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.

 

ATP

Next Gen Star Alexei Popyrin Fears He May Be Forced To Play US Open Despite Health Concerns

Like many other lower ranked players on the Tour, the 20-year-old finds himself in a tough situation.

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One of Australia’s rising stars has said he is worried that he may have to play at the US Open against his will or risk losing a chunk of ranking points.

 

Alexei Popryin has raised his concerns about travelling to the New York major in August amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in some areas of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there were 52,228 New Cases of the virus on July 5th compared to 24 hours before. Furthermore, the governor of New York recently announced that people travelling from 16 different states in America are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they visit the city. According to USA Today this ruling applies to roughly 48% of the entire American population.

Despite the concerns, the organisers of the US Open have insisted they will be able to hold the tournament in a safe manner and will be implementing various restrictions. Including holding the event without fans for the first time and conducting frequent testing of players. However world No.103 Popryin admits that he still has his concerns about attending.

“There are talks regarding the US Open but I really don’t want to go with the situation in America right now,” Popyrin said at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown over the weekend.
“But we have to see if we would be forced to go because of ranking points.
“If the ranking points won’t be frozen, then most of us would be forced to go play cause our ranking will drop and we wouldn’t have any say in it.
“But if the rankings are frozen, then I am staying here.
“I will stay in Europe where it’s safe with my family.”

Popryin has a considerable amount of points to defend in New York after reaching the third round there last year. Therefore, if he skips the event he faces dropping further down the rankings. Something which will then impact on his chances of entering the bigger tournaments later in the year. Usually the cut off for Grand Slam tournaments is around 105.

It is still to be announced as to what will happen with the ranking points system at the US Open and if there will be any adjustments made due to the pandemic. Although organisers will likely be against any idea to remove them from the event as it is a key factor to attract players to take part.

Another player to voice their concerns about the US Open is France’s Benoit Paire, who has said he would not attend the event if it was taking place today. Speaking to RMC Sport the world No.22 said he would rather not go to the event if he meant that he would be ‘taking a risk’ with his health.

“Going to the United States would be at risk of catching it. I am a great professional and I am one of those who would always like to play tennis, but your health is the most important thing,” he said.
“If going there is taking the risk of catching the disease and staying quarantined when I return, I prefer not to go, really.’
“It looks like if we play the US Open, we will have to sacrifice not to play the Mutua Madrid Open or the Masters 1000 in Rome.”

Meanwhile, world No.3 Dominic Thiem recently told Austrian media that he believes a final decision regarding the Grand Slam will be made within a week. Something that is yet to be confirmed by officials.

Should it go ahead, the US Open will start on August 31st.

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ATP

REPORT: Former Spanish Tennis Star In Talks To Coach Alexander Zverev

A former world No.3 could be returning to the Tour later this year in a new position.

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Tennis sensation Alexander Zverev could soon be mentored by somebody whose career he ended last year at the Madrid Open.

 

Spanish newspaper Marca have reported that the world No.7 is set to enter in a 15-day trial with former French Open finalist David Ferrer where the two will get to know each other better. Ferrer has reportedly travelled to Monte Carlo to start working alongside Germany’s top player. Should everything go well, the two could start a formal partnership in September ahead of the European clay-court swing of the Tour, which has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both men are already fairly familiar with each other after facing off nine times on the ATP Tour, including three times last year. Zverev was the last player Ferrer played against at the Madrid Open before officially retiring from the sport at the age of 37.

“He’s the most respectful guy for me on Tour, and one of the most loved people on the Tour as well,” Zverev told reporters in the Spanish capital following their match.

Whilst never winning a Grand Slam, Ferrer achieved numerous accolades throughout his career. Including spending 4914 consecutive days in the world’s top 50, winning 27 ATP titles and achieving a ranking high of No.3 back in 2013. Overall, he has played 1011 matches on the ATP Tour (including Grand Slams) which is more than John McEnroe.

Should Ferrer receive the green light, Zverev will be the first high-profile player he will be responsible for. The Spaniard had previously hinted at his desire to enter coaching with his long time objective being to captain the Spanish Davis Cup team. He is also currently serving as the tournament director of the Barcelona Open.

“I would be very proud to be able to be (Davis Cup captain),” Ferrer told Marca in April 2019. “I also understand that this is very far away and there are players who are ahead. First, I have to train as a professional in teaching (coaching).”

Neither Ferrer or Zverev has publicly commented on the report. At present Zverev is coached on the Tour by his father who guided him to the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January.

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Father Of Dominic Thiem Condemns Criticism Of Novak Djokovic’s Role In Adria Tour Fiasco

Wolfgang Thiem has come to the defence of the world No.1 before suggesting that COVID-19 cases among players at charity events are worth it.

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The father of world No.3 Dominic Thiem has said it is ‘too cheap’ to blame Novak Djokovic over the outbreak of COVID-19 at the controversial Adria Tour.

 

Wolfgang Thiem lent his support behind the 17-time Grand Slam champion during an interview with Austrian newspaper Die Presses on Friday. The Adria Tour, which was founded by Djokovic, was cancelled following an outbreak of the virus during the Zadar leg of the event in Croatia with Grigor Dimitrov being the first player to confirm a positive test. Shortly after, Djokovic and Borna Coric also tested positive as well as some coaching staff. Viktor Troicki also contracted COVID-19, but only played the first leg of the Tour in Belgrade.

Throughout the Belgrade and Zadar events organisers were criticised for a lack of social distancing being applied. Players were seen playing basketball matches, attending nightclubs and interacting with the public. Although all of those actions were in line with local government rules.

“I do not approve of what happened on the Adria Tour, but condemning Djokovic and saying he screwed it up is too cheap for me,” Wolfgang commented.
“Of course the dance at the disco was not optimal, but Djokovic basically did nothing wrong. They just got a little sloppy, they were euphoric,” he continued.

Djokovic, who has been at the centre of the criticism, is yet to publicly speak about the incident. On Friday it was confirmed that both him and his wife Jelena have now tested negative for the virus. 10 days after they were first diagnosed.

As for Thiem, his father said the Austrian tennis star will be donating his money from the event to charity. Although he did not say how much that would be or which cause it would go towards. It comes just days after Djokovic donated 40,000 euros to the Serbian town of Novi Pazar, who has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Speaking about the outbreak of COVID-19 among players, Wolfgang has suggested that it is worth it if it meant raising money for charity.

“I prefer that there be a few more cases of coronavirus and be able to raise a few thousand euros for a childhood cancer clinic,” he explained.

Since the Adria Tour, Thiem has played at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS) in France. He has undergone five COVID-19 tests in recent days with all of them testing negative for the virus. The 26-year-old withdrew from the UTS on Wednesday to focus on the upcoming Thiem 7 event in Kitzbuhel which will start on July 7th.

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