LONDON: Blessed with one of the most effective serves on the tour, Gilles Muller’s first round win at The Fever-Tree Championships appeared routine. Until you look at the wider picture.
The 35-year-old veteran is currently ranked 46th in the world. Prior to this week, he had only managed to win one match in six tournaments. Suffering most of his losses to players ranked outside the top 50. His losing streak came to an end at Queen’s following a tense 7-6(7), 7-6(6), triumph over Denis Shapovalov. Muller claimed the victory with the help of his blistering serve, firing a total of 13 aces and winning 96% of the points behind his first serve.
“It wasn’t the best performance that is for sure. It is never easy to start a new tournament. It’s the first round and you have to get used to the court.” Muller told Ubitennis.net afterwards.
“It wasn’t easy, especially after not winning many matches. So I can’t say my confidence is high.
“I’m very pleased to have won it.”
Monday’s clash with the Canadian Next Gen star was very much a match of fine margins. During the opening set Muller missed out on three chances to clinch a 7-5 lead, before snatching the tiebreaker with the help of a Shapovalov forehand into the net. Then a case of Deja vu occurred in the second with both players remaining resilient behind their serve. Nevertheless, Muller managed to seal victory on his third match point after a return of the Shapovalov serve forced the Canadian to produce an unforced error.
“The serve today was working quite well. That always helps, especially against a guy like Denis, who is always hitting the ball very hard from the baseline. Once we were in a rally it was very hard to take control because he was hitting the ball so hard.” He evaluated.
“It was always important to dictate the points from my serve onwards and that was working quite well today.“
The injury woes
A lot has changed over the past 18 months. 2017 was a year filled with delight and heartbreak for 6’3” Muller. After ending a 15-year wait for an ATP title at the Sydney International, he claimed his second five months later in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Then at Wimbledon he downed Rafael Nadal 15-13 in a five-set marathon encounter. Finally the Luxembourg No.1 was on the up. That was until an elbow injury cut short his season. An issue that continues to hinder him.
“To be honest, my elbow isn’t 100 per cent. I’m always trying to find a way to be fit for the matches and not work too hard outside of the matches.” Muller openly admits.
“It is tough to find that balance and I haven’t found it yet.”
In order to continue playing, a plan has been implemented. Muller conducts daily treatment on his elbow, which may need attention multiple times during some days. Earning $5.79 Million in prize money throughout his career, he has ability to to hire a Physio to travel with him. Although it is more a necessity than a luxury.
“I have treatments every day, a couple times a day. I’m travelling with a Physio because otherwise I think it wouldn’t be possible to play.”
Fortunately, he can seek solace in the fact that he is playing during one of his favorite times of the year. The grass is the perfect surface for Muller to capitalize on his service game.
“It’s the nicest moment of the year when the clay (season) finishes and I’m ready to play on the grass. This year I haven’t had the best start on the grass. But with the win today my confidence is going up and I hopefully be able to keep on performing like I have done today.” He reflected.
Life after tennis
Muller is a late bloomer on the tour. Not winning his maiden ATP title until the age of 33. He is one of the growing numbers of players playing later in their careers. Although he knows that he is approaching the finishing stages of his career. When he made his ATP debut back in 2002, Shapovalov was just three-years-old.
So what does the future hold for him? Muller confirms that he has been thinking about his retirement, but remains committed to playing for now. As to what they might be, he is aiming to one day elevate the sporting profile of his home country. According to the ATP, Luxemburg has two plays of the official ranking system. Muller at 46 and Alex Knaff at 1283.
“I’m not sure yet. Obviously I want to stay in sport.” He said about his future retirement.
“Try to help develop a program in Luxembourg that can be helpful for young kids to fulfil their dreams in sport.”
Addressing why the talent in his country remains so limited. Muller has his own interpretation. For him, it is not due to ability. Insisting that the structure to guide young athletes “is not right.” Something he hopes to correct in the future.
“I think we have a lack of young athletes that believe in themselves. There is talent, but they never believe in themselves. I think I can help change that.” He explained.
Muller will resume his campaign at Queen’s on Wednesday where he will take on top seed Marin Cilic. Regardless of the outcome, he already feels like a winner given his recent misfortunes.
“I’m just trying to enjoy today’s victory. I haven’t thought about the next match. I just want to go home, watch football and relax.” He concluded in an upbeat manor.
Paul Jubb Goes On Tour, But Money Can Wait
Before his last year at the University of South Carolina, NCAA Champion Paul Jubb decided to play ITFs and Challengers full-time as amateur
It’s almost incredible to say it, but the main attraction at the Ilkley Trophy, the most important Challenger tournament of the British grass court season, is a 19-year-old kid who is the worst ranked player in the draw at n. 576 and before last week had never won a match at this level. But Paul Jubb owes his fame to the NCAA title conquered a few weeks ago in Lake Nona, Florida, when he brought home the prestigious individual national title for the University of South Carolina.
Since he is almost a “local player” (he was born in York but he moved to Hull at the age of three to live with his grandma Valerie after both his parents passed away), the stands were almost packed on Centre Court at the Ilkley Lawn Tennis and Squash Club as Paul was playing his third round match with Austrian Dennis Novak, seasoned pro ranked n. 117. Jubb lost quite easily in two sets, the same way he had lost to the same player just a week earlier in Nottingham, but after the match, he had to spend quite some time taking selfies in the grounds as many spectators wanted a piece of him.
After postponing his press commitment to the end of the tournament, the new NCAA champion was glad to sit down with the reporters to talk about his newly changed life, now that he is embarking on a journey that will eventually lead him to become a professional tennis player. But not for at least another year: “I haven’t really thought about turning pro – said Jubb – I knew that I was going to take some time off until Christmas to play some pro tournaments, to improve my ranking, but I never really thought about turning pro”. So he will forego the €2,180 prize money for the third round reached in Ilkley, but most importantly the £45,000 first round prize money for the Championships, where he has been granted a wild card for the main draw. “It’s going to be something I’ve never experienced before; I’ll take it all in and enjoy it. I will consider the match to be a success if I am able to come off the court and feel I have done everything I can. It will also be awesome to see my grandma in the crowd cheering me up: she has been the biggest rock in my life, she has done everything for me, always made sure I stayed on the right path”.
During these “school holidays”, Paul is training at the LTA National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, and he is still deciding what the setup of his team is going to be as he is about to start playing the pro tournaments for the rest of the year: “I still haven’t made up my mind yet. These few tournaments would be about getting the feel for the right people to work with. Of course, I am used to my coaches in the States, Head Coach Josh Goffi and Assistant Coach Kyle Bailey, who have been incredible to me, but obviously I will need to find a different solution. But I have been in constant contact with the LTA ever since I started attending university in the States, I won Nationals when I was 15 so I have worked with them before and they are allowing me to train at the National Training Centre and have access to all of their facilities”.
Like any self-respecting boy growing up in Hull, Paul started playing football (or soccer, if you are reading from the USA) and for a certain period of time he kept playing both tennis and football: “But as I was growing up – Jubb explains – tennis started taking up much of my time and football started fading away. There were talks, when I was very young, to have me go for tryouts at Hull City, but you can’t really play two sports at that level. I was a mid left, a lot of speed on the wings, and that is reflecting on my game, as mobility is my best asset”.
And like any self-respecting young tennis prospect, he also had posters of tennis champions in his bedroom. “Initially I really loved watching Nadal play, but as I was growing up, I found myself being more drawn towards Djokovic, as I consider my game modeled on his”.
After his imminent Wimbledon debut, where he will experience his first contact with the big tennis stage (and especially for a Brit, that could turn out to be as brutal as it is fascinating), Paul Jubb will immerse himself into the anonymous grind of ITF Futures played on precarious courts in improbable locations, just to build ranking and experience as a base for when, after graduation, he will become a pro and will start playing not only for points but also for fistfuls of dollars or euros.
EXCLUSIVE: Comeback Kid Stan Wawrinka Reacts To Opening Win At Queen’s
The world No.19 was in a reflective mood following his latest victory on the ATP Tour.
LONDON: A three-hour rain delay, the slippery grass, and Dan Evans were the obstacles Stan Wawrinka faced during his first round match at The Fever-Tree Championships.
At the rain-hit tournament in London, the seventh seed battled to a 6-3, 6-4, win over an in-form Evans. Coming into the match home favorite Evans had already won back-to-back Challenger titles on the grass. Meanwhile, Wawrinka was yet to play a single match on the surface. Nevertheless, the world No.19 blasted seven aces and dropped only five points behind his first serve to book a place in the second round.
“I’m super happy. I think it was a great match at a great level.” Wawrinka told Ubitennis.
“It’s never easy to play against him, but today I was playing really solid and aggressive. I was serving well for my first match on the grass court, which is a good start.”
Four games into the match, proceedings were briefly halted after Evans suffered a nasty fall. Trailing 1-3, the Brit slipped behind the baseline and jarred his knee. Prompting a worried look on his the faces of his camp watching in the crowd. Fortunately, he will still able to continue playing.
“It’s never easy, but it isn’t easy for everybody. I think in general the court are really well (maintained). They do something amazing with the court.” The former world No.3 commented about the conditions.
Here are the best sportsmanship moments on the #ATPTour 😍
— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) June 19, 2019
After all the commotion was a rain delay lasting more than three hours. Resuming play with a break advantage in his favor, Wawrinka continued to dictate proceedings. After clinching the 6-3 lead, the Swiss player broke once more three games into the second set on route to the victory.
The triumph is a stark contrast to what occurred this time last year. 12 months ago life was looking very different on the tour for both players. Albeit due to very different reasons. Three-time grand slam champion Wawrinka found himself at 261st in the world during the early stages of his return from knee surgery. Meanwhile, Evans was placed even lower at 340th. The Brit found himself out of the elite after being suspended for 12 months for failing a drugs test back in 2017.
“I came back from big surgery so it took a lot of time to come back physically strong and mentally as well. I think I’m playing well.” Wawrinka reflected.
“I’m really happy. I’m enjoying every tournament. I’m with the way I have been practicing, working out and trying to improve my game. Trying to enjoy myself on the court.”
In the last 16, he will lock horns with France’s Nicolas Mahut. It will be the first meeting between the two since the 2013 final of the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships. Wawrinka’s first and last ATP final played on the grass so far in his career.
“I have a new challenge against Mahut. He’s a different player who loves the grass. His game suits the grass really well and it will be difficult.” Wawrinka previewed.
“The motivation is always there. It is going to be a tough match, but I am looking forward to it.” He added.
The latest win is Wawrinka’s 20th of the season.
EXCLUSIVE: Daniil Medvedev Sets Out Mission To Crack The Top 10 And Wimbledon
The 23-year-old has big dreams for the grass this year.
LONDON: Despite being at a ranking high of 13th in the world, Daniil Medvedev has endured a far from stellar time on the ATP Tour in recent weeks.
Since reaching the final of the Barcelona Open in April, the world No.13 has suffered four consecutive first-match losses. All to players ranked outside the top 20. It has been a blip in what has been a mainly positive season for the 23-year-old. Who won the Sofia Open as well as finishing runner-up at two other events earlier this year.
“All of those losses that I had were in tough fights. Either in three or five sets. So I think I have been a bit unlucky. It could have gone the other way around.” Medvedev told Ubitennis.
Physically he has also had his ups and downs. Slightly injuring his leg during the Madrid masters before experiencing a back problem at the French Open. Although Medvedev has branded both of those issues as minor. Saying he is now pain-free.
Eager to get back to his top form, Medvedev returned to the winner’s circle on the Opening day of the Fever-Tree Championships on Monday. Facing Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, he eased to a 6-2, 6-4, victory. His 26th of 2019. It was a solid performance by the Russian, who hit 16 winners and broke his opponent three times. In contrast, an erratic Verdasco canceled out his 24 winners with 28 unforced errors.
“I played a good match. Of course, it is only the first round, but I’m really happy to get the win. To gain some confidence and I’m looking forward to the next round.” Medvedev said.
“I am really happy to get the win today in straight sets. Being consistent and holding my serve.” He added.
This season’s grass swing gives Medvedev the chance to achieve one of his career goals – to break into the world’s top 10. During this period, he has to defend only 155 points. Which is equivalent to 5% of his total amount.
“It will be a great achievement to reach the top 10. But the most important thing is to stay there, which is what I am aiming for. I don’t wanna be there for one week.” He explained.
“Does it put some pressure on me? I’m not sure because my first goal is to win every match I play. That is how I can get into the top 10.”
It could be at Wimbledon where Medvedev breaks into the top 10. It will be his third appearance there and he reached the third round of the grand slam last year. His best run to date. A Russian man has never reached the final at Wimbledon in the history of the tournament. Alex Metreveli reached the final in 1973 representing the Soviet Union, but he was based in Georgia.
“My goal is to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after what the most important thing will be – winning the first round.” He stated.
Should he reach the last eight at The All England Club, it would be the best performance by a Russian man since Mikhail Youzhny back in 2012.
Medvedev will play either Lucas Pouille or Jay Clarke in the second round.
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