‘I Love You, Man’ - Novak Djokovic Lead Tributes To Radek Stepanek At Special Event - UBITENNIS
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‘I Love You, Man’ – Novak Djokovic Lead Tributes To Radek Stepanek At Special Event

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also praised the recently retired Czech player.

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Novak Djokovic has paid tribute to his former coach Radek Stepanek at a special ceremony to mark the retirement of the Czech player.

 

On Thursday evening the former world No.1 travelled to Prague to play at a exhibition event celebrating the career of the former world No.8. Stepanek announced his retirement from the sport in November 2017 at the age of 38. His decision to hang up the racket was due to ongoing issues with his back, which he had an operation on during February 2017.

“Radek I truly love you as a friend, as a college, as a mentor and as a brother from another mother.” Djokovic said during a speech at the O2 Arena. “This man here deserves everything he received. He deserves it because he is a wonderful human, an incredible tennis player that has had a wonderful career. And, he has done a lot for the Czech republic.”

Born on November 27th, 1978 in the Czech mining city of Karviná, Stepanek has enjoyed success in both singles and doubles throughout his career. Breaking into the world’s top 10 in both categories. He has won 23 ATP titles, of which 18 occurred in the doubles. He was twice runner-up at a Masters 1000 event at the 2004 Paris Open and the 2006 German Open. At the grand slams, his best performance was reaching the quarter-finals of the 2006 Wimbledon championships. He is also a two-time grand slam champion in men’s doubles.

Shortly after retiring from the sport, Stepanek found himself in a new role. Becoming the coach of Djokovic during a time when the Serbian was recovering from a serious elbow injury. Although the partnership lasted less than six months.

“I’ve had him in every role of my of my life, but I have him in the most important role which is as a friend and someone that I truly love and respect.” Said Djokovic.
“I want to congratulate you on a wonderful career and wish you all the best for what’s to come. Well done for everything you’ve done.” He added.

The special evening in Prague also featured the presence of India’s Leander Paes and Germany’s Tommy Haas, who played in a doubles match. Andre Agassi was also present and made a brief appearance on the court.

During the event, tributes from other players were also broadcast on the screens inside the arena. They include one from 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer. Who played Stepanek 16 times on the tour, winning 14 of their matches.

“I want to congratulate you on a wonderful career and wish you all the best for what’s to come. Well done for everything you’ve done.” Said Federer.

World No.1 Rafael Nadal, who head-to-head record against Stepanek is 7-0, also paid tribute.

“It’s been a pleasure to share with you some great moments on tour. There has been some great battles (between us) and I just wanted to wish you all the best for the future.” Nadal said.

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Angelo Binaghi: “Rome Masters could take place in September or October”

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Italian Tennis Federation President Angelo Binaghi confirmed in a conference call with the Italian News Agency that there is a plan to reschedule the Rome Internazionali d’Italia later this year after the tournament was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

“There is a good chance that the Rome Masters will be held in 2020. We are in touch with the ATP. Tennis is lucky, because it is not a contact sport and is played outdoors. This means that it will be possible to reschedule Masters 1000 tournaments, once the problemi s solved. Our goal is to hold the Rome Masters between September and October, before or after the French Open. Of course we would love to play in Rome, but are willing to organise the tournament elsewhere at any venue or any surface. All clay tournaments should be rescheduled in the same period. We are open to hold the Rome tournament indoors. It would not be the first time that the Rome tournament is moved to another venue. Nicola Pietrangeli won the Internazionali d’Italia in Turin in 1961, but our priority would be September/October. This period may be better than May, when the tournament is normally held”

Binaghi commented on the cancellation of Wimbledon.

 “It was an inevitable decision. The coronavirus will peak in Great Britain two weeks after Italy. It is possible to hold a grass tournament in June and July”.  

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Matteo Berrettini: “I am not optimistic that the tennis season will resume this summer”

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Last year’s US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini and his Australian girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic talked to 18-time Grand Slam champion Chris Evert on Instragram live. Tomljanovic was 13 years old, when she moved to Florida to train at Chris Evert’s Academy in Boca Raton.

 

“We are happy to spend time together. We often play in the same tournaments, but tennis is the priority.

Berrettini said that he idolized Roger Federer, whe he grew up, but he also respects Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who share the last 13 Grand Slam titles together.

“Roger is tennis. He can do whatever he wants. It’s easy. He is my idol. I can talk about him for two years. He makes it look like he born like that. Novak is a machine. For me, he is the worst to play. I remember playing playing in London at the tour finals, had nearly 70% of my first serves in the second set and still lost the set 6-1. I could not hold my serve. He has an amazing return. His backhand is really good. Nadal’s intensity is unbelievable. It does not matter if the score is 5-0 and 0-5”, said Berrettini.

Berrettini also talked about the current suspension of the tennis season due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am not optimistic that the tennis season will resume this summer. Europe and the United States are getting through a difficult period. I fear that the current season will be cancelled. I am in good shape and I am training every day”.

Berrettini looked back to the 2019 season and admitted that he was surprised about reaching a top-10 spot in the ATP Ranking.

“I was surprised how quickly I improved my ranking. I changed my training after losing in the first round in Monte-Carlo. Fabio Fognini’s title gave me extra motivation to improve my tennis. I won two titles in Budapest and Stuttgart and reached the final in Munich. I did not expect to reach the semifinal at the US Open and achieve good results on grass, apart from the match against Roger Federer. That day I was too emotional. I thank  him for giving me a lesson”.

Berrettini talked about the relationship to his coach Vincenzo Santopadre.

“I met Vincenzo for the first time when I was 14 and I spend more time with him than my family. I started training with him for fun. He did not put pressure on me until I was 20 years old. He knew that tennis is a marathon, but not a sprint. He helped me to improve my physical training.”

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Paolo Bertolucci: “I really believe that Federer will continue in 2021”

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Former Davis Cup champion and 1977 Hamburg winner Paolo Bertolucci talked in an interview to the Italian OA Sport website about the tennis calendar changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is affecting the world of sport.

 

Bertolucci said that the decision to cancel Wimbledon and the entire grass season was inevitable.

“I agree with the decision of the ATP to cancel all the tournaments until the grass season. I think that it may be unlikely for the season to resume in 2020. In my opinion tennis has taken the right decision. It was the sport to stop everything, first by blowing the European clay season and then cancelling the grass season too. I believe it would take a miracle if the tennis season will resume with the US hard-court tournaments. It is much more likely that tournaments will be cancelled until at least September. I absolutely do not hope so, but, if the epidemic continues in this way and they cannot find an effective solution in a short term, I think it is difficult to start over. It is true that tennis is not a contact sport, but it about players, who move from one continent to another every week. Travel is the real problem, not so much the game itself. You could opt for closed doors or for a distancing of spectators, but I find that hard. Starting the hard-court season seems an extremely optimistic idea. Doing it in Asia in October is something more realistic, but in the end i would not be surprised if the whole season was cancelled”, said Bertolucci.

Roger Federer was aiming at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but both events will not be held this year. Bertolucci thinks that Federer will continue his career in 2021.

“I really believe that Federer will continue in 2021. At what levels it is difficult to say. At his age, every age counts. While skipping does not make a difference for young people, when you start to cross the 30-32 threshold every year, it gets more and more complicated, even more if get close to 40. This is mainly true for him, a little less for Nadal, even less for Djokovic. It is true that they are great champions and will be able to better manage all these months of inactivity, but inevitably they will pay. On the other hand, young people who would have needed to play many games to accumulate experience will not be able to do it, but I still believe that the gap will decrease”.

 Tsitsipas and Thiem have the potential to take over the top three in the future.

“Thiem has more experience and has been playing at such a high level for five years. Tsitsipas has a good story and comes from a country without a tennis tradition. The Greek player has the potential to win titles on all surfaces. I also like Shapovalov, but he has a risky playing style. Auger Aliassime is a good prospect. Italian fans can have hopes for Berrettini and Sinner. All depends on injuries, because many players will not be able to be consistent at these levels, although they are talented.”

Bertolucci thinks that 2019 Next Gen ATP champion Jannik Sinner will continue his rise in the future after his breakthrough season last year.

“He would have needed to play a lot in 2020, but he is so young that he can even afford to lose a year. He will watch many matches and study tactically. I know he watches one match after another. I have never seen an Italian player reach this level at the age of 18. He must certainly work on every aspect, but he has enormous margins for improvement. He must physically improve, raise the percentage of first serves and the percentage of returns, he must learn to learn new offensive solutions and to know areas of the court that he has not frequented so far. In my opinion he is more suitable for hard court, but he can also play well on clay and on grass, but these are things that he will discover only later in a few years”.

Bertolucci thinks that Matteo Berrettini has the potential to confirm the excellent results that propelled him to his career high of world number 8.

 “Matteo had not so many points to defend in the first half of 2020. The priority for him was to solve his physical problem. For this reason the injury was not a big problem, as he would have had to defend the points that he won in 2019. He worked very hard. I don’t know if he will be able to repeat the results he achieved last year, but he has not reached the top eight by chance”.

 

According to Bertolucci, Italy has a good chance to win the Davis Cup with a full team.

 

“Italy would have a good chance to win this event with the best times. There are not so many teams, which can boast two players, who are close to the top 10 and a good doubles team formed by Fognini and Bolelli. It is necessary that the two singles players are in good shape. Unfortunately that was not the case last year. Italy can win the Davis Cup, if Fognini and Sinner are in form”.

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