Monday at The O2 Arena was an all too familiar situation for former US Open champion Marin Cilic. Taking on Germany’s Alexander Zverev, he lead by 5-3 before eventually losing in straight sets.
At a glimpse, it could be argued that the outcome wasn’t significant considering he was taking on the world No.5 at an event dubbed the fifth grand slam of men’s tennis. However, a closer analysis of Cilic’s last 10 losses on the tour identifies an interesting, as well as worrying, trend developing.
It all started at this year’s Wimbledon championships. Taking on Guido Pella in the second round, Cilic was the overwhelming favourite to win and lead the match by two sets. Winning 12 out of the first 15 games played against the Argentine before rain halted play. Despite the lead, Cilic ended up crashing out in five sets in what was his worst result at the tournament since 2013.
“I was not as accurate. I was just missing some balls, some easy balls, giving him a chance to come back.” He commented after that match.
Since Wimbledon, Cilic has gone on to suffer nine losses on the tour. In most of which he either lead the match or had match points. His opponents have ranged from grand slam champions Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, to Jan-Lennard Struff.
“I feel with my game that I need to be more stubborn, a little bit more consistent when having also a lead,” Cilic told reporters in London earlier this week.
“Maybe I drop my focus a bit. That gives an opportunity for the player to come back. It’s not easy for just mentally as well, working for it and creating chances and then dropping them, so its up-and-down with the emotions.”
Cilic’s last 10 losses
- Had a two-set lead against Pella (Wimbledon)
- Lead Nadal by a set (Toronto)
- Took Djokovic to three sets (Cincinnati)
- Lead Kei Nishikori by a set and 4-2 (US Open)
- Lead Struff by 4-2 in the deciding set (Tokyo)
- Had match points against Nicolas Jarry (Shanghai)
- Had set points against Marius Copil (Basel)
- Lead Djokovic by a break in the final set (Paris)
- Had an initial 5-3 lead over Zverev (London)
Nightmares At The O2
The irony in Cilic’s losses is that it leads up to one of his weakest tournaments in terms of wins. This year is his fourth appearance at the ATP Finals. Overall, he has only managed to win one out of 10 matches at the event. That was against Nishikori back in 2016.
“I know the score. Having another match with chances and not taking them. That’s something that I’m not happy about.” Cilic commented about his record following his loss to Zverev. “Also, last year, it happened a couple of times. And the year before that. So, against top guys like this, it hits me back.’
“It’s not the best thing that I’m doing, creating opportunities and having most of the time leads in the match and then I drop them. So, that’s what I need to just get better at.”
Despite the results, the 30-year-old is refusing to let it hinder his motivation. During his career, Cilic has won a total of 18 ATP titles. He is also the highest earning Croatian player in ATP history (in terms of prize money) with more than $25 million. Overall, he is 10th on the all-time list.
“It’s not easy also to come back again and push yourself. But, you know, that’s also part of the game. And looking forward to the next two matches in the group. Hopefully, I can build upon this match and that I can play better.”
So is he the worst in London?
It can be difficult to deem a player the worst in the tournament because it depends on the measure. For example, John Isner might be classed as the strongest server, but not the best returner. One measure that helps to draw a conclusion is the Infosys ranking system that is done in partnership with the ATP. Which oversee the leaderboards of these three categories:-
- Serve leaders (four service metrics percentages + average number of aces per match – average number of double faults per match)
- Return leaders (winning percentage in the four service return categories added together)
- Under pressure leaders (percentage of break points converted and saved + percentage of tie-breaks won + percentage of deciding sets won).
Based on the past 52 weeks, Cilic is the worst player in the Under Pressure category among those participating in this week’s ATP Finals. He is the only player ranked outside of the top 40 at 45th. On the other hand, he fares better in the other two categories. He has a better rating than Isner and Kevin Anderson in Returns (overall rank 39th), and has the fourth highest score when it comes to serving (10th on the tour).
It is easy to blast the former grand slam winner, but awknoledgement should also be given to his achievements in 2018. Including winning The Fever-Tree Championships in London (Queen’s), finishing runner-up at the Australian Open and reaching the semifinals at three other tournaments. He also achieved a career ranking high of third in January.
Cilic will play Isner in his second match at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.
Of Novak Djokovic, A Champion And Above All A Great Man
The Serbian donated one million euros to the hospitals in Bergamo, and did so without publicity. This is a great example of the great person he is, despite the crowd abuse he had to endure at Wimbledon against Federer. His authenticity has always been there, all the way since those Players Parties in Monte Carlo.
Novak Djokovic did something amazing, and the unprompted nature of his act did all but magnify his gallantry.
I’ve met him a few times, for instance when I was invited to the Players Party in Monte Carlo as either a comedic advisor or even as an actor, and I have to say that, whether one can like his brand of tennis which is – perfunctory to say – extraordinary, to be able to witness the charm, the spontaneity, and the effort he put in his duties as dancer, singer, and all-around showman, reinforced my first impression of him as a genuinely decent guy, not a conceited persona. This is why I always thought the attitude of the crowd during the last Wimbledon final against Federer to be utterly disgraceful to say the least. It’s one thing to choose a champion to cheer for, and another to disrespect his opponent, to the point of taking away from him the joys of victory and celebration. And as a matter of fact, Nole barely acknowledged his success. Sure, he will have thoroughly enjoyed it in his heart, but some bitterness must have crept in – and this is just unfair.
Many have said that Novak is constantly hurt by the greater popularity of Federer and Nadal, who had a head start in seizing the love of tennis fans, and then could live off it as with a trust fund. I don’t think Nole is jealous of his rivals. However, it is only human that he wishes for his humane side to be acknowledged a little more, as it happens in Serbia, where he is second to none in the estimation of his people. This happens in Italy as well, for the most part, thanks to his fluency in the language that allows him to fully be himself wherever he goes, be it in stand-up comedy skits, at music festivals, or simply among the crowd. When he says that Italy is his second home, he says it sincerely, and that is true for his wife Jelena too, since she studied in Milan. When he says it, he’s not pandering to Roger and Rafa’s fans, he knows that they won’t switch sides. He has no obligation to say it, he does because he means it. Every single tournament winner thanks the organisers and the crowd, claiming that it’s the best event that could possibly be, we know it, it’s part of the game. But Djokovic, who loves Rome and its tournament, and is loved by the city in return, doesn’t mince words when he says that some things could and should be improved, especially in terms of court maintenance – his honesty should be appreciated.
We should also be more accepting of the diplomacy that his political role in the ATP Council entails at times, leading him to leave some questions unanswered. I don’t always agree with what Novak says, such as during the Gimelstob affair, at least initially. At the same time, though, it can’t be easy for a man in his position to pick a side during a quarrel like the one happening between the ATP Cup (backed by Tennis Australia) and the Davis Cup, a competition he has an unbreakable bond with, because of what it meant for him and for Serbia when they won it in 2010, changing the trajectory of his career for good, and for the better.
He’s stated publicly that he’s in favour of the creation of a single team event, but he knows very well that the interests at stake – involving multi-year contracts signed by Tennis Australia on one side, and by the ITF, Piqué, and Rakuten on the other – are not easily reconcilable, and thus he knows very well that his statement might sound hypocritical or utopian. However, being a “politician” of tennis, he’s aware that what he said is what the fans who do not have any economic agendas wish for, namely one competition that wouldn’t betray too much the storied past of the Davis Cup.
Well, I got caught up in the writing as usual, even if I was doing it on my phone with the idea of putting on paper just a couple lines (!) to commend Novak on his incredible gesture, and this is even more noticeable since I can only use one finger while writing on my phone (my children write at supersonic speed, and I have no idea how). All I wanted to do was to thank Novak Djokovic for being such a great champion, and even more for being such a great man. All that’s left to say is… NOT TOO BAD! To Nole,
P.S. I’ll always regret missing the chance to play with him in Australia, when he told me, “Bring your racquet tomorrow!” Just one minute of that heinous spectacle of personal embarrassment would have been enough for me to be contented with myself! Alas, the temperature reached 40 degrees and the humidity was such that all outdoors play was suspended, and naturally I had no way to get onto the indoors ones between matches. That night Nole all but apologized and said: “We’ll do it in Rome then!”
Article translated from ubitennis.com by Tommaso Villa
The Corona Impasse: What Effect Will It Have On The Careers Of Federer, Williams, The Bryans, Nadal, and Djokovic?
We’ve witnessed the retirement of several players over the last two years (Berdych, Ferrer, Almagro, Baghdatis, …). Many thought that the same would have happened in 2020, but that might not be the case any more.
Caveat lector. All those who, after reading the title, are about to accuse me, to accuse us of click-baiting, those are invited to refrain from reading.
We are simply trying to discuss themes that we notice to be in the minds of the fans, and we are trying to relieve them from the more or less catastrophic updates they are bombarded with on a daily basis, at a time when actual tennis will be off limits for God knows how long.
I also warn those who are still reading, out of intellectual honesty, that I have no evidence to support the hypotheses I’m going to make in the few lines – however, I’m relying on predictions coming from inside the tennis microcosm. Most of these were made very recently, I might add, up until the cancellation of Indian Wells (feels like a century ago already!), and they appeared extremely reliable. Said predictions obviously don’t apply anymore, but I still think that some friendly and useful debate might spring, starting from a few considerations floating in my brain.
I’d like to begin by reminding the readers that, between 2019 and the dawn of the 2020 season, the unexpected Kim Clijsters comeback was counterpointed by many retirements of noted players, starting with a pair of perennial Top Tenners, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych, joined in tennis Benidorm by Nicolas Almagro, Marcos Baghdatis (all former Top 10 players), but also Victor Estrella Burgos and Max Mirnyi, and that’s just on the men’s side.
As for females, the obvious star is Maria Sharapova, but also Sweet Caroline Wozniacki and Dominika Cibulkova. In 2018, we said goodbye to Tommy Haas, Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vince, Karin Knapp, Nadia Petrova, Gilles Muller, Florian Mayer, Mikhail Youzhny, and I’m probably forgetting more and more.
But what was going to happen over the rest of the 2020 season and beyond? How many would have ridden off into the sunset this year?
Well, the twin rulers of doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan (119 and 124 titles, respectively) announced that they would stop after the US Open, after spending 438 weeks, as joint leaders of the ATP Rankings (although Mike actually spent 506 weeks at the top), with a streak of 139 consecutive weeks – record on record. Bonus one: they also concluded ten seasons as the world’s best. We know what’s going on in New York, and so the US Open might not take place, even if postponed.
Pedalling backwards, after the 41 years of age of the Bryans (they’ll turn 42 on April 29) we find Venus Ebony Williams, who turns 40 on June 17.
Despite winning 7 Slams out of 16 finals (5 at Wimbledon), Venus reached the N.1 spot on three different occasions but for a meagre total of 11 weeks, a chasm between her and Serena, who’s been on the throne for 319 weeks (nine more than Federer!) and has surely prevented her from doing it herself on more than one occasion.
A year ago, Venus implied to me that her goal was to play in the Olympics once more. Having already bagged four gold medals (like her sister), once in singles and thrice as a pair (with a mixed doubles silver medal on the side), Venus is the only tennis player who can boast a medal at four different Olympics (from Sydney onwards), and if she’d gotten one in Tokyo her record would have probably become even more unbreakable – let’s remember that she and Serena never lost a Slam final in the doubles.
Her spirit wasn’t broken by two defeats she suffered against a girl who might be her daughter (Coco Gauff beat her at the Championships and in Australia), at least not to the point of declaring herself ready to hang her racquet. However, even if the rankings are frozen by the virus, she’s now stuck at the 67th spot, and I’d be extremely surprised if the postponement of the Tokyo Games hasn’t made her call it a career.
Speaking of Tokyo, we know that the Olympics are now delayed till 2021 (even though the Japanese don’t want the 2020 branding to end up in a waste-bin), but we don’t know exactly when they’ll take place. Some think they might happen in June (when the UEFA Euros will also be played); some say March, when the simultaneous progress of the Sunshine Double would effectively behead the tennis event in Japan or spell a second doom for at least one event; some say they will happen in the same dates that were slated this year.
PAGE 2: WILL ROGER FEDERER AND SERENA STILL BE PLAYING IN 2021?
The Coronavirus Crisis Exposes A Lack Of Communication And Solidarity Among Tennis’ Top Bodies
There should be unity when it comes to a global pandemic that threatens the sport, but this has failed to happen once again.
What is the world of tennis doing to deal with the Coronavirus threat? It should be a question with one answer from all within the sport. However, this was never going to happen in the confusing and complex world of tennis politics.
On Thursday afternoon the ATP confirmed the suspension of their tour for six weeks with immediate effect. Challenger tournaments taking place at present are to be cancelled by the end of the day (after matches have finished) and some of the most prestigious events will no longer happen. Including Miami, Monte Carlo and Barcelona. All set to feature many of the world’s top 10 players.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly and it represents a great loss for our tournaments, players, and fans worldwide. However we believe this is the responsible action needed at this time in order to protect the health and safety of our players, staff, the wider tennis community and general public health in the face of this global pandemic.” ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.
“The worldwide nature of our sport and the international travel required presents significant risks and challenges in today’s circumstances, as do the increasingly restrictive directives issued by local authorities. We continue to monitor this on a daily basis and we look forward to the Tour resuming when the situation improves. In the meantime, our thoughts and well-wishes are with all those that have been affected by the virus.”
As male players ponder the repercussions of what the decision will have on them with many joking that they have been made unemployed, their female counterparts were left waiting. Then they waited some more and are still waiting now for some clarity.
In an unexpected turn of events, the WTA didn’t take a similar approach as that to the ATP. Well, for the moment that is what it seems. No statement has been disclosed to the public about their plans to counter Covid-19 on the tour. The only light shed was courtesy of the Associated Press, who obtained a brief comment.
Filed to AP: WTA spokeswoman Amy Binder tells me that, “at this point in time,” the women’s tour is “not looking to” impose a 6-week tour suspension the way the ATP did. More info on WTA schedule to come shortly.
— Howard Fendrich (@HowardFendrich) March 12, 2020
It is as much shocking as it is baffling considering the ATP and WTA tour’s simultaneously take place in the same parts of the world many times throughout the year. Although this was always going to happen when there are two governing bodies. ATP oversees the men’s tour and WTA is in charge of the women’s.
Tennis bosses could rightfully argue that they should have the choice to do what they think is best. But surely a united approach to a global pandemic is the best one? Unless both tours take place on opposite sides of the world, what is the logic in not doing so?
In the midst of the confusion, the WTA suffered a fresh blow. The prestigious Volvo Open in Charleston officially cancelled their tournament for next month due to the current crises. It was at this point when WTA chief Steve Simon commented on his organisation’s approach to Covid-19. Almost five hours after the ATP statement.
“The WTA, working alongside our players and tournament leaders, will make a decision in the week ahead regarding the European clay season.” Simon said in a press release.
Of course, there has been communication between tennis’ top bodies. On what level as to what kind of detail is unclear. Although it is pretty evident that there are no united front. Rightfully, they both want to do what is best for their players, but seemingly have different ideas of how to tackle it.
There is also the International Tennis Federation to take into account. Overseen by president David Haggerty, they are in charge of the Fed and Davis Cup tournaments as well as the Olympic Tennis competition. To their credit, they have been the only governing body to mention the others.
“We are of course working closely with the WTA and ATP as well as with the IOC to minimise the health risk due to the spread of COVID-19.” ITF Head of Communications Heather Bowler told Ubitennis.
“There will be further announcements as the situation is evolving on a daily basis and tennis is working collaboratively to handle the impact on our sport.
“Since early Feb 2020, the ITF formed a dedicated COVID-19 Advisory Group comprised of medical, travel and security experts which is continuously monitoring the data, WHO guidelines and the steps announced by national authorities.”
Although there is irony when it comes to the ITF. Yesterday they confirmed the postpone of Fed Cup playoffs and finals. Then today they did the draw for the Davis Cup finals later this year, an hour after the ATP six-week suspension was confirmed. Would this timing have been made if tennis was run by one organisation? Absolutely not. By the way, all ITF tournaments have been postponed until April 20th.
It is clear that tennis is very patchy and has been for many years. They have a history of struggling to find a common ground. Just look at the development of men’s team tournaments over the past couple of years.
The ATP, WTA and ITF are not terrible organisations. Without them tennis would not be where it is now, which is a multi-million pound sport. However, they do lack unity and at times clarity. Leaving players and their teams in an uncertain situation.
Maybe it is time player’s have their own union in the future? After all, would you want to work in a job where there are three different bosses who make three different policies that will influence your career?
Locations of tournaments in the near future
|13/4/20||Fed Cup Finals, HUN*|
*Run by ITF
Note: Cities crossed out with a horizontal line marks cancelled tournaments as of March 12th 2020.
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