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

ATP

EXCLUSIVE: Stefanos Tsitsipas On The Journey Towards His ‘Maximum Potential’

The world No.9 opens up to Ubitennis following his opening match at the Caja Magica.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo by chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

MADRID: Just minutes after grabbing his opening win at the Madrid Open, eighth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was already dissecting his performance.

 

Fresh off claiming his third ATP title last week in Estoril, the Greek battled to a 6-2, 7-5, win over world No.56 Adrian Mannarino. Somebody ranked 47 places lower than him in the ATP standings. Claiming his 24th win of the season, which is more than world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the Greek player admits that he still has work to do.

“I felt like I played well, but I haven’t reached my maximum potential yet,” Tsitsipas told Ubitennis. “I really hope I will play a little bit better in my next match.”

Despite being only 20, Tsitsipas is already an icon in Greek tennis. Being the first player from his country to reach the semi-finals of a major and the highest ranked in the history of men’s tennis. Last year in Toronto he defeated four top 10 players on route to the final. Becoming the youngest-ever player to do so since the ATP Tour was introduced back in 1990.

There is no question when it comes to the talent the Next Gen star has. Yet, the refreshing thing is that he is not overpowered by it. Instead, he is both determined and hungry to become an even better player.

“I’m going to build up my confidence and awareness of what I’m capable of doing on a tennis court. I’ve learned a lot today, despite my win. I’m going to try to improve on that and get even better results in my next match.” He said.

Becoming a better player

Tsitsipas’ drive for improvement was partly behind the success in Estoril last week. His start to the clay season was far from perfect. Losing to world No.14 Daniil Medvedev in Monte Carlo and world No.51 Jan-Lennard Struff in Barcelona.

The turning point occurred shortly after Barcelona. Returning back to the drawing board with his father. Both of his parents have a wealth of experience in tennis. Tsitsipas’ mother, Julia Apostoli, is a former world No.1 junior player who represented the Soviet Union.

“I worked with my dad the week before (Estoril). We worked on the courts and there were some micro-adjustments in order to improve my game. To change something that didn’t work the week before.” He explained.
“I’m grateful for that, I’m grateful that we went back to court, worked hours and hours to perfect those things that we didn’t do well.”

Whilst he appreciates the help he has received, it is by no means the end of it. Questioned about the area of his game that needs further improvement, Tsitsipas believes over-thinking is a problem for him on the court. Something he hopes to solve in his third round match in Madrid. Awaiting him will be either Fernando Verdasco or Karen Khachanov.

“I think to be more aggressive and not waiting too much. Sometimes I am thinking too much and in the end, I miss it. I would say there is a lack of indecision.”

The main stage

Like every other player, the ultimate test occurs at the grand slams. The four tournaments with the highest level of prize money, ranking points, and significance in the sport. The next major will be at Roland Garros. Coincidentally the place where Tsitsipas made his debut in the main draw of a major back in 2017.

He has already illustrated his threat in the premier tournaments. Stunning Roger Federer on route to the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January. Nevertheless, Tsitsipas continues to take a backseat to the Big Four on the tour. Although he is getting ready to pounce like a lion when the opportunity beckons.

“I think it’s all a matter of time. Having players like Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer, I’m definitely happy to see how they perform (in the majors) and it will give me confidence and belief that I can do the same.” He explains.
“So it’s just a matter of time before I’m playing my best tennis. It’s very much related to my confidence as well.”

Overall, Tsitsipas boasts a winning record of 10-7 in the main draws of grand slam tournaments.

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EXCLUSIVE: Jelena Ostapenko’s Fight For Form

Ubitennis spoke with the former French Open champion following her loss at the Caja Magica in Madrid.

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Jelena Ostapenko (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

MADRID: Almost two years have passed since Jelena Ostapenko stunned the women’s tour by winning the French Open at the age of 20. Shortly afterward, she was tipped to be the next star of the sport. Unfortunately, now she finds herself in a new and unwelcome challenge.

 

2019 has been dominated more by frustration than celebration for the Latvian. Five months in and she has only managed to achieve back-to-back wins once. Doing so at Charleston with triumphs over Johanna Larsson and Shelby Rogers. To put this into perspective, she is currently ranked 98th in the Porsche race to Shenzhen.

Ostapenko’s latest loss occurred at the Caja Magica, venue of the Madrid Open. After producing an emphatic display in her opening match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, she fell short against seventh seed Kiki Bertens. A player who was runner-up at the tournament 12 months ago. Despite glimmers of her top ability, a costly unforced error count of 30 guided Betens to the 6-4, 6-3, win. The downside of Ostapenko’s all or nothing approach to the game.

“I think in general it was not a bad match. Of course, I lost it, but I think the main thing was that I was not afraid to go after the shots. Even though I was missing during some deciding moments, that’s what I have to do with my game.” An upbeat Ostapenko told Ubitennis following the match.
“I have to go for the shots and play aggressive. That’s what brought me good results during 2017.” She added.

There is no denying that the 21-year-old is in the midst of crises on the court. Her last victory over a top 10 player occurred 13 months ago in Miami and her last title on the tour was 17 months ago in Seoul. Leaving Ostapenko facing one question. Where did it all go wrong?

The prime culprit for the results is the formerly injured left wrist in the eyes of the Latvian. In total, she missed three months towards the end of 2018. Meaning that she was unable to train during the pre-season. A crucial time of the year for many player’s.

“It’s hard. I have to get back in form during the year where you don’t have much free time. We play almost every other week sometimes.” She explains. “I’m using every opportunity to have some weeks of practice. Like, if I even have a couple of day’s I’m using it for practice. Just to improve everything.”

The mental demons

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Ostapenko, who will turn 22 next month, has never been afraid to express herself on the court. That was visible during her match against Bertens with cries of frustration and glares towards her camp. Her series of blistering winners were ultimately canceled out by her erratic error count. Leaving the question, is Ostapenko’s downfall her own mind?

“I think for sure it’s the mental side because physically I think I’m strong enough.” She admits without hesitation. “In practice, I can play unbelievable and then I go into the match and do some mistakes that I never do. For sure, that’s a mental thing. I think tennis is around 70 percent mental because everything is in the head.’ 
“My first match here, I played really well and my mind was completely free. I was not afraid to hit the ball and hit so many winners.”

In a bid to overcome those problems, Ostapenko has enlisted to help of people with expertise in the area. Although she admits that there is no magical solution. Instead, she will have to give it time.

“I’m working with a couple of people in that area (of sports psychology). I’m trying to improve, but it’s not easy. I’m a very emotional person and sometimes that helps me, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m working by myself, trying to improve every day.”

Another grand slam title?

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While she may lack wins, the belief is no less than it was two years ago when she claimed the French Open crown. Becoming the first unseeded champion of the tournament since 1933 and her country’s maiden grand slam winner.

“I know I can win more grand slams because I’ve already done it once. I’ve shown I can play at that high level.” She said. “However, with my recent injury, it hasn’t been easy this year.
I think I need to play more matches and win more matches. Then I think I will become a dangerous player.”

Just how dangerous she can become remains to be seen. This season has developed a trend of different players winning different tournaments. In fact, Petra Kvitova is the only woman to win multiple titles on the WTA Tour. Nevertheless, there is only one objective for Ostapenko this year.

“To be healthy. To try to stay healthy and enjoy it because I had all this pressure to deal with following the French Open.” The world No.29 stressed.
“Injuries are never fun. It can happen to anyone. You just have to enjoy the moment.”

Now over the first major injury of her career, Ostapenko continues to plot how she will once again rise to the top of the women’s tour. The only question left is when will that happen?

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Boris Becker Coach Bob Brett On The Rise Of The Next Generation

The Australian speaks to Ubitennis about the young guns on the tour and his work in Japan.

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At the Monte Carlo Masters this week is somebody that needs no introduction to the world of tennis.

 

Watching from the sidelines is Australian-born Bob Brett. A coach, whose career in the sport spans decades. His resume includes working alongside the likes of Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and Marin Cilic whilst they were at the top of their sport. He also founded a tennis academy in San Remo, Italy and previously served as the head of player development for the British Lawn Tennis Association before resigning in 2015.

Since the days of Brett’s work alongside Becker, the game has changed somewhat. Power is more important than ever in matches and rallies are now more from the baseline than at the net. Something many has adjusted to in recent times. However, Brett believes there are also drawbacks too for the rising stars.

“Now it’s a little bit random I think with the next generation coming up because the game is different.” He said during an interview with Ubitennis. “Before with the ball there was much more trajectory and different things. There were more different opportunities with that to use a drop shot and all sorts of things.’
“Whereas today it is more a less about staying near the baseline, hitting the ball hard, straight and trying to get the winners.”

Few can dispute Brett’s wealth of experience, which amounts to almost 25 years on the ATP Tour. He has seen player’s come and go, but it is the new generation that is intriguing him the most.

“I think definitely (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Daniil) Medvedev are players who are coming along.” He stated.
“It’s really interesting for me to come and watch so many players and see how their improvements have been.’
“I think Felix (Auger-Aliassime) and (Denis) Shapovalov are very interesting. To see how they can actually expand in their game is the thing that I think is interesting.”

Despite his expertise, Brett has not made any indication of wanting to work alongside a rising star of the men’s game. When asked directly who would be the ideal Next Gen member for him to coach, the Australian diplomatically sidestepped the question. Although he isn’t afraid to tell them how it is.

“When I watch them, in my thoughts there is something that could be a little bit better here and there.” He explained without mentioning any names.
“I have seen some players and I know that they will need to change (their game). I have even told some of those.”

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In Brett’s home country, it is Alex de Minaur who is the brightest prospect. At the age of 20 he has already reached three ATP finals, winning his maiden title at the Sydney International in January. In 2018 he was named newcomer of the year at the annual ATP awards.

De Minaur’s offensive in recent weeks has been halted by a groin injury. Since the Australian Open, he has only been able to play in two tournaments. Reaching the quarter-finals in Acapulco before losing his opening match in Indian Wells.

“He played very well until around the ranking of 24 and he is a very good runner.” Brett commented of his compatriot. “He’s going to need to have a little bit more punch (in his shot-making). Not necessarily forcing it (his shots), but also where to play the ball around the court.’
“It is not always about chasing the ball and I think it would be a bit better if he had a bit more variety.”

At present, Brett’s work takes him to Japan. A country which welcomed their first world No.1 earlier this year in the form of Naomi Osaka. However, Osaka is mainly based in America. Brett has worked in the Asian country for many years alongside both former and current stars of Japanese men’s tennis. The most notable being Shuzo Matsuoka, who achieved a ranking best of 46th in 1992.

“What I really enjoy is trying to get player’s to become better. With the young children and trying to make it a big difference for the Japanese because there was a sort of flat level, and I think they are getting much better with that.” He said.
“They are coming up with a completely different style of what they are playing.”

Brett spends 20 weeks a year working in Japan. His current focus is on the junior players.

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