A and worked for the USTA. Under his presidency, the American has overseen the transformation of the Davis Cup and the implementation of the Transition Tour. Both of which have been controversial.

“The last four years under Dave Haggerty was a Disaster for Tennis. But it’s not only him who is responsible for this mess.“ Hordorff stated.

At the end of last year Ireland’s Dave Miley has said he would challenge for the presidency. Miley had previously worked for the ITF for 25 years and was once in charge of overseeing the juniors, veterans and wheelchair activities of the organisation.

It is unclear as to how likely it would be that Haggerty will be re-elected for a second term. Although Hordorff believes it is time for a ‘new leadership’ to be implemented.

“I only can hope that the ITF gets a Leadership which is serving the game and take care of the interest of their member nations.” He said.
“What the ITF needs is a new leadership with clear vision, with management skills, with an understanding of how to unite the nations and to work together with the different governing organisations in Tennis like WTA and ATP.”

The ITF election will take place during the annual AGM meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference will take place between September 24-27.

Part 1 of Ubitennis’ interview with Hordorff can be read here – EXCLUSIVE: ‘I’ve Been Contacted By 200 Players’ – Tennis Chief Hordorff On Why The Transition Tour Must Change

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