The New ATP Cup Is A Big Innovation And A Big Headache For Some - UBITENNIS
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The New ATP Cup Is A Big Innovation And A Big Headache For Some

On Thursday the ATP officially launched their latest event with the backing of keys players, but there are many complications remaining.

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LONDON: After almost five years of planning, the ATP have finally launched their latest team event in a bid to engage and increase interest in men’s tennis around the world. Although to say it is a smooth move is anything but true.

The ATP Cup will officially begin in 2020. Held at the start of each year in Australia, a total of 24 teams will participate in the round-robin competition. Held over 10 days, ties will consist of two singles and one doubles match. On offer will be a maximum of 750 ranking points for the winner as well as a mouthwatering prize money pool of $15 million. The tournament will be held across three cities, which are yet to be named.

“This is an event that we have been working on for about four-and-a-half years.” ATP CEO Chris Kermode told reporters In London on Thursday.
“When I took over at the ATP five years ago, we were looking at ways at how we can grow men’s tennis.
“We wanted to do a fresh and new event. We wanted to do something that was very vibrant and different, but equally, we wanted to start the season off with a bang.”

 

It could be argued that the event has already gone off with a bang even before it was launched. With the International Tennis Federation accusing the governing body of men’s tennis that their team event threatens the Davis Cup, which has existed since 1900. Between 2019-2020 there will be just six weeks separating the two events.

“There seems to be a fixation that the ATP Cup has caused the issue with the Davis Cup and this is not the case.” Insists Kermode. “If the ATP Cup didn’t exist, the Davis Cup still wouldn’t have a week in the calendar. “
“We are open to ideas, and have thrown out some ideas and they will be discussed. I’m really confident down the line we will find a resolution.”

Star Supporters, but big headaches

To the relief of the ATP, their own players have come out in support of the brand new team event. During the presentation ceremony in London, there was an extensive video featuring numerous players speaking out in favor of the event. Although one notable absentee was Rafael Nadal for reasons that are unclear.

“It’s a great honor to be here (in London) for the launch of a great event,” said world No.1 Novak Djokovic. “Representing our country is a great privilege for all of us. Growing up we dream of having the color of our countries on our tracksuit.”
“It’s really nice to have a new fresh team event. The ATP Cup will kick-start the year in the best possible way on our terms.”

John Isner, who is making his debut at the season-ending championships this week for the first time, expressed similar sentiments.

“I can speak on behalf of all the American players ranked behind me, all of us players are united in support of this event.” He said.

The idea of unity portrays that everything is ok in the world of men’s tennis. The only issue is that that is far from the case. One puzzling concept about the ATP Cup is that teams will be ranked based on their top players. For countries like Spain and France, this makes sense. However what about Stefanos Tisitsipas? The Greek is No.15 in the world which will give his country a seeding. However, he is the only Greek ranked in the top 1200. Does this mean the no-names of the sport will have the chance to play for big points? Even more confusing is the ranking points.

“It’s incredibly complexed. We have looked at it to almost exhaustion.” Kermode admits. “It’s based on your individual results of who you play against. There is a potential to earn 750 points, but it is based on your performance.”

What about the other events?

Following his loss to Novak Djokovic at the O2 Arena on yesterday, Alexander Zverev took another swipe at the length of the calendar. Saying that he has been feeling unwell for the past two months because of the ‘ridiculous’ schedule.

The ATP has avoided the idea of reducing the length of the tennis season. When Challenged about their newest event, it was revealed that they looked at 18 different versions about when it could be played. Admitting that making the year longer was out of the question. Meanwhile at the same time staying silent about the possibility of reducing its length.

“The reason why we chose week one is because it isn’t additive to the calendar. If this new event didn’t exist, players will be playing anyway.“

When it comes to existing tournaments, it is unclear as to what will happen to the calendar in Australia. Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has confirmed that some events will be abolished. Although he is refusing to name what ones at present.

“We got cities that may want to retain their tournaments. If they do, they will have an opportunity to do so. We have already been down the journey and talked with all of those cities.” Confirmed Tiley.
“We will make the right choices and the right cities. Some of the events will be replaced.”

Tiley has also insisted that it is possible that the three teams events (including the Laver Cup) can work. Contradicting Novak Djokovic’s previous suggestion that the tour might be working in a direction to condense them into one.

“Growing the platform and economics of our sport is on us. We know from a fan view that they love team events.” Said Tiley.
“I believe (having three team events) is sustainable. We will make sure in 2020 that we will run a great event and the same with the Davis Cup. “

The inaugural ATP Cup will take place during the first week of January. The Qatar Open will also take place during the same time for players who don’t want to participate or can’t qualify for the event.

It is almost certain that the inaugural ATP Cup will be a hit. However, the same certaincy can’t be said about the future landscape of men’s tennis.

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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