The ATP 2019 Scouting Report - UBITENNIS
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The ATP 2019 Scouting Report

With the new season already upon us, here’s a look at the prospects of the top ATP players.

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Novak Djokovic at the 2018 Paris Masters - Photo by Gianni Ciaccia

Novak Djokovic

Ended 2018: Winning the last two Majors of the year, but losing his last two tournament finals to rising stars Karen Khackanov and Sascha Zverev.
Starting 2019: After playing the Abu Dhabi exhibition, he’ll be the top seed this week in Doha.
Prospects: With his mojo fully back, Djokovic will be the favorite to win his seventh Australian Open. Considering his level of play over the past six months, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating him on the hard courts of Melbourne in the best-of-five format. That would be his fifteenth Major title, putting him just two behind Nadal. And that would certainly make for a compelling clay court season, as he would chase his fourth consecutive Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. With little points to defend in the first half of the year, Novak should easily remain world No.1 for the foreseeable future.

 

Rafael Nadal

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Ended 2018: Did not play after retiring in the US Open semifinals as he dealt with knee, ankle, and abdominal injuries.
Starting 2019: After playing the Abu Dhabi exhibition, he’ll be the top seed this week in Brisbane.
Prospects: Coming off a four-month layoff, will Nadal be back to 100%? He’ll need to be to have any chance of prevailing in Melbourne, as he retired from both hard court Majors in 2018 due to injury. It’s more likely that Nadal will peak for the clay court season, where an in-form Djokovic would be Rafa’s biggest terra baute challenge since 2016.

Roger Federer

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Ended 2018: After winning his 99th career title at home in Basel, he lost in the semifinals of both Bercy and the ATP Finals.
Starting 2019: Playing the exhibition team event, the Hopman Cup. He’ll again team with Belinda Bencic, and will face Serena Williams and Francis Tiafoe on the first day of the year.
Prospects: Does the 37-year-old and 20-time Major champion have any Grand Slam triumphs left in him? With Djokovic back at the top of his game, the two-time defending champion in Melbourne will be hard-pressed to three-peat. The Australian Open and Wimbledon, with faster conditions than the other Majors, will remain his best chances to win his 21st Major. However, I fear another Grand Slam title may prove elusive for Federer in 2019.

Andy Murray

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Ended 2018: Shut down his season after Shenzhen in September to rest his body, after playing only 12 matches on the year.
Starting 2019: At the Brisbane Open along with Nadal and Kei Nishikori.
Prospects: Murray arrived in Brisbane a few days ago still citing pain in his ailing hip. The Brit will have some tough draws coming his way, as he’s currently ranked 256th in the world. The ongoing question for Andy in 2019 will be this: will his hip ever allow him to get back to the top of the sport?

Stan Wawrinka

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Ended 2018: Shut down his season after injuring his back during practice in October.
Starting 2019: In Doha alongside Djokovic and Dominic Thiem.
Prospects: Wawrinka’s situation is similar to that of Murray’s. Stan never fully got going in 2018, going just 17-17 coming back from knee surgery. Stan though did show signs of his old self during the summer, with victories over Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori, and strong showings in defeat against Nadal and Federer. Now ranked 66th in the world, can the 33-year-old get back to 100% and become a consistent performer in 2019? He’s much closer to doing so than Murray is, but a fourth Major title appears far from the reach of the Swiss veteran.

Juan Martin Del Potro

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Ended 2018: Did not play again after fracturing his patella in Shanghai in October.
Starting 2019: With his knee still not fully recovered, his start date for 2019 is questionable. Del Potro has said he’s hoping to play at the Australian Open, but he does not sound certain.
Prospects: Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Del Potro will likely need some time to get back into form coming off this knee injury. Hopefully the oft-injured fan favorite will get back to full health and be a factor at the big tournaments later this year.

Marin Cilic

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Ended 2018: Winning his first Davis Cup title.
Starting 2019: As the second seed in Pune, behind top seed Kevin Anderson.
Prospects: After a very shaky second half of 2018, the Davis Cup was a welcome triumph for the 2014 US Open champion. Will that give Cilic the confidence he needs to stop giving away so many leads to his opponents? I’m not convinced the Davis Cup will immediately make Marin a different player in 2019. His well-documented woes of 2018 will likely require more of a cure than a win at a team event. And since he’s defending finalist points at the Australian Open, an early exit could see Cilic drop out of the top 10.

Sascha Zverev

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Ended 2018: Winning the biggest title of his career at the ATP Finals, with consecutive victories over Federer and Djokovic.
Starting 2019: Teaming with Angelique Kerber at the Hopman Cup.
Prospects: Will 2019 be the year Zverev breaks through at a Major? The best-of-five format remains troubling for the 21-year-old. But coming off his ATP Finals victory, and with Ivan Lendl now in his corner, I think this will be the year Sascha advances to a Grand Slam final for the first time.

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Marcos Baghdatis Announces Retirement After Wimbledon

Marcos Baghdatis has announced that he will retire after this year’s Wimbledon.

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Marcos Baghdatis (@marcosbaghdatis - Twitter)

Marcos Baghdatis has announced that he will retire from tennis after competing at this year’s Wimbledon. 

 

The 34 year-old Cypriot has been playing on the tour 16 years now and has had a stellar career which has seen him be a grand slam finalist as well as reach a career high ranking of eight in the world.

However, his ranking has dipped to 138 in the world having only won three matches on the ATP World Tour this year.

Therefore it was surprising to say the least when he received a wildcard for Wimbledon this year as his last ATP tournament was in Dubai in February.

But now the reason for the wildcard is that Baghdatis is retiring from tennis after the last tournament of his career at SW19 in a couple of weeks time.

The Cypriot took to Facebook and his website to address his fans and explain the reason for his decision to retire:

“I wanted to take the time to write to you all and let you know that this upcoming Wimbledon will be my last tournament as a tennis professional,” Baghdatis explained in his statement.

“I am extremely grateful to the AELTC for granting me a Main Draw Wild-Card at the All England Club, and giving me a chance to say goodbye to the sport that I love so much and has been such a big part of my life for the last 30+ years.

“This decision was not an easy one. It has proven tough for me, especially physically, to come back to where I feel like I belong. Even though my mind wants to do it, the limits of my body have prevented me to maintain and play at a consistent high level as I expect from myself. Especially the last two years have been very difficult for me with recurring injuries and pain.

“Besides that, I have a beautiful wife, two young daughters, and a third child on the way and I could not be more excited to spend more time with all of them at home. Although I am sad to say goodbye to the sport as an active player, I am very excited for the next chapter of my life – I am going to be staying heavily involved in tennis in a number of capacities, so you will continue to see me on the tour.

“Lastly, there are so many people to thank who have been a part of this incredible journey with me, starting with my family first and for all. To all the people that have helped me become the person and tennis player I am today, I say thank you, especially to my Mum and Dad who supported me since the age of 3 to play tennis.

“Thank you for always believing in me and pushing me to become better. My team, my close friends, but especially the fans around the world. You made me feel welcome in each and every city and country I have ever been to, and your love, support, and energy is something I will truly miss.”

After winning four career ATP titles and reaching a grand slam final, the Cypriot has obviously reached a decision to retire and have one final moment in the headlines at Wimbledon.

The 34 year-old will hope for a good draw as Wimbledon starts on Monday the 1st of July.

 

 

 

 

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The Future Is Bright…

The Gerry Weber Open was until it wasn’t any longer, then Noventi stepped in….

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(@ATPHalle - Twitter)

By Mark Winters

 

For twenty-six years, the Gerry Weber Open was one of the foremost grass court tournaments in the world. It is played two weeks before The Championships, as Wimbledon is known, and it put Halle, Germany on the tennis map. It has epitomized a small town’s commitment to the game, and has, justifiably, earned the nickname “The People’s Tournament”. Because of  the local attitude, almost everyone in region has sacrificed in order to make the ATP 500 a significant tennis championships.

That was then, and this is now…

On June 7, the Noventi Group, a company which provides a variety of health care services, stepped in to rescue Halle, as the GWO is known. Noventi, taking a page from its health care proforma, offered needed financial resuscitation.

Having covered Halle since its inception, I have a fondness for the tournament, (as does my wife, Cheryl Jones, who is a regular Ubitennis contributor). In 1993, when Gerry Weber, the millionaire clothing manufacturer turned tournament sponsor, and his partner Udo Hardieck decided to stage a grass court tournament in Germany as preparation for Wimbledon, it seemed to be a very risky move. As things turned out, it was a decision that defined why the duo, Weber and Hardieck, were such successful businessmen.

But they didn’t do it alone. They were assisted by the “must visit” travel poster-like location of the tournament. The quaint setting is lights-out different from the crushing congestion that exists at the Fever Tree Open (formerly Queen’s), which takes place in London at the same time. The serenity found in the Westfalen countryside is special. Its appeal has been added to by the number of “name players” who regularly performed at the event. Topping the list is Roger Federer. After winning Halle for the tenth time today, it would seem appropriate , in time, to name the championships in his honor. Federer’s dominance aside, the June week on grass in Germany has, justifiably, earned praised from players and tennis fans, alike.

The transition from the Gerry Weber Open to the Noventi Open made a number of  impressions. Here are a few thoughts:

Perhaps, after spending twenty-six years, under the same title banner, the Noventi Open just didn’t seem to have the same “ring”…

Walking around the site, it was almost as if those working at tournament were “anxious”, waiting to see what would take place…

Though one could not “see it or  taste it”, there seemed to be a different “feel”…

One thing was very perceivable – Prices – had risen. It didn’t matter if it was tickets, pretzels or charming “take one home” teddy bears, there was an increase. (As an example, pretzels, which used to be three for five Euros were three for six Euros, fifty. Parked, or so it seemed, for years, teddy bears jumped from ten Euros to twelve. While on the subject of parking, the cost of leaving one’s car in one of the tournament’s lot was also “bumped” up.)

But, it would probably be more accurate to say the increases were simply the result of doing business in 2019…

As a result of Phil Thorn’s craftmanship, the courts played very true. There was nary a bad bounce. Once again, he lived up to the title –  “Keeper of the Lawns” (a position he has held since the beginning of the tournament)…

For some time, the Noventi Group had been looking for a business involvement that would provide a sensible way to expand its healthcare focus. When the company learned that the Gerry Weber Open was searching for a title sponsor, a new platform was found.

Michael Silvio Kusche, CMO Marketing at Noventi said, the company was really fascinated by the tournament, sometimes even speechless about the quality of the event.  They had been looking for quite a while  for a tennis event they could support. The background has two aspects: making the name Noventi known in Germany and coming next – promoting the App “callmyApo” where the public can order medicine and drugs online.

Studies have conclusively proven that those who play the game recreationally on a regular basis have longer lives. Becoming immersed in the “The Sport of a Lifetime” is a savvy move for Noventi.

From all indications, the new partnership was a success. This year, more spectators attended the tournament than ever before. More important, they were not on hand to see “only the names.” The Stadion, as well as Courts 1 and 2, were filled whenever  a match took place. This was a first and a wonderful prelude for 2020.

True, this was the first year of  the NO replacing the GWO, but “The Future Is Bright…”

 

 

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Number Ten For Federer In Halle

In just under an hour and a half, Roger Federer claimed the trophy at the Noventi Open.

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Roger Federer (@ATPHalle - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

Roger Federer won his tenth title in Halle this afternoon. The inaugural Noventi Open crowned its first singles winner. I have seen every one of his victories. I’ve seen his two losses in the final showdown, as well. (In 2012, German, Tommy Haas came out on top. Last year, Borna Coric defeated him in a tight match.) His first win was in 2003. He has won nine more. He became a professional in 1998, and to quote Sonny Bono, “the beat goes on” – especially for Federer.

Today was Federer’s big day in the sun. Belgian, David Goffin began the match with a valiant effort to try and dethrone the all-time champ. After Goffin lost the first set in a Tie-Break his confidence seemed to wane. The fifty-three minute first set was merely a speed bump in the on-ramp to Federer’s highway toward his especially successful run here in Halle. The second set took thirty minutes to complete. After several double-faults by Goffin, Federer’s tenth win was in the history books.

After the match, I asked him about the surface of the courts that to me appeared to be the best of the nineteen finals I have witnessed here in Halle. He was very thoughtful in his response and said that clearly the Belgian had out played him in the first ten games. The rhythm of the game had been swayed by the Tie-Break, or so it seemed. It was a pleasure to watch the two players move freely around a court that had predictable bounces and rallies that weren’t cut short by bad rebounds that often happen on grass.

Goffin began with a valiant effort to dethrone Halle’s long-standing champ. The match was quick. An hour and twenty-three minutes had ticked away on the courtside clock when it was all over but the shouting.

A very partisan crowd went ballistic, leaping to their feet as one. It was a beautiful day and the match was begun soon after one-o’clock. The sky was blue, and the retractable roof had stayed open most of the time during the week-long tournament. There were no rain delays. I am sure the players appreciated the pause free schedule. (I have always wondered just how relaxed anyone could be waiting and waiting and waiting some more, for the words that begin play after a rain delay. Listening to a favourite CD must even lose its calming ability after the tenth loop.)

On paper the match appeared to show an evenly matched pair of competitors. Before the final, Federer had twenty-six aces and Goffin had twenty-eight. (After the match, each of them had tallied 7 more.) Most every other statistic seemed to favour Federer. But then again, in the long run, Federer held up the winner’s trophy. The crowd was happy, and it showed by their patient wait for the presentation after the match.

My fellow University of Oregon alum, Phil Knight saw something special in a kid from Switzerland in 1994. He signed him to a contract that included footwear and apparel. He wore the Nike brand until March of 2018. He then moved to a Japanese corporation’s clothing, but stuck with Nike shoes, sans contract. His deal with Uniqlo is dazzling – thirty million dollars a year. It may seem excessive, but with an athlete the calibre of Federer, it may be a bargain. He is listed as one of the highest earning athletes in the world – a wonderful representative for the sport of tennis.

Lest one believe that Goffin went away with only a whimper. That was not the case. He did perform exceptionally well in the first set, but as he said, “I didn’t miss a lot. I made him run. I was really aggressive. I was serving great, but Roger is there.” Yes, he was. Then a couple of double faults appeared in Goffin’s column and voila, the match was in the bag for the Swiss man who has wowed the tennis world since his first win here in 2003. Back then, he moved on to Wimbledon where he started a precedent in London with a win at Wimbledon that year, too.

Goffin praised his opponent on many occasions in his after match interview. He said that, “I think the way he is playing now he wants to play more aggressive, his serve is even better than before and then he tries to go to the net to be aggressive to cut the point as soon as he can. And, then in two or three shots, he is still very fast, very explosive, great footwork. So, he’s still in good shape.”

I agree. Wimbledon, Watch out for Roger Federer. He may be nearing thirty-eight, but from what I saw today, he still has it!

 

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