Ebden Defines “Special Exempt” At Halle - UBITENNIS
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Ebden Defines “Special Exempt” At Halle

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Matthew Ebden (zimbio.com)

By Mark Winters

 

With all the quarterfinal singles slots filled by the end of the day, one thing is unmistakably clear – upsets have been the theme of the twenty-sixth version of the Gerry Weber Open, taking place in Halle Westfalen, Germany. Alexander Zverev of Germany, Dominic Thiem of Austria, Lucas Pouille of France, Kei Nishikori of Japan and Richard Gasquet of France, the No. 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8 seeds, are not included in the last eight count.

Those five formidable performers didn’t live up to their pre-tournament billing. Neither did “hometown” hero Philipp Kohlschreiber, the No. 6 seed. He was dispatched by Matthew Ebden of Australia, in an early afternoon encounter, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. While the decision over Kohlschreiber was a solid victory, it became even more noteworthy when it is noted that Ebden earned a place in the draw as a Special Exempt.

Many tennis fans, even those with encyclopedic knowledge of the game, are more than likely not familiar with the term. The concept is further complicated by a variety of circumstances that affect whether a player can qualify for a Special Exempt, such as when the qualifying draw for the next tournament he is planning to play is going to be made.

Rather than put readers to sleep with exacting details, generally ATP events have Special Exempt (at most, two) places in the draw that are open for a qualified performer. In the case of the 30-year-old Australian, his success in reaching the semifinals at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (before losing to Jeremy Chardy of France, 6-4, 7-5), made him eligible for a Special Exempt.

Ebden explained, “I have been eligible for a Special Exempt in the past, but it has never worked out. There have been a number of reasons why. In one case, the tournament was on a different surface than I had been playing on. In another, the tournament was on another continent, so it wasn’t practical to try to get there. Last summer, I was a finalist at Newport, and could have received a Special Exempt in Atlanta, but I had qualified for the tournament and I played seven matches, so I decided to use the week to rest. Halle is my first Special Exempt.”

Because of the complexity of the rules, there is more to Ebden’s Special Exempt status. “There were two Special Exempts open, one was at Halle and the other was at Queen’s,” Ebden said. “I was the highest ranked player and had the first choice. Ordinarily, I would go to Queen’s, but Jeremy (Chardy) is a good friend and he lives in London. That’s why I decided to come here and let him play at home.” (Chardy, by the way, is a Queen’s quarterfinalist.)

For an individual who turned pro in 2006, and Ebden is, to use a cliché, a journeyman, But, that doesn’t mean he is ordinary. In truth, he is an extraordinary combination. He is truly affable and a very thoughtful conversationalist.  When he was eleven-years-old, his family emigrated from Durban, South Africa to Perth, Australia. As he matured he evidenced skill on the courts as well as in the classroom. He skipped a year of high school and when he departed, scored 98.5 on the exam that qualified him to study for a double – economics/law – degree at the University of Western Australia.

Tennis, though, was his calling, and he has pursued his passion diligently. During his career, he has claimed fourteen Challenger and International Tennis Federation titles and he also has a collection of victories over Top 10 players in ATP tournaments. He has represented Australia in Davis Cup play, and in 2013, he and countrywoman Jarmila Gajdošová received an Australian Open wild card and ended up winning the Mixed Doubles championship.

Following his win today, Ebden discussed his playing style saying, “It is natural for me to play an all-court game. I can change from hitting the ball heavy to taking speed off shots and making them slower. I am able to hit it flat or with spin. I can do a little bit of everything, and I have very good hands.”

The loss gave Kohlschreiber a 31-12 career Halle record. “I thought my opponent just played very well,” the 2011 champion said. “He barely made any mistakes and he read my serve well. He robbed me of my rhythm by changing tempo. He worked very well slicing and keeping the ball deep.”

Rafael Nadal’s terre battue record places him in an unrivaled, “stand alone”, category. Ebden, because he isn’t well known, has quietly become one of the game’s most successful grass court player. “In 2015, I won fifteen matches on grass,” he said. “Novak Djokovic was the Wimbledon champion and won seven matches at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, but he didn’t play Queen’s. Andy Murray won Queen’s then lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon. He won a total of eleven matches at the two tournaments.” Prior to Halle, Ebden’s grass court record during his twelve seasons on the tour was 87-44.

Ebden has an affinity for grass court play. “When I was growing up in Australia, I practiced and played on it regularly,” he said. “Once Roland Garros is finished, I head to London to practice on to the grass court and play some of the tournaments that are available. For me, it’s like coming home. I am just so comfortable on grass.”

Admitting that he had only watched the Gerry Weber Open on television, he added, “We (his coach) looked at the acceptance list and decided after I had been successful at ‘s-Hertogenbosch that Halle was nearby, and we should have a new experience.”

Many tennis insiders are very direct when evaluating Ebden, the regular response is – Far too intelligent. When told about the “word on the street”, he smiled and said, “For many years, I thought too much. I tried to be too analytical. I’ve spent years developing my game and always believed I had many options. Now, I am simplifying things and I know that my best tennis is ahead.”

Having reached a career high No. 60 ranking this week, Matthew Ebden has defined what it means to be Special Exempt.

 

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Next Generation Of Players ‘Not Moving The Needle For Tennis,’ Claims McEnroe

The former tennis player and Davis Cup captain voices his concerns about the men’s game.

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Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner pictured at the 2021 ATP Finals (image Via ATP)

Tennis faces an issue with the younger generation of the men’s game unable to sell the amount of tickets in comparison to that of the big three, according to one former Grand Slam champion.

 

Patrick McEnroe, who won the 1989 French Open doubles title, says the younger players are ‘not moving the needle’ for the sport compared to what Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have done. Three greats of the game who between them have won 60 Grand Slam titles and have spent more than 850 weeks as world No.1. Although with all of the trio being above the age of 30, many are wondering how the future of the sport will fair when they retire.

Speaking to The New York Times, 55-year-old McEnroe cites the US Open as an example of the next generation being unable to attract enough fans when compared to the Big Three. This year’s tournament took place without Nadal and Federer due to injury. However, Djokovic reached the final before losing to Daniil Medvedev.

“The larger issue for tennis if I put on my ESPN hat and former U.S.T.A. hat is that, let’s be honest, these young guys at the moment are not moving the needle for tennis the same way the older guys have,” he said. “They are not selling tickets the first week of the U.S. Open the same way that Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have been doing.”

Following his loss to Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals on Sunday, world No.2 Daniil Medvedev said he is confident that the future of men’s tennis is in good hands. The 25-year-old Russian won his first major title earlier this year in Flushing Meadows and reached the final of the Australian Open.

When there was [Bjorn] Borg and [John] McEnroe, when they were close, finished their careers, everybody was like, ‘tennis is over, we won’t ever have any great players, it is finished,” Medvedev said.
“We did have some: [Pete] Sampras, [Andre] Agassi, they were at the top. [When] Sampras retired, [people were saying] ‘okay, tennis is over’.
“Then we had Novak, Roger and Rafa. If you asked just before they came, everybody would say, ‘well, tennis will not be interesting anymore’.
“It’s the same here. Tennis is a great sport, so I don’t see why our generation would miss on something.”

In the ATP’s year-end top 10 for 2021 eight out of 10 entrants are under the age of 25. The only exceptions are 34-year-old Djokovic and 35-year-old Nadal. Furthermore, seven out of the eight Masters 1000 events this year was won by different players which could be the start of a changing landscape on the Tour.

According to McEnroe, one player who he believes is destined to win a major title is Zverev who has won more matches (59) and ATP titles (six) than any other player this year. The German is the first male player from his country to end a year in the world’s top three since Boris Becker back in 1994.

“I feel like it’s inevitable Zverev is going to win a major,” said former Davis Cup captain McEnroe. “I’ve been saying for a couple years that he’s been knocking on the door. Now he’s banging on it.”

Zverev has played in 25 Grand Slam main draws so far in his career but he only reached the final once. That was during the 2020 US Open where he had a two-set lead over Dominic Thiem before losing in a five-set marathon.

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The 10 Highest-Earning ATP Players of 2021

37 men on the ATP Tour have earned more than $1M in prize money this year but who has made it into the top 10?

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If the 10 highest paid players on the ATP Tour put their 2021 earnings together it would exceed more than $40M and that doesn’t take into account what they have made away from the court via endorsements or other business activities.

 

A total of 37 men has crossed the $1M mark in prize money winnings this year which is nine more than the women’s WTA Tour who operate their own financial structure. Out of that group only one man has managed to make more money in doubles than singles to reach the milestone. That was France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert who made $619,550 against $449,421.

11 men surpassed the $2M mark with Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime narrowly missing out on a place in the top 10 by $89,907. So who has made the most this year and how have they done it?

UbiTennis looks at the on-court earnings of the world’s best players based on data from the ATP. The figures are in US$ and don’t take into account other factors such as endorsements.

10) Jannik Sinner

Total earnings: $2,233,199
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,159,534 DOUBLES $73,665
ATP Matches won: 46
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 10

Italy’s Jannik Sinner is the youngest player on the list at the age of 20. His earnings this season equates to almost two thirds of what he has earned during his entire professional career ($3,623,450). In 2021 the rising star won three ATP 250 titles and one 500 event in Washington. He also reached his first-ever Masters 1000 final in Miami which he lost to Hurkacz. On the other hand, he has experienced mixed results in the Grand Slams with two first round losses and two fourth round runs.

Sinner is the youngest player to finish a season inside the world’s top 10 since Juan Martin del Potro back in 2008.

9) Hubert Hurkacz

Total earnings: $2,313,289
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,173,247 DOUBLES – $140,042
ATP Matches won: 36
ATP titles won: 3
Year-end ranking: 9

Poland’s Hurkacz has achieved a series of firsts in his career this year. Prior to 2021, the 24-year-old had only ever won one ATP 250 title and never reached the second week of a major tournament. This changed in April when he stunned the field to win the Miami Masters whilst seeded 26th in the draw. Scoring back-to-back wins over top 10 players for the first time. A couple months later Hurkacz became the first male player from his country to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since 2013. He also won hard court titles in Delray Beach and Metz.

Hurkacz is the first Polish man in ATP rankings history to finish a season inside the top 10.

8) Casper Ruud

Total earnings: $2,314,629
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $2,230,592 DOUBLES – $84,037
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 8

Norway’s own king of clay Casper Ruud has blossomed on the Tour this season. During the summer he became the first player since Andy Murray in 2011 to win three ATP titles within as many weeks. The trio of titles during July came a couple months after he won another clay-court event in Geneva, Switzerland.

Clearly Ruud is at his most comfortable on the dirt but he has also produced some strong results on the hard courts. In February he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open which is his best performance at a Grand Slam to date. More recently, he won his first ATP title on the surface at the San Diego Open. Another sign of Ruud’s consistency this season is the fact he has reached the quarter-finals or better in five out of six Masters 1000 tournaments he has played in this year.

He is the first Norwegian to finish in the year-end top 10 on the ATP Tour.

7) Cameron Norrie

Total earnings: $2,623,881
Prize money breakdown
: SINGLES – $2,518,782 DOUBLES – $105,099
ATP Matches won: 50
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 12

British talent Norrie started the year ranked outside the top 70 but has surged up the rankings since then. He has featured in the final of no fewer than six tournaments this year across three different surfaces. It was in the Mexican city of Los Cabos where he won his maiden trophy. However, that achievement was later surpassed by his unexpected run to the title in Indian Wells which is one of the biggest tournaments outside of the majors.

Norrie has recorded a career-best 50 wins this season and has recorded two wins over top 10 players – Dominic Thiem in Nice and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.

6) Matteo Berrettini

Total earnings: $3,231,908
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,201,126 DOUBLES – $30,782
ATP Matches won: 41
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 7

Berrettini’s season came to a heartbreaking conclusion after he was forced to pull out of the ATP Finals in his home country due to injury. However, prior to that the Italian can take comfort in what has been another breakthrough season for him. It was on the Grass where Berrettini achieved his biggest success by winning the Queen’s title before going on to reach his first major final at Wimbledon.

Known for his thunderous forehand, the 25-year-old also achieved new milestones on the clay by reaching his first Masters 1000 final in Madrid. A couple weeks after Madrid, he won the Belgrade Open. Overall, he reached the quarter-final or better in three out of the four Grand Slam events.

Berrettini is the first Italian man in history to finish a season inside the top 10 on three separate occasions.

5) Andrey Rublev

Total earnings: $3,331,378
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,131,467 DOUBLES – $199,911
ATP Matches won: 49
ATP titles won: 1
Year-end ranking: 5

Rublev is the only player on the list to not win multiple titles this season. His sole triumph took place back in March when he won the Rotterdam Open. Although since then he has also reached the final of two Masters 1000 events as well as a 500 tournament in Halle. In the majors he achieved a win-loss record of 9-4 which his best result being a run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Among the 10 highest earners this year, Rublev has won the most when it comes to playing doubles ($199,911). Alongside compatriot Aslan Karatsev they won the Qatar Open and reached the final in Indian Wells. Rublev also won gold in the mixed doubles with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Tokyo Olympics but prize money isn’t awarded at that event.

4) Stefanos Tsitsipas

Total earnings: $3,579,155
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $3,503,608 DOUBLES – $75,547
ATP Matches won: 55
ATP titles won: 2
Year-end ranking: 4

Prior to being forced to pull out of his last tournament of the year due an elbow injury, Tsitsipas has enjoyed a mainly successful season on the Tour. The Greek has reached the semi-final stage or better in nine tournaments he has played in, including both the Australian Open and French Open. It was at Roland Garros where he played in first major final and led Djokovic by two sets before losing in five.

Overall, Tsitsipas has reached five ATP finals, winning titles at the Monte-Carlo Masters and Lyon Open. However, all of his final appearances took place during the first half of 2021 and he hasn’t defeated a top 10 player during the second half.

Nevertheless, he closes out 2021 with a year-end best ranking of fourth.

3) Alexander Zverev

Total earnings: $6,420,344
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $6,361,173 DOUBLES – $59,171
ATP Matches won: 59
ATP titles won: 6
Year-end ranking: 3

Zverev tops the 2021 leaderboard when it comes to most matches won (59) and most titles (six). However, he still hasn’t been able to rise to the top of the highest-earning players. The German saw a surge in his prize money last week where he won the ATP Finals which earned him an impressive $2,143,000.

This season Zverev has triumphed at two ATP 500 events, two Masters tournaments, won a gold medal at the Olympics and claimed the ATP Finals trophy. These achievements enabled him to become the first German player since Boris Becker back in 1994 to finish a season inside the world’s top three.

Against top 10 opposition, the 24-year-old had a winning record of 12-8.

2) Daniil Medvedev

Total earnings: $7,481,271
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES -$7,466,284 DOUBLES -$14,987
ATP Matches won: 58
ATP titles won: 4
Year-end ranking: 2

More than a third of Medvedev’s earnings this year is from just one tournament. His triumph over Novak Djokovic at the US Open earned the Russian a $2.5M payout. To put that into perspective, only six other ATP players have managed to earn more than this amount throughout the entire season.

Medvedev also won two 250 titles, as well as the Canadian Open. He finished runner-up at the Australian Open, Paris Masters and ATP Finals. Against top 10 opposition, he won 10 out of 15 matches played.

As a result of his success, Medvedev is the first Russian man since 2000 to finish a season ranked inside the world’s top two.

1) Novak Djokovic

Total earnings: $9,100,547
Prize money breakdown: SINGLES – $9,069,225 DOUBLES – $31,322
ATP Matches won: 51
ATP titles won: 5
Year-end ranking: 1

Djokovic has played in 12 just tournaments this season but it is his success at the majors which has elevated him to the honour of the highest-earning player in men’s tennis this year. By winning three out of the four Grand Slams he made roughly $6M alone. On top of that, Djokovic also won the second Belgrade Open and the Paris Masters.

The world No.1’s surge this year further cements his position as the highest-earning tennis player in history when it comes to prize money. His tally now stands at $154,756,726 which is over $24M more than his nearest rival (Roger Federer has made $130.5M).

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Daniil Medvedev Confident About The Future Of Tennis Without ‘Big Three’

The world No.2 also shares his view on Alexander Zverev’s chances of winning a Grand Slam.

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Tennis will continue to prosper when the Big Three of men’s tennis decide to hang up their rackets, according to Daniil Medvedev.

 

The reigning US Open champion says he can’t see any reason as to why the next generation of men’s players will not be able to take over from the prestigious trio of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. All three tennis greats after over the age of 30 with Djokovic being the only one to play in the season-ending ATP Finals this year. Between them, they have won 60 Grand Slam titles and have spent more than 850 weeks as world No.1.

Speaking to reporters following his defeat at the ATP Finals on Sunday, world No.2 Medvedev said there was ‘no shame’ in him and his peers not being able to match the milestones set out by the trio.

“When there was [Bjorn] Borg and [John] McEnroe, when they were close, finished their careers, everybody was like, ‘tennis is over, we won’t ever have any great players, it is finished’,”Medvedev said.
“We did have some: [Pete] Sampras, [Andre] Agassi, they were at the top. [When] Sampras retired, [people were saying] ‘okay, tennis is over’.
“Then we had Novak, Roger and Rafa. If you asked just before they came, everybody would say, ‘well, tennis will not be interesting anymore’.
“It’s the same here. Tennis is a great sport, so I don’t see why our generation would miss on something.
“Of course, maybe we don’t [win] 20 Grand Slams, yet nobody did before Roger, Rafa and Novak, so they were also worse than them.
‘It’s definitely not going to be shameful [if we win fewer Grand Slams].

Earlier this year Medvedev became the first player outside of the Big Four, which includes Andy Murray, to break into the world’s top two for 15 years. At Flushing Meadows he ended Djokovic’s dreams of a calendar Grand Slam by prevailing in the final to win his first major.

There are signs that change is starting to occur on the men’s Tour. Seven out of the eight Masters 1000 tournaments to take place in 2021 were won by different players. The only person to win multiple trophies in the category was Zverev.

Coincidentally, it is Zverev who ends the season with the most wins on the ATP Tour at 59 which is one more than Medvedev. The German is yet to win a major title but he is more than capable of doing so according to his rival.

“He is a great player that is capable of beating anybody. He definitely can win a Grand Slam because it’s just obvious,” Medvedev commented.
“But he’s not the only one. That’s where it gets tough. He was in the semis in US Open, lost in five sets. Who knows, maybe if he was in the final, he would have beaten me.’
“It’s just a matter of every tournament is a different scenario, different surface. You need to win seven matches to be a Grand Slam champion. Is he capable? Yes. Is he going to do it? We never know.”

Medvedev has won a total of four ATP titles this season.

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