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Gerry Weber Open “Tidbits”

Here are some of the talking points in the first couple of days including Roger Federer’s form.

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By Mark Winters

There are many stories to tell about the Gerry Weber Open, the ATP 500 event, taking place this week in Halle Westfalen, Germany. For this reason, today’s column will take a different path and offer “tidbits”, a collection of behind-the-scenes items that provide a unique look at players and the tournament itself.

Federer Thoughts…

Mention Of Halle Or Gerry Weber Open

When asked what was the first thing that came to mind when Halle or the Gerry Weber Open was mentioned, Roger Federer, the defending champion said, “I have been coming here for so long now, and I have been so successful. It’s been, maybe, the most successful tournament in my life. It’s one of my favourite tournaments during my career. So, there you go. It’s fairly simple actually.”

Men’s Slam Winners Are Now Older

When it was mentioned that the last seven men’s Grand Slam singles titles were won by players over the age of thirty, Federer noted, “I’m not exactly sure what the secret is that the older guys are doing so well. I think it could happen again that 17, 18, 19-year olds can win Grand Slams. I just think it depends on the generation.

“I don’t care how much work you put in, you also need to have luck. The talent must be there, the framework and support of parents and coaches, and maybe the country, and the support you have from the federation. It all just works out perfectly and you win a Grand Slam final like what (Michael) Chang did, or (Pete) Sampras did, or (Bjorn) Borg, or Rafa, and Becker also, when they were teenagers. It’s amazing to me to win Slams at such a young age.

“And I think as players stay hungrier for longer and have also taken care of their bodies more professionally than the generations did in the past, which is [a] natural [progression]. We have the means to travel easier, to have a physio or a massage therapist, a fitness coach and so forth. I think it all kept us on the tour for longer and healthier. We can play for a longer period of time which the older generation didn’t have [the resources to do]. They all retired between the age of 28 and 32 and now we all play into our mid-thirties almost. We have opportunities and, maybe, because of this we give younger players a more difficult route to success. I’m not sure that I can explain it. But, that’s my take anyway.”

Happy With First Round Victory

After defeating Aljaz Bedene of Slovakia 6-3, 6-4 in the first round, Federer admitted, “I think I got out of the blocks well. I felt good right away. The court here in Halle is easier to play on than last week in Stuttgart. It’ a bit harder, so the ball bounces up more. So, it was nice to get balls in my strike zone. I was connecting well on the return right away. I was able to read the serve quite well but, after a while, that kind of went away. Then I was just trying to figure out how to break him. After I did I was able to hold serve all the way.

“I’m very happy with my serving and my play from the baseline. For a first round match, having hardly any play on these courts, I’m very happy actually.”

Nike Or Uniqlo Or…

Federer, who has been a stylish advertisement for Nike tennis since 1994, has been playing, since March, without a clothing and shoe contract. Supposedly, Uniqlo, the Japanese company that Kei Nishikori represents, would like to sign him to a mega-million-dollar deal.

The 36-year-old, who has been asked again and again, what he plans to do, responded, “I answered the question last week (in Stuttgart) and I explained that my contract ran out back in March. So, naturally there is a lot of talking going on and there is nothing really, I have to add to it. When the time is right and there is something to say, I will. But, until then I don’t really enjoy talking about it to be honest. Not that there is a problem, but it is just one of these situations you wished was resolved a long time ago.”

Zverev Practically Mute

Alexander Zverev (zimbio.com)

Normally, Alexander Zverev of Germany is loquacious in interviews. At Roland Garros, after scoring a five-set second round win over Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, he asked a journalist, who posed a question, “Where are you from buddy?” When he was told, “Yorkshire in England”, Zverev left everyone in hysterics after smiling and saying jokingly, “Nice. If they ever hold a tournament there, I’m coming just because of that accent. I love it. I didn’t understand a word you’re saying, but it is not important.”

Yesterday, after last year’s finalist and No. 2 seed was surprised 6-1, 6-4 in the first round by Borna Coric of Croatia, he was much less glib. With no humor, he offered, “My preparation for this tournament was one practice and one doubles match. That’s it. That’s all I played on a grass court. So, it’s not going to be a secret that I’m not going to play my best. I hoped for an easier first round to get into a tournament, but I think I had one of the toughest first rounds any seed can get.”

Is Molleker Germany’s Future?

Rudolf Molleker is a seventeen-year-old who was born in Sievierdonetsk, Ukraine, and settled in Oranienburg, Germany, with his parents Roman and Tanja, when he was three. Given a Gerry Weber Open wild card, he lost today to Lucky Loser Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-4, 7-6. Following the contest, the No. 286 ranked performer candidly said, “In my opinion, I didn’t have a good junior career. It was pretty hard for me to play on that level mentally. I had too many expectations for myself. Playing here was easier for me. I had no expectations. Today, proves that I can play on this level. It was a good experience for me. I still have to work a lot, and hopefully, get much better.”

Sponsor Count Up

The Gerry Weber Open has enjoyed success for over a quarter of a century. Community support and involvement is essential in this setting. But, the real key to success is, actually a double (not doubles) team. Elite players such as Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev, Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and Lucas Pouille of France, to name of few of the international stars participating in this year’s event, draw notice and are key to filling the stands. Ticket sales are then an obvious result.

Not to be overlooked, in holding a tournament is sponsor support. In 2018, the Halle sponsor count is fifty-nine. Four companies – Richard Mille, Harting Technology Group, Christinen Brunnen and Lubbering – are involved for the first time.

As the saying goes, “The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts” and annually this is holds true in Halle Westfalen at the Gerry Weber Open.

 

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Andy Murray won’t travel to Australia

Andy Murray will miss next month’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago.

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Andy Murray (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Andy Murray has made it official, he won’t be making the trip down under after working with Tennis Australia to find a viable solution to make it work.

 

“We’ve been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”

Murray was scheduled to fly to Australia with one of charter flights but due to a positive Covid test wasn’t able to make the flight and put his tournament in jeopardy.

Although he missed the chartered flights there was still a small chance he would play but had to workout an agreement with Tennis Australia to make it work. However it didn’t work and was gutted with the news.

“I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I’m devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It’s a country and tournament that I love.”

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‘If I knew, I Wouldn’t Come’ – Victor Troicki Slams Hard Quarantine In Melbourne

Troicki, who will head the Serbian ATP Cup team next month, says his career has been thrown into ‘chaos.’

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Former top 20 player Victor Troicki says his ‘Grand Slam is failing’ after implying that he felt that he was misled about the quarantine rules ahead of the Australian Open.

 

Troicki, who is currently ranked 202nd in the world, is among 72 players who have been placed in a strict quarantine where they are not allowed to leave their room for a 14-day period. Those affected have all been deemed as a ‘close contact’ of somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. A series of positive tests was detected on flights en route to the country.

34-year-old Troicki travelled to Australia from Doha after successfully qualifying for the Australian Open with wins over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Ulises Blanch and Jurij Rodionov. This year’s two qualifying tournament’s took place in the Middle East due to the pandemic.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t come,” Troicki told Sportski Zurnal earlier this week.
“Total chaos, horror as far as everything is concerned. I’m locked up for 14 days, I can’t leave the room. No training, nothing. My Grand Slam is failing, I can’t get ready for five sets in the room.”

In recent days there has been some dispute over whether players knew about the conditions regarding going into a strict quarantine. Carlos Martinez, who is the coach of Daria Kasatkina, told UbiTennis that players were initially under the impression that sections of a plan would have to be isolated if there was a positive case and not the entire plane. Ultimately the decision was up to the Australian health authorities.

“Tennis Australia was doing a great job in my opinion. The only thing that was a bit unclear was about the quarantine when somebody gets infected on the plane. They were talking like they were going to make sections inside the plane so if they found somebody in a section (who tests positive) they would isolate those people,’ said Martinez.
“But in the end the government didn’t want to do this and they preferred to isolate all on the plane because it was safer for everyone.”

Amid the debate over whether Troicki and his peers knew the full story or not, Spain’s Paula Badosa has become the first Australian Open player to contract the virus during quarantine. She had previously criticised the procedure before later apologising.

As for Troicki, he says the current situation is creating ‘chaos’ in his career.

“All preparations are failing,” he said. “Two weeks of lying in bed, it is certain that I will have to get back in shape for the next month and a half. All this is creating chaos in my career.”

Troicki is the team captain of the Serbian ATP Cup team. The tournament will start a week prior to the Australian Open on February 1st.

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No Advantage For Those Quarantining In Adelaide, Says Dominic Thiem

The 27-year-old dispute claims of unequal treatment ahead of the first major of 2021.

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Dominic Thiem has dismissed allegations of special treatment for top ranked players going through quarantine ahead of the Australian Open next month.

 

The World No.3 is among a series of players who are staying in Adelaide instead of Melbourne where an estimated 1200 players and their teams have travelled to. Under an agreement struck by Tennis Australia, the top three players on both the men’s and women’s Tour’s have been allowed to quarantine in Adelaide along with their hitting partners, family and team members. The move is to help ease the flow of people into Melbourne.

Some players have claimed that special treatment is being provided to those in Adelaide with the use of a private gym among other extras. However, Thiem has insisted that he is no better off than his peers.

“It’s a privilege to be here in Adelaide. But it’s not that huge an advantage,” Thiem told The Guardian. “We get the same amount of practice time as the guys in Melbourne. It’s just not that busy on-site. It’s just that we are [fewer] players here. Compared to the players who are not in hard quarantine in Melbourne, we have pretty similar conditions.”

Earlier in the week Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley openly admitted that those in Adelaide had gotten a better deal. Speaking to Nine News of Melbourne he said ‘My general rule is if you’re at the top of the game, a Grand Slam champion, it’s just the nature of the business. You are going to get a better deal.’ Meanwhile in a recent interview with UbiTennis, world No.44 doubles player Marcelo Demoliner pointed out that the disparity in treatment between the top names and other players is a common trait in the sport.

“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”

Strict quarantine woes

Perhaps those most frustrated with Thiem and Co are the ones currently placed in strict quarantine. 72 players are not allowed to leave their rooms for 14 days after being deemed a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. A series of positive tests occurred on flights en route to Melbourne.

Speaking about the group, US Open champion Thiem admits they face a struggle in the coming weeks but stress that it was a risk they took. There have been arguments over the quarantine rules and whether they were clear enough upon arrival. Carlos Martinez, who is the coach of Daria Kasatkina, told UbiTennis that players were unaware that if somebody tested positive on a plane all passengers would be required to isolate.

It’s going to be really tough to play a good ATP Cup or good tournament before the Australian Open and then a good Australian Open,” said Thiem.
“They have a huge disadvantage, but that’s the risk we take when we go on to a plane nowadays.”

Novak Djokovic has previously sought to help out those in strict quarantine by writing a letter to Tiley outlining a series of suggestions including the increased use of testing to reduce the isolation period. However, government officials rejected calls for any changes to their system. Djokovic issued a statement on Thursday outlining his motive was made with ‘good intentions’ after he received backlash from some.

“He received unnecessary criticism a lot in the past. This topic, I don’t really know,” Thiem commented.
“He tried to help the other players in Melbourne but in Australia they did a great job with corona. It almost doesn’t exist here any more so Australia wants to keep it that way.”

The Australian Open will get underway on February 8th. Thiem is aiming to go one step better than last year when he finished runner-up to Djokovic.

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