Things That Make You Go Mackie! - UBITENNIS
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Things That Make You Go Mackie!

Mackenzie McDonald has reached the Round of 16 on this first Wimbledon. From the pro debut at 18 to UCLA to the Top 100

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Some of the most dedicated tennis fans may remember him from a few years ago: Mackenzie McDonald, the American player who has reached the Round of 16 at Wimbledon on his first attempt, had already made himself known in the tennis world in 2013, when as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school he got through qualifying at the Cincinnati Masters 1000 defeating two top-100 like Nicolas Mahut and Steve Johnson. A few weeks earlier he had lost in the Round of 16 at the USTA Under 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the main appointment for all young American tennis hopefuls, an the then-USTA Men’s Player Development Director Jay Berger awarded him a wild card to the qualifying draw at the Masters 1000 in Ohio. “I had considered whether to go play a college tournament in Indiana instead, but eventually I decided to play in Cinicinnati”. The lack of pressure and expectations freed his arm and made him play above his actual level leading to the surprising victories against Johnson and Mahut, before being brought down to earth in the first round of the main draw losing 6-1 6-1 to future top-10 David Goffin.

Despite that smashing debut on the pro circuit, Mackie (this is his nickname in the locker room) decided to forfeit the prize money and to take a scholarship at UCLA, the prestigious state university in Los Angeles, California, were it’s safe to assume that his win against former NCAA champion Steve Johnson from UCLA’s archrival University of South California scored him some brownie points with his future teammates. In 2013 his tennis was showing a lot of potential, but his serve and his physical strengths were nowhere near pro-ready: he himself was estimating his weight back then to 142 pounds “on a good day”.

During his college years, Mackie worked very hard with his coach Billy Martin, confining his pro activity (looking for points but not money, as the NCAA rules impose) to the off-term season, but he never approached the levels he showed on his debut tournament. After spending two years at UCLA playing and studying political sciences, and after achieving the prestigious “daily double” in 2016 (winning the NCAA title both in singles and in doubles on the same day), he turned pro and started hitting the ATP Pro Tour full-time.

He started obtaining some good results in the fall of 2017, when he reached the semifinals in the Tiburon Challenger (where he lost to Tennys Sandgren) and, two weeks later, he won his first Challenger title in Fairfield, California. This success projected him into the top 200 of the ATP ranking for the first time and allowed him to end the year at n.178. “That week in Fairfield was very special for me as a California boy. There were a lot of fires in that area and we had to suspend play several times during the week because of smoke and ash; furthermore, I had no coach with me that week, but luckily I wasn’t too far from home so there were quite a few people to support me anyway”.

In 2018 he stepped into the spotlight playing an excellent Australian Open, where he got through qualifying, won his first round match with Elias Ymer and played an epic match with Grigor Dimitrov, losing only 8-6 in the fifth during a marquee night match on the Rod Laver Arena. “It was a tough loss to take – said Mackenzie – but for me it was the first match on a big stage, and it was a great experience anyway”. That result pushed him into the Top 150 of the ATP ranking and gave him enough confidence to reach the final of the Dallas Challenger two weeks later, where he lost to Kei Nishikori.

The 23-year-old Piedmont, California native now reportedly weighs 160 pounds, that is 18 pounds more than he was weighing five years ago on his pro debut. Like most of US top prospects, he works with a coach assigned to him by the USTA whose name is Mat Cloer: “Mat is a great coach, he is not afraid to change my shots if he believes it is necessary. We worked on my serve and we changed that, but above all we worked on my fitness to increase my resistance and my muscle mass”.

Here at Wimbledon he took advantage of the void left in the draw by the elimination of n.3 seed Marin Cilic and reached the Round of 16 in the most prestigious Grand Slam tournament on his first attempt.I can’t believe it – he declared after defeating Guido Pella in his third-round match – if anyone at the beginning of the tournament had told me that I would get to the fourth round I would have never believed it”.
McDonald, who is now certain to take home at least 163,000 British Pounds (roughly 216,000 dollars, almost half of his entire career prize money) earned his spot in the last 16 with a 3-set victory on Pella bus also with an epic 11-9 in the fifth win over Nicolas Jarry in his second round. During these Championships he can also count on the advice of the coach who looked after him from the age of 11 until he went to college: Wayne Ferreira, former ATP n.6 and twice semi-finalist at the Australian Open. The South African ex-player is at Wimbledon as a TV commentator and helped his former pupil to remain calm before his match with Pella.

After turning pro, McDonald left his native California and moved to the USTA Campus in Orlando, Florida.It was a tough choice, it’s all very different from California. But the facilities are excellent, I can train with a lot of great players there, it’s one of the things that needs to be done”.

With the points he is going to obtain at Wimbledon, McDonald will break into the Top 100 for the first time in his career, securing direct acceptance into all Grand Slam draws and climbing approximately to n.80.

Like the majority of players in his generation, his favorite tennis players are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.But it would be stupid to model my game on theirs – he points out – I rather have to learn from players that are more similar to me, such as Goffin or Nishikori or, as John [McEnroe] told me, I should try to study David Ferrer’s game”.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas’ Rapid Rise On The Tour Draws Admiration From His Rivals

The 19-year-old is set to break into the world’s top 25 after climbing more than 100 places in the rankings over the past 12 months.

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Prior to this year, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas had only won four matches on the ATP World Tour in his entire career. Just eight months later, some of his rivals are already tipping him for future stardom in the sport.

Tsitsipas’ rapid rise in the sport has been one of the most impressive among the Next Generation contingent. His first breakthrough occurred at the Barcelona Open in April where he defeated Dominic Thiem and Pablo Carreno Busta on route to the final. Only to be denied the title by the formidable Rafael Nadal.

“I felt emotionally connected with the fans and the crowd and the place and the location I was playing. But that loss matured me. Made me braver and more experienced, I would say.” The 19-year-old reflected about his Barcelona run.

Since Barcelona, the Greek has managed to reach the quarter-finals or better at tournaments on three different surfaces in Estoril (clay), ‘s-Hertogenbosch (grass) and Washington (hard court). At Wimbledon he became the first ATP player from his country in the Open Era to reach the fourth round.

Blessed with a blistering forehand, Tsitsipas continues his rise this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. In his tournament debut, he powered through the first two rounds with straight sets wins over Damir Dzumhur and French Open finalist Thiem. The Austrian is the first top 10 player Tsitsipas has defeated on multiple occasions.

“He doesn’t really have any weakness. He’s playing fast and aggressive from both sides. I think he will be a top player in the future. I think in the next one, two years, we will see him in the top 10.” Thiem commented about his opponent earlier this week.

On Thursday, Tsitsipas recorded arguably the biggest win of his career to date. Taking on former world No.1 Novak Djokovic, he battled to a shock 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3, win. There was no fear shown by the rising star against a player considered to be one of the greatest of the Open Era. Throughout the 139-minute encounter he only faced two break points, saving both of them. Scoring back-to-back wins over top 10 players for the first time.

“I feel very proud for me, myself, and my country. I’m putting Greece more deep into the map of tennis. So I’m pretty sure I’m making my family proud, all of those people that are watching, my coach, my father. It was a very emotional win,” Tsitsipas said during his press conference. “I’ve never felt so many emotions after a victory.”

Tsitsipas’ latest win has won praise from Djokovic himself. The Serbian, who was playing his first match since winning the Wimbledon title, refused to be disappointed about his loss. Acknowledging the performance of his opponent, who he has tipped for future success.

“He’s definitely one of the leaders of NextGen without a doubt, especially this season. He’s had some terrific results and terrific wins.” Said Djokovic.
“He’s showing a lot of commitment, a lot of discipline. He’s putting in the hours in the gym, on the tennis court, and it’s paying off. I mean, he’s very talented. He was the best junior in the world.
“If he keeps on going this way, he’s got a good future.”

Admitting that he is still learning on the tour, Tsitsipas will play in his first Masters 1000 quarter-final on Friday. He will take on defending champion Alexander Zverev for the second consecutive week. At the Citi Open in Washington, the two clashed in the semi-finals with Zverev winning 6-2, 6-4.

As a result of his latest win, Tsitsipas is set to rise to a ranking high of 23rd in the world. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 32-20.

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Italian Hopeful Berrettini Is Becoming Reality

The newly-crowned Gstaad champion is climbing the ranking with his well-contained demeanour and his hard-to-contain first serves

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It was only six months ago that Matteo Berrettini was standing on Court 20 at the Australian Open hitting a ball towards the tram stop and shouting “I want to die, what the f**k did I do to deserve something like this?”. He was playing against Denis Kudla in the third and final round of the qualifying tournament and a few minutes earlier he had squandered two match points on 5-3 40-15 in the third set to end up losing the match 4-6 6-3 7-5. That was his first chance to make it to the main draw of a Grand Slam (a few months earlier he had lost to Tsitsipas in round 2 at the US Open qualifications tournament), which he was able to clinch anyway as a lucky loser.

Fast forward to July 2018, and we find him lifting the trophy at the Swiss Open in Gstaad where he conquered his first ATP title not only without dropping a set, but without ever losing his serve. This win propelled him to the 54th spot of the ATP Ranking, with not many points to defend in the last part of the season and a great chance to use his thunderous serve and blistering forehand on the hard court in North America and in Asia.

After a six-month stop in 2016 due to a knee injury and a first part of 2017 when he won his first ATP Challenger title in San Benedetto, Italy, he started feeling the pressure of his own success and missed one of the main goals for the season: in the play-offs for the Italian wild-card at the ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, he lost in his first match as n.1 seed and overwhelming favorite to underdog Liam Caruana, forfeiting the chance to meet the best young guns in the circuit on a world-class stage. “In general, he is a very calm player – said his coach Vincenzo Santopadre, a former Top 100 player – but during the last few months of the last season he was a lot more tense, he had lost some of his usual tranquillity”.

But the golden boy who is lighting up the enthusiasm of the Italian tennis fans, still waiting for a Top-10 player since the end of the ‘70s, kept maintaining his general composure in the face of burning defeats like the one in Australia against Kudla or some of the Challengers finals lost in 2017 against top-100 players like Malek Jaziri and Sergiy Stakhovsky after having led the match on multiple occasions. “I often re-watch my matches to analyze them – declared Berrettini in an off-season interview to Tennis World Italia – I am very critical towards myself, and seeing the mistakes I’ve made can only be good for me. Vincenzo [Santopadre] was very good at making me see the positive aspects of the finals I lost, even if I was feeling quite down for having missed those chances”.

Neither Matteo nor his coach Vincenzo were not targeting a specific position at the beginning of 2018: “It’s not time to focus on ranking and points, not yet – said Berrettini – it’s more important to be healthy and work on my fitness”. “Our objective for this season is to improve on his strengths, serve and forehand, to make sure they are worth of the top 100 – commented Santopadre – but we also need to reinforce his backhand and his return. I would love for him to take the net more often, but I believe that will come with time”.

In six months Berrettini not only has consolidated his serve+forehand play, making it a Top-50-worth cornerstone of his game, but has also made significant progress on his backhand. “Last March in Indian Wells I watched [Berrettini]’s last training session with Shapovalov: on the backhand side it was one in the court and two in the net or on the fence – says Ubitennis’ technical expert Luca Baldissera – now he is incredibly more solid in the rallies and can even go for winners at times”.

During the final in Gstaad, the Italian served 11 aces in the first set alone, four of which during the tie break he won by 10 points to 8. And after his triumph in the singles final, he went on to take home also the doubles’ title with his fellow countryman Daniele Bracciali, completing a memorable week for him on the Swiss Alps.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s like a dream” he kept repeating after that triumphant Sunday, but he may have to get used to this more quickly than he expects: his 135mph serve demands it. However, anyone who has had the chance to spend an hour talking to this very balanced young man has very little doubt that his early successes will not distract him from the long term goal, which is “becoming the best that I can be”. And in order to achieve this goal, Berrettini has included in his team a mental coach (Stefano Massari) who works regularly with him when he trains at the Rome Tennis Academy, a venture launched at Circolo Canottieri Roma by Santopadre himself, whom Berrettini followed to that club when he was 14. “The time I spend recovering from the injury in 2016 was very important for me: I spent a lot of time in Rome, with my family, went on vacation, all things I hadn’t done in a while. I started dating my girlfriend and this gave me a good perspective on life. Vincenzo made me work with the kids of the tennis school and all this made me click: when I was able to return to practice I was a different player, more mature, more focused”.

The disappointment of ATP Next Gen play offs and the desperate words shouted on Court 20 at Melbourne Park are nothing but a pale memory now: Berrettini’s focus is locked in on the rest of the 2018 season now, and it sure is looking bright.

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Serena Williams Feels The Magnetic Power Of The Couch As Well

Danish sports psychologist Adam Blicher explains why commitment is more important than motivation in tennis.

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When we look at Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic, we tend to believe that they are always motivated. That they are always ready to go out there and practice extremely hard and compete with all of their heart at any point in time.

We think that they do not feel that magnetic power of the couch that all of us other normal human beings feel.

However, the difference between Serena and Novak and then all the rest of us is not in the feelings we experience. If you watch the Serena documentary, you will clearly see how she is often times struggling with motivation, and if you listen to interviews with Novak Djokovic after his long anticipated French Open victory, you will get to know that he has struggled to find the motivation to keep pushing himself further.

The difference is in whether we sit back in our couch and wait for the feeling of motivation to arrive. And if it doesn’t, we will stay in the couch not putting in the necessary work to simply have a shot at fulfilling our long-term goals and acting in accordance with our values.

A lot of us believe that tennis should be fun, and if it is no longer fun, we shouldn’t be doing it.

But in reality, getting out of the magnetic field of the couch, all depends on how committed we are to achieving our goals. Being committed is much more important than being motivated.

Committed to a bigger purpose. Having a clear set of goals and values that you follow.

If you do decide to go out on the practice court instead of sitting around waiting, you might just experience the motivation that you have been looking for. You might feel it as you step foot on the court, you might feel it half way through the practice session, or in some instances you might not feel it at all. But at least you did what was necessary to achieve your goals and follow your values – key ingredients for successful players.

So remember that what is important is to not sit back and wait for the feeling of motivation to come. Instead, get out there on the practice court. You may not have a perfect practice, but you have still come a long way if you are having a good practice on the days where you have no motivation at all.

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