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EXCLUSIVE: Ex-French Open Finalist Andrei Medvedev Praises Underdog Cecchinato

Ubitennis caught up with the former top five player earlier this week at Roland Garros.

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If anybody knows what Italy’s Marco Cecchinato is going through it is former world No.4 Andrei Medvedev.

19 years ago the Ukrainian stunned the men’s tour by reaching the final at Roland Garros. Scoring wins over Pete Sampras and Gustavo Kuerten. At the time he was ranked 104th in the world and was considering quitting the sport all together at the age of 25. Until his Paris run that saw him lose to Andre Agassi in five sets in the final.

“In my personal opinion the guys who play on Roland Garros’ clay, with these balls, if they hit the ball clean and the ball is sitting on the racquet, they have a chance to beat anybody, except maybe… Nadal.” Medvedev told Ubitennis.

This year’s underdog of the tournament is world No.72 Cecchinato. He had never won a grand slam match prior to the tournament after suffering four first round losses. His fortunes changed with a breakout run that saw him score wins over Pablo Carreno Busta, David Goffin and Novak Djokovic. His win over Djokovic, where he prevailed 13-11 in the fourth set tiebreaker, is something that has drawn praised from Medvedev.

“Marco has played great, this week. I watched almost all of the third and fourth sets of his match against Djokovic, plus a lot of the beginning.” He starts to explain.
“In the final tiebreaker the guy did not make any unforced errors, in 24 points, when he should have cracked and gone to the fifth set. He had so many options to crack, and he didn’t. So that means he can play, and he can play at the highest level, he can play in the pressure moments.”

At first glance it appears as if Medvedev’s and Cecchinato’s French Open journeys are quite similar, but that is far from the case. In 1999 the Ukrainian already had experience of what it was like to be a top five player. Achieving the milestone back in 1994. His decline down the rankings was a combination of injuries and a fast lifestyle took its toll on him.

“When I came here in 1999. I was n.104, I was just happy to be playing tennis again after the wrist injury. It was my first tournament with my new racquets, after a while. I was fighting for every point and he (Checchinato) is fighting for every point, he does not want to lose, he gives everything.”

Cecchinato will take on Dominic Thiem in Friday’s semi-final. The Austrian world No.8 will be bidding to reach his first grand slam final at the age of 24. On paper, Thiem is the overwhelming favourite to win. Although, Medvedev doesn’t see that as a foregone conclusion.

“I honestly think he has a chance against Thiem, who’s playing very good, very heavy, very deep, very everything.” The 43-year-old concluded.

It remains to be seen if Cecchinato can continue his form beyond Roland Garros. The upcoming grass swing is unfamiliar territory for the Italian. Incredibly, he has only played one professional tournament on the grass in his entire career. That was last year at Wimbledon, where he lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-0, to Kei Nishikori in the first round.

You can listen to Ubitennis’ full interview with Medvedev below :-

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EXCLUSIVE: Felix Auger Aliassime, The Coming-Of-Age Of A Champion

An exclusive interview with Guillaume Marx, one of the coaches of Felix Auger Aliassime

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Felix Auger-Aliassime - Toronto 2018 (via Twitter, @rogerscup)

After Denis Shapovalov’s memorable run to the Rogers Cup semifinals in Montreal in 2017, somebody thought that his “BFF” Felix Auger Aliassime (n. 120 ATP), one year his junior, could relive the same dream a year later in Toronto. But this is tennis, not Hollywood, and after his maiden Top 20 win in the first round against Lucas Pouille (a fairly out-of-form Top 20, to tell the truth), the Canadian boy who shares his birthday with Roger Federer (8th August) ended his run against Daniil Medveded, who edged him in the second round by 7-6 in the third set.

During the week we had the opportunity to catch up with one of Auger Aliassime’s two coaches, Guillaume Marx, a Tennis Canada coach who follows Felix almost full-time together with Frenchman Frederic Fontang.

This was the first Rogers Cup for Felix: one great win with Pouille and an unlucky loss with Medvedev. How did he live this first experience in his home-town tournament, with all the extra pressures and extra demands on his time?

He didn’t do anything drastic, such as shutting down his phone or avoid the newspapers. He managed the situation, he had been thinking about it for a long time. I think he has progressively gotten used to pressure, it’s not his first experience on a big stage, and he didn’t look nervous before his first match. And when you play well everything gets easier. But he was definitely more excited than stressed.

Did he manage to celebrate his eighteenth birthday?

I think he celebrated it the night before, because on his birthday he had a match, so I think he had his cake the night before.

From a technical point of view, how has his progress been compared to what was expected of him?

I believe that technically he currently is at the level we were expecting. Somebody believes that it’s taking him too long to break in the Top-100, but we think he is progressing very well. As coaches, we are more inclined to look at his game level rather than his ranking: he has improved a lot during the last few months, while at the beginning of the year he did not play well, partly because of his injury [an injured knee forced him to skip the Australian swing in January], but now he is expressing a good level of tennis.

If Felix had won his match against Medvedev, where he has been two points away from victory, he would have reached the 105-106th position in the ranking, meaning a probable direct acceptance into the Australian Open main draw. Well, that didn’t happen, so what are his plans for the immediate future?

Next week we will be in Vancouver for the Challenger tournament, then we would go to New York for the US Open qualifying tournament. After that, we will need to see whether he will be nominated as part of the Canadian team for the Davis Cup tie in Toronto [Canada will play the Netherlands on 13-15 September in the Davis Cup World Group Play-Off] and assess his ranking at that point to figure out his schedule for the rest of the season.

It was very surprising Felix’s decision to skip the grass season completely and continue playing Challengers tournaments on clay in Europe. How was that decision taken?

Before Roland Garros we had a very long tour on clay with good results from a technical standpoint and average results. We thought we were doing a good job, catching up with what we had not done at the beginning of the year because of his injury. Therefore, we thought we could buy some time and do some more work by skipping one surface switch. Playing on grass would have meant switching from clay to grass and then from grass to hard later in the summer. Changing surface takes quite some time because you need to get used to it and that slows down the development work. Furthermore, grass is a bit of a strange surface, you don’t know how it is going to turn out, so we thought it was best to take this decision.

And what did Felix think about it? In the end, he needs to be the one buying into it, did he need convincing?

In the end what Frederic and I were suggesting did make sense, so he thought ‘why not thinking outside the box?’, and he got on board very quickly. We only had one conversation about the whole issue and the decision was made.

Every time I see Felix he looks like he has grown up? Are you monitoring his height? Do you know if he is still growing or not?

We know for sure that he grew up last year. The last time we measured him it was in January, and I don’t think he grew up in the last few months.

Do you measure him with or without hair?

Without hair, otherwise he would be too tall.

What kind of program does he follow to prevent injuries?

Every day Felix does some exercises precisely aimed at preventing injuries. When we have time we do even more work towards this, but even during days when he has a match the program needs to be followed.

A few years ago, Felix announced that he has a heart condition [tachycardia] that affects his activity. Does he need to follow a specific fitness regime because of this or take medications?

No, there are no specific precautions that need to be taken. We believe the condition is linked to his growth and it is going to disappear with time. Episodes have been extremely rare during the past two years, so we don’t need to do anything specific. Of course, we try to be careful when we see he is tired, but nothing more than that.

Is that an inborn condition?

Yes, that’s what it is.

Is there a lot of pressure on Felix for him to obtain results quickly?

He puts a lot of expectations on himself, and this helps to cope with the pressures from the outside environment. The pressure he puts on himself is more than the pressure coming from the outside. Felix is very invested in his career, he is ready to do whatever it takes to obtain the results he expects from himself and the people around him expect from him, so from our point of view there is not much to do on this aspect.to impro

Do you think the great friendship existing between Denis [Shapovalov] and Felix is positive for their careers?

I think so, they are very good friends, they push each other and the fact that their careers have followed different paths has certainly helped them. Since last year the spotlight has mainly been focused on Denis, following his success at the Rogers Cup, and this has taken some pressure off Felix, who in turn had been in the spotlight for the previous two years. The current situation is ideal: the two boys can share the load of expectations and push each other to improve.

You have said that Felix’s schedule will depend partly on him making the Davis Cup Team or not. Do you think that being part of the team at this stage in his career is a positive thing or maybe it’s a week that he could use otherwise?

I believe it is positive. Now that there are five people in the Davis Cup team it is a good thing for Felix to participate to the tie. If he were to go there as the sixth player it would be a different matter: Felix is too good a player at this stage to be just the team’s hitting partner, and it would be more useful to play a tournament during that week. But being officially part of the team is good.

How do you and Frederic Fontang share the workload?

We communicate a lot and we make all the decisions together. We share the traveling because it would be too much to do for only one person, and I follow Felix when he is in North America and he follows him while he is in Europe. We also try to schedule some training weeks together when possible, but what’s most important is that we share the traveling time.

Where is the training base for Felix?

He is based here at the Tennis Canada National Training Centre in Montreal for the time being. Maybe in future we will consider moving to a warmer place, but at the moment we stay in Montreal.

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Journalists Around The World Speak Out On Eve Of Crucial Davis Cup Vote

Ubitennis has contacted officials around the world to find out what countries will vote in favour of a plan that will revolutionise the men’s team tournament.

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A day before a vote on reforming the Davis Cup takes place, a poll by Ubitennis has found that many federations are still undecided about the plans.

Last week a survey was sent to journalists across Europe, South America and North America. In it they were asked about their personal opinion as well as what they think their national federations will vote. Some were unable to answer the latter question as they are also members of their national associations. The three questions asked were :-

  1. Will your tennis Federation vote for the Davis Cup’s revolutionary format proposed by Mr Haggerty?
  2.  What is your personal opinion about it?
  3. Will the proposal be accepted or rejected?

Ubitennis has received responses from officials in nine different countries – Argentina, UK, Croatia, Belgium, Poland, USA, Spain, Switzerland and Canada. Based on their feedback, here is what we have discovered.

Argentina

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The Argentinian position has been explained by journalist Enrique Cano. Cano works for Radio 10 and is a member of the International Tennis Writers Association.

According to Cano’s information, former player Mariano Zabaleta will travel to Orlando to vote. Zabaleta is the vice president of the national federation (AAT). It is understood that the federation has sought input from past and present players, but they are yet to make a final decision. The AAT is now in discussions with other federations before they make a final decision.

“In the case that the ATP decide to go ahead with the new Nations Championship and ITF votes for the new Davis Cup format we will have three similar tournaments in tennis along with the Laver Cup in September. It’s to many for me.” Cano told Ubitennis.
“I think that nobody can guarantee that the changes make the best players join to their National Davis Cup Team.”

Cano predicts the proposal will be rejected.

Great Britain

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The British vote in the Davis Cup is crucial. They are one of only five countries that have the ability to cast a maximum of 12 votes. Stuart Fraser from The Times have reported that the LTA remains undecided. Meanwhile the Stirling University Barmy Army, which is a group of loyal Davis Cup supporters that travel the world supporting the British team, has opposed the reform in a statement on Tuesday.

Richard Evans is a veteran tennis broadcaster with a career that dates back to the 1960s. He was a commentator for the BBC at the Wimbledon championships over a 20-year period. When asked about his opinion on the Davis Cup, Evans has casts his own doubts about the plan.

“I have no idea what the LTA is doing. I hear the French Fed are voting for the Davis Cup changes despite their players being against it. Tennis Australia is voting against.” Said Evans.
“I have advocated changes for years, but not this drastic. The new concept is the World Team Cup, not the Davis Cup.”

As to what the outcome will be on Thursday, Evans believes it will get the go ahead.

“I think it will get passed in Orlando but there will be huge protests. The pendulum always swings too far.” He said.
“But, of course it is all about money and now that has been re-inforced by Larry Ellison’s participation. He loves the idea and will back it. Madrid for the 1st two years (nothing to do with Tiriac) and then Indian Wells for two years. That’s the plan.”

Simon Briggs from The Telegraph has also said that the LTA are still debating the matter. In his personal opinion, the new Davis Cup plan should not be approved due to a lack of information. He believes the proposal will be rejected.

Mike Dickson from The Daily Mail has said that he ‘suspects’ that the LTA will vote against the reform. Although there has been no official confirmation.

“I don’t think the proposal is the worst compromise in terms of structure and keeping some element of home and away is better than nothing. It’s not perfect, but there needed to be change. Probably the best idea now would be to do it every two years and do it properly.” Said Dickson.
“My biggest fear about this plan is the business side of it. What happens if the numbers do not add up for the investors? What are the guarantees? It worries me the future of a great competition being in the hands of a few corporate interests.”

Croatia

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Gordan Gabrovec works for the Croatian News Agency. His country’s position on the Davis Cup is complexed due to recent changes in the organisation. Earlier this year Franjo Lukovic was removed from his position as the president of the Croatian tennis federation. He has been replaced by Nikolina Babic, who is the first female president of the CTF.

“If Mr. Lukovic would still be the president, I have no doubt that CTF would vote for the new Davis Cup format.” Said Gabrovec.
“I would be surprised if that person (from the CTF) would vote against the reform because there is a lot of money promised and for such a small and rather poor federation (in terms of the financial resources) that could be a strong argument. There is another reason to vote for and that is to go along with your best player, as Marin Cilic seems to be a strong suporter of the new format.”

Gabrovec has voiced his personal opposition to the move. Arguing that it will have a negative impact on Croatian tennis fans.

“People in Croatia will not be able to see Croatian players live in action if they don’t travel to foreign countries. I think there are a very small number of people that would go out of the country to watch our team competing in the Davis Cup.” He said.
“There is another issue with one city, one venue format. What if you have, for example, Croatia – Austria DC final in Lille or Madrid? Or anywhere in the world except in Croatia or Austria? How many people would come to watch and what kind of an atmosphere will they create? It would just be another tournament with a great prize money but that Davis Cup feeling would vanish if there isn’t a home team playing.”

Despite his reservations, he believes the proposal will be passed. Citing that the promised injection of money will be enough to sway voters.

“It would be a great surprise for me to see the proposal of the new DC rejected on August 16. Too much money’s been promised and we live in a greedy world that doesn’t care too much for tradition.”

Poland

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Adam Romer from tennisklub.pl believes the ITF will be making a mistake if the plans are passed. Arguing that the situation could be history repeating itself.

“Mr. Haggerty&Co will sell last valuable product owned by ITF and what then? The same mistake was done more than 40 years ago, when ITF lost the control of tournaments and give a space for new organisations ATP and WTA. You feel consequences until today… To make it short: DC need some reforms, but not on this way.” Said Romer.
“I didn’t count the votes, but to rejected you need only 1/3 votes. It’s easier to find it.”

Romer’s opinion about about his federations stance cannot be disclosed due to a potential conflict of interest. A member of his family is part of the Polish ITF delegation.

America

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It has already been reported that America will back the proposal. Two key members of the Kosmos-backed plan, David Haggerty and Larry Ellison, are from the country.

Speaking about his country’s position, Joel Drucker from The Tennis Channel believes change is a good thing.

“I like the idea of trying something new for Davis Cup. From scheduling to exposure to player participation, over the years, this wonderful event has seen certain flaws exposed. So I strongly believe it’s worth giving these new approaches — match length and, most notably, venue — be given a shot.” He said.

Pete Bodo from ESPN has cited two reasons as to why America will vote for the changes. He believes the proposal will be passed.

“The US public (and newspaper editors and other media members) has never fully embraced Davis Cup or they have embraced the idea that Davis Cup needs fixing. The other reason is that the driving force behind the proposal is ITF chief and former USTA president Dave Haggerty.” Bodo explained.
“Personally, I like the Davis Cup format as it is, although I believe it could use some tweaks, perhaps even a change to best of three-set tiebreaker matches. That might help recruit quality players who are sacrificing rest and recuperation time during those awkward DC weeks. I do not think a one-site event played over a week or two is a solution.”

Spain

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It is expected that the Spanish federation will support the proposal. Gerard Pique, who plays for Barcelona F.C, has held numerous meeting with his country’s governing body to persuade them. Also, considering that Madrid is in line to host the new competition, a no vote would be a massive shock.

“There is no official pronunciation of the Spanish tennis federation, but I Know they are in favour of the new format.” Journalist Joan Solsona Magri told Ubitennis.
“At the end for us (Spain) it’s not about what Mr Haggerty proposes. It’s about what Gerard Pique proposes. Pique has had several meetings with the Spanish federation members to convince them.”

Magri, who works for Diario Marca, believes the only issue with the plan is the date of when it will take place.

“For me the only problem are the dates at the end of November. I would suggest to organize the competition at the end of the US Open. Two world cups, I mean ITF and ATP, followed in the calendar, I don’t think they have chances to survive at the same time.” He said.
“I Know the Kosmos team and of course ITF have been working a lot since February when there was the official presentation of the project to the ITF members. I think it will be accepted.”

Switzerland

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Swiss journalist Mathieu Aeschmann is confident that his country will vote for the revamp. Aeschmann writes for publications such as Le Matin and 20 minutes.

“The Swiss Federation will vote for the reform; because the President René Stammbach is the chairman of the ITF finance committee and he welcomes the idea of the financial guarantees that Kosmos would provide.” He said.

Nevertheless, Aeschmann has come out against the plans. Saying that despite his country’s backing, the proposal will be rejected.

“We want to change because the “old generation” want to change. But did we ask the Young Guns? Zverev, Kyrgios, Shapovalov, Coric and Co all played in 2018. So the old format is maybe not as over as it’s sounds.” He argues.
“I could maybe accept a “Final Four” (men and women) after two “normal” rounds and a final in a neutral city… But this Big Tournament (18 Teams?) in November, it’s too much and too late! The players are too tired to play something like this.”

Canada

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Tom Tebbutt works for Tennis Canada. He believes his country will vote for the changes, but due to Tebutt’s job role we can not elaborate any further. Although, this is his own opinion about the matter.

“I think the idea is probably for the best, but a Davis Cup grand final the week after the World Tour Finals is ridiculous – you just can’t expect the top players to be fit enough to play such an important competition at that time.” He said.

Belgium

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The country has been one of the most vocal opponents to the changes and has already confirmed that they will vote against the plans.

Nevertheless, Yves Simon from Sudpresse has reported that he country has already accepted defeat. Interestingly revealing that Belgium will appeal for a wild card in the new style Davis cup, if approved.

“The Belgian position is a resigned position, since our president thinks that everything is already played in favor of kosmos.” Simon explained.
“He will vote … trying to get one of the wildcard 2019 for Belgium.”
“The kosmos plan will pass without problem. Money ruins always the spirit …” He added.

The vote on the Davis Cup reform will take place on Thursday.

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Djokovic: “My Biggest Achievement” Anderson: “Top-5 Is Now Reality”

The South African reflects on his progress and his new best ranking. The former no.1 closes a painful chapter of his life and looks ahead to the US Open

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The original plan of the All England Club was to have the champion’s press conference before the finalist’s, which is quite unusual, since the champion usually has many duties to attend to, especially with all the rightholder televisions. As it turned out, Kevin Anderson was ready outside the interview room at his announced time and Novak was still nowhere to be seen, so the South African ended up talking to the journalists first.

It was a tough start for me. You know, you always have high hopes – said Anderson – Going into the match, I was hoping to draw on some previous experiences, playing at the US Open in the finals, obviously playing Federer a couple days ago. But I didn’t really find my form the way I wanted to. Of course, my body didn’t feel great. I mean, I don’t think you’re going to expect it to feel great this deep into a tournament when you’ve played so much tennis. But I was definitely quite nervous starting out the match. Didn’t play great tennis in the beginning. I tried my best to keep at it. Definitely felt much better in the third set. I thought I had quite a few opportunities to win that third set, especially a couple of the points where Novak hit a couple balls, I thought they were actually going out, managed to land right on the line. I would have loved to have pushed it to another set, but it obviously wasn’t meant to be”.

The whole tennis world was curious to see how Kevin was going to recover from the six-and-a-half-hour, 99-game battle he won on Friday against Isner: “Honestly, Saturday was pretty tough. There was a lot of thoughts going through my mind of, Am I going to be ready to play another three-out-of-five-set match on Sunday against somebody like Novak. Getting here to the courts, seeing the doctors, seeing the podiatrist for my feet. Having a very light hit, I probably only hit for 10 or 15 minutes. You go through certain exercises that I do. When things aren’t feeling the way they should, you always have a little bit of doubt. I barely slept on Friday night, [but] last night I was able to get in a pretty good night. Waking up today, I actually felt okay, insomuch that, you know, I don’t think the match was entirely just because I wasn’t feeling the freshest. It was a bit more of being able to play the kind of tennis I needed to at this stage. In the third set, I was able to actually pick it up a little bit. Obviously would have loved to have gone to a fourth set. I don’t know how I would have felt as the match progressed. Novak is very tough to match physically. I think all in all, my body actually handled it pretty well”.

Regardless of today’s result, the last two weeks at the Championships will propel Anderson to his highest ranking of n.5 on Monday. “It really means a lot actually. It was about two and a half years ago, just in the team and in the chat, we had a chat on WhatsApp called top-five Kev. That was the goal. I got to top 10 that year. Things were looking good. Then obviously I had a major setback and injuries in 2016. So seeing that I made top five, I’m incredibly proud of that achievement, especially if I look back where I was just 15 months ago, around 80. It’s really something I can be very proud of”.

Two minutes after the end of Anderson’s press conference, Novak Djokovic walked into the press room, greeted by the traditional applause reserved for Grand Slam champions (this is the only exception made to the “no cheers in the box” rule) and wearing the All England Club members’ badge.

He said the break on the very first game of the match was extremely important to him: “The first game I made a break of serve was a perfect possible start. After that I cruised for two sets. In the third set, he started hitting his spots with the serve much better. He started swinging through the ball, making less errors. He was the better player in the third set, without a doubt. I was just trying to hold on and keep my composure in decisive moments. I served well, played some good shots when I was set points down, then played a perfect tiebreak to finish”.

This 13th Grand Slam title, more than two years after the last one and following major turmoil in his professional and personal life (the elbow surgery, the temporary split with his old-time coach Vajda, the problems in his marriage), has a very special meaning for Novak: “It was a long journey, especially considering that elbow injury that took me out from the tour for six months. When I started training again, came back on the tour, played Australia, but I played with the pain. It was inevitable for me to go on a table and have a surgery, even though I was trying everything to avoid it, to be honest. It was the first, and I hope only, surgery I had. It was supposed to happen. I was still feeling a little bit of discomfort and pain playing Indian Wells, Miami. I just kept going even though everyone was against me competing at that stage. I took the responsibilities. I could not imagine myself being away from the tour another few months after being away from the tour six months in the last season. So I had to learn the lessons in a hard way”.

He had to learn to be “patient in the process” until his body was ready to compete again.

It took me many tournaments. I couldn’t pick the better place, to be honest, in the tennis world to peak and to make a comeback”, Djokovic said, adding that “alongside the first Wimbledon title when I managed to get No. 1 of the world for the first time in 2011 and win my dream tournament, this is probably next to that the biggest achievement I had”.

With this victory, Djokvoic is returning to the Top-10 and is now looking forward to the North American hard court season with renewed hopes: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I like to play on hard courts. US Open was always successful tournament for me. I haven’t played it last year because of injuries. I’m looking forward to also go out there and play my best and see where it takes me”.

 

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