Alexander Zverev leads the field in Davis Cup Qualifiers - UBITENNIS
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Alexander Zverev leads the field in Davis Cup Qualifiers

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Twenty-four nations will go head-to-head across 12 ties. The winning teams of this week-end ’s Qualifiers will secure their spot in the inaugural Davis Cup Finals next November in Madrid. On 18-24 November 2019. We provide some of the highlights of this weekend’s matches.

 

Germany vs Hungary

Alexander Zverev will be the stand-out name in the Davis Cup Qualifiers this weekend. The world number 4 and 2018 ATP Finals champion will lead Germany against Hungary at the Fraport Arena in Germany. Zverev will be joined by Phillip Kohlschreiber, Jan-lennard Struff and Peter Gojowczyk and doubles specialist Tim Puetz. Zverev, who will be looking to bounce back from his fourth round defeat at the Australian Open, has a mixed record of four wins and four defeats in his previous appearances in the Davis Cup. Germany is favourite against an Hungarian team which will not feature its best player Marton Fucsovics. Germany will meet Hungary for the sixth time in Davis Cup, but it will be their first clash in 41 years.

Kohlschreiber will play in the first rubber match on Friday against world number 371 Zsombor Piros. Alexander Zverev is the strong favourite against a familiar name Peter Nogy, who beat the German at Future level. Jan Lennard-Struff and Tim Puetz, who are unbeaten in the three Davis Cup doubles ties they have played together, will face Gabor Bosos and Peter Nagy.

Australia vs Bosnia and Erzegovina

This year’s Sydney ATP 250 champion Alex De Minaur leads the Australian team against Bosnia Erzegovina at the Memorial Drive Tennis Club in Adelaide. The team captained by Lleyton Hewitt also features John Millman, Jordan Thompson, this year’s Australian Open doubles finalist John Peers and Alexei Popyrin, who will make his debut in the Davis Cup after reaching the third round at the Australian Open. World number 47 Damir Dzumhur and Mirza Basic lead the Bosnian team. Millman will play against Dzumhur in the first match on Friday followed by the second round match between De Minaur and Basic. Peers and Thompson will take on Basic and Brkic in Saturday’s doubles match. The Saturday’s programme features two singles matches (De Minaur vs Dzumhur and Millman vs Basic).

Thirty-year-old Australian doubles specialist John Peers thinks that it is going to be a fascinating weekend of tennis.

“It will be a very intense tie. It will be interesting to see the workload of the guys making the switch from five sets to three sets. It will be the first time we have seen it at the very top level of Davis Cup, so it will be interesting to see how the guys handle that one, whether it changes their mindset if they play all the three rubbers. It could be a longer day on Saturday or it could be a quicker day”, said John Peers.  

 India vs Italy

A strong Italian team featuring 2018 Roland Garros champion Marco Cecchinato, this year’s Sydney finalist Andreas Seppi, Matteo Berrettini, Thomas Fabbiano and doubles specialist Simone Bolelli starts as favourite against India in Kolkata on grass. The Indian team capatained by Mahesh Bhupathi is led by world number 109 Prajnesh Gunneswaran. India scored their only win against Italy in their five head-to-head matches in 1985. The home team features Ramkumar Ramanathan, Saketh Myeni, doubles specialist Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan.

World number 37 Seppi will face Ramanathan in the first singles match on Friday.

“Playing at home is an advantage for us. I have to try and stay aggressive and hopefully the team wins in the end”, said Ramanathan.

In the second match Gunneswaran will take on Berrettini who will make his debut in the Davis Cup.

 “It’s gonna be my first time and I am very excited to play. I played Ramkumar last year. So I know him quite well and it’s gonna be a tough match especially on grass”, said Berrettini.

In Saturday’s doubles match Bopanna and Sharan will clash against Berrettini and Cecchinato.

Italy won their previous Davis Cup ties in 1928, 1952, 1958 and 1998 and lost only one match on grass in Kolkata in 1985.

Switzerland vs Russia

A strong and young Russian team featuring world number 11 and 2018 Paris Bercy champion Karen Khachanov, number 19 Danil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Zhzhenov will start as favourite in the Swiss town of Biel against a Swiss team, which includes world number 142 Henri Laaksonen, Marc Andrea Huesler, Jakub Paul, Sandro Ehrat and 15-year-old debutant Jerome Cyrill Kim. Switzerland meets Russia for the first time since 2002. Medvedev reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open and won a set against eventual champion Novak Djokovic. In the first Friday match the Russian 22-year-old player will face Laaksonen, who reached the second round in a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.

“I like the new Davis Cup format. It’s like blitz chess. We have the chance to win it”, said Medvedev.

Slovakia vs Canada

Two Next Gen players Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime plus Peter Polansky will lead Canada against Slovakia at the NTC Arena in Bratislava. The stand-out name of the Slovakian team is world number 40 and former Rotterdam champion Martin Klizan. Russia has not won the Davis Cup since 2006. As Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil will be absent and Daniel Nestor has now retired, Canadian hopes will be carried by a young team led by Shapovalov and Auger Aliassime. Shapovalov will play in the inaugural match against another young player Filip Horansky in the first Friday’s match. Auger Aliassine will make his debut in the Davis Cup against Martin Klizan in the second Friday’s singles match. An all- Next Gen team Shapovalov and Felix Aliassine will play in the doubles match against Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay.

“I remember when I and Denis were part of the team that won the Junior Davis Cup, we had messages of congratulations from Milos and Vasek. We both said it would be great one day to be leading the team in the Davis Cup. The dream has become a reality and it’s great to have a friend in Denis alongside me this weekend”, said Auger Aliassime. 

Japan vs China

Japan will not feature Kei Nishikori, who is still recovering from the thigh injury he sustained at the Australian Open, but Japanese captain Satoshi Iwabuchi has named a talented team for the Asian tie against China in Guangzhou.

Japan includes world number 66 Yoshihito Nishioka, who won the Shenzhen Open last year, Taro Daniel and doubles specialist Ben McLachlan. Nishioka will face world number 262 Li Zhe in the first match. Taro Daniel will face Zhang Ze in the second rubber match. Japan is hoping that Naomi Osaka’s recent triumph at the Australian Open will serve as inspiration for this weekend’s Davis Cup match.

Czech Republic vs Netherlands

Czech Republic will face the Netherlands in a tie, which features a mix of young and experienced players. Jiri Vesely will face 22-year-old Dutch player Tallon Griekspoor. World number 130 Lukas Rosol will take on Robin Haase, who made his debut 13 years ago.

 “After Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek finished their careers we have to change a bit the teams with the young players. That’s why I bring two young players. They improved the last years very well. So I hope they gain experience with our team. I hope in the future they will come to the team”, said Czech team captain Jaroslav Navratil.

Brazil vs Belgium:

The Brazilian team captained by Joao Zwetsch will host the team against two-time finalist Belgium in Uberlandia. Belgium won all three of their previous Davis Cup ties with Brazil. The home team features Thiago Monteiro, who won a Challenger title in Punta del Este last week, Rogerio Dutra Silva and a very strong team formed by Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo. Belgium will not feature David Goffin and veterans Ruben Bemelmans and Steve Darcis, who helped Belgium reach two finals in 2015 and 2017.

Austria vs Chile:

Dominic Thiem will not feature in the Austrian team, which faces Chile on the indoor clay of the Salzburg Arena. Chile won all their previous three ties against Austria.

Thiem withdrew from the Davis Cup tie following his retirement from the second round match at the Australian Open. Austrian captain Stefan Kobek has named teenager Jurij Rodionov, who will make his debut in the Davis Cup in the inauguaral rubber match against Chile’s world number 41 Nicholas Jarry. Austrian Dennis Novak will face 22-year-old Chilean player Christian Garin. Austrian strongest hopes are set on Saturday’s doubles match, where Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach will play against Julio Peralta and Hans Podlipnik Castillo.

“Without Dominic we are a different team. He is a top 10 player and if you have him in the team it’s a different story, but we are strong enough to play against Chile”, said Stefan Koubek.

Uzbekhstan vs Serbia:

Serbia will travel to Tashkent to face Uzbekhstan on indoor court in Tashkent. These countries will face for the first time since 2009, when Serbia won 5-0 in a World Group play-off in Belgrade.

Dusan Lajovic will play against Uzbeki’ world number 424 Sanjar Fajziev in the first Friday’s singles tie. World Number 72 Filip Krajnovic will face world number 104 Denis Istominin. Viktor Troicki and Nikola Milojevic will take on Istomin and Fayziev in Saturdays’s doubles.

Colombia vs Sweden:

Seven-time champions Sweden will make a very long trip to Bogotà to face Colombia on an indoor clay court. Colombia will rely on one of the strongest doubles teams formed by Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

“It will be huge. It’s been our goal now to be in the World Group, but with the old format we were not able to make it. We played a play-off tie six times in 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, and we were always only a couple of points away in a couple of ties. For us it is a good chance to finally make it to the top level. It’s a big monkey on our back right now for Colombia as a team. I feel like to give that happiness to the crowd, to the country will be very good for us”.

 Sweden rest its hopes in brothers Elias and Mikael Ymer. Elias has won five of his last seven Davis Cup ties, while Mikael has won five of his six singles matches. Elias will play in Friday’s first match against Santiago Giraldo. Mikael will take on Colombia’s number 1 player Daniel Galan. Cabal and Farah will meet Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt and Markus Eriksson in Saturday’s doubles match.

“Of course, I would be lying if I denied that. It’s something we dreamed of since a young age. Seeing Venus and Serena Williams and Andy and Jamie Murray and watching Davis Cup live at the age of 10, sometimes you have to stop and remind yourself like: “Wow look how far we have come. Every time we put the Swedish shirt on our body it is always very emotional”,said Mikael Ymer.

Kazakhstan vs Portugal:

Portugal will face a very tough task against Kazakhstan, who have won 10 of their 11 home ties in Astana. The Kazakh team fields world number 52 Mikhail Kukushkin, Alexander Bublik, Alexander Nedovyesov, Denis Yevseyev and Timur Khabibulin. Portugal will be looking to reach the Davis Cup Finals after achieving their best result at this event in 1994 and 2017, when they reached the World Group Play-Off. Portugal’s world number 39 Joao Sousa is the highest ranked player to take part in this tie. The Portuguese team also fields Pedro Sousa, Joao Domingues and Gastao Elias.

“We are expecting a tough tie. We are playing away, so we are expecting a strong team from them. For them it’s going to be a tough one for us. We will prepare as good as we can, we will give our best and we will try to win”, said Sousa.

 

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‘This kid Was Depressed’ – Naomi Osaka Opens Up About Personal Struggles

It has been a rough ride for the two-time grand slam champion in recent months.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision

World No.1 Naomi Osaka has shed light on the drawbacks she experienced from her rapid rise to fame following her opening win at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Germany.

 

In January the 21-year-old became the first Asian player in history to top the tennis rankings after winning the Australian Open. Her second grand slam title in a row. However, since Osaka’s Melbourne triumph she has experienced some lacklustre results on the tour. Winning back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. On top of that, Osaka also split with coach Sascha Bajin, who now works alongside Kristina Mladenovic, and hired Jermaine Jenkins.

The sudden rise of fame has elevated Osaka to the limelight and turned her into one of the most sought after tennis players in terms of sponsorships. Highlighted by her recent deal with Nike. However, it hasn’t all been a fairy tale for the Japanese player.

“I am really grateful for everyone that has been really positive towards me. It was really rough the last couple of months. The kid was depressed out there.” Osaka said following her win over Hsieh Su-wei in Stuttgart.
“If there is one positive thing that I can say about myself, it is that I learn quickly.”
“Definitely I’ve put a lot on pressure on myself and found it hard to deal with in the first few tournaments.”

Osaka’s troubles have been more mental than physical on the court. It was at the Dubai Tennis Championships, where the world saw how vulnerable the rising star is as she cried following a shock loss in the first round. Detailing how she has struggled to get use to being in the spotlight.

“The worst has been the expectation I put on myself, but I think we are good now.” She commented about life as world No.1.

To put into perspective the rise of introverted Osaka, she went from outside the top 40 without a title to a two-time grand slam champion and Asia’s first ever No.1 within a 12-month period. She is the first player to follow up on her maiden major win by claiming another since Jennifer Capriati back in 2001.

Now seemingly back on track mentally, Osaka will be hoping to extend her stronghold on the tour throughout the European clay-court season. She has just 200 points to defend during that period, compared to 2900 points for Simona Halep. Halep is currently the closest person to her in the WTA rankings.

“I set goals, but they are like short term.” She explains. “It’s not like winning the whole tournament. Of course I think about that. Now I’m just having fun, which is the mentality I had before I was number one. Hopefully it will go well.”

The next test in Stuttgart for the top seed will be Croatia’s Donna Vekic. Vekic has already defeated two top 10 players this season – Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens. Osaka leads their head-to-head 1-0.

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Rafael Nadal Defeats Emotional Ferrer To Reach Last Eight In Barcelona

Rafael Nadal ended David Ferrer’s time in Barcelona with a 6-3 6-3 win to move into the last eight.

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Rafael Nadal (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal was too good for an emotional David Ferrer after a 6-3 6-3 win sealed the 11 time champion’s place in the Barcelona quarter-finals.

 

After a sluggish start, Nadal raced into a 6-3 6-3 win over Ferrer in what was a rain-delayed match in Barcelona to reach the last eight.

The match was Ferrer’s last in Barcelona as he will say goodbye to tennis in Madrid in a couple of weeks time after over 15 years on tour.

As for Nadal he will face the winner of Jan-Lennard Struff’s match with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It was a slow start from the defending champion to begin with as he was failing to adapt to the slightly heavier conditions.

The world number 155 failed to convert his two break points though as he stayed with Nadal with some great court coverage and groundstrokes.

However Nadal’s power and angles were eventually too much for the grinding Ferrer as he finally earned the break in sixth game for a 4-2 lead.

A much better perspective and attitude from the 17 time grand slam champion helped him charge through the match, especially in the first set.

After the first rain delay, Nadal served out the opening set to give himself the early advantage in this third round match.

It was more of the same from Nadal in the second set as he controlled the baseline for an early break. However that didn’t last long as Ferrer continued to fight on and a sloppy game from Nadal handed the break back to the veteran.

The 37 year-old continued to show why his level of tennis can still match up to anyone on the tour as he stunned Nadal with some brilliant point construction.

But there was to be no epic comeback from the former Roland Garros finalist as two more breaks from Nadal sealed his place in the quarter-finals.

It was an emotional moment Ferrer, who played his last match in Barcelona, as he prepares to retire in a couple of weeks time in Madrid.

However for Nadal he noticed the improvement in level after a poor performance in the previous round, “Big difference. It was a tough match in all ways yesterday. Today was a different energy, a different motivation. In general terms, for me, I needed to play with a different attitude to make a step forward, and that’s what I did today.”

The world number two will now play Jan-Lennard Struff or Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last eight.

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Tennis Has A Justin Gimelstob Problem

Once tipped to be the chief of men’s tennis, Gimelstob’s future in the sport looks to be coming to an end following his latest and most shocking controversy.

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Justin Gimelstob (image via awfulannouncing.com)

Once again in the coming weeks men’s tennis will be dominated by off-court politics in an all too familiar trend occurring this season.

 

Following on from the decision to remove Chris Kermode from his position, the focus is now on Justin Gimelstob. A man once tipped to take on Kermode’s position as CEO of the ATP. Earlier this week the 42-year-old pleaded ‘no contest’ to an assault charge against one of his former friends. A plea where somebody accepts the charges without accepting or admitting guilt. As a consequence, Gimelstob was handed with a 60-day community service and a three-year probation.

“Justin Gimelstob pled no contest to the charge filed against him and the Judge, after evaluating the evidence, exercised his discretion and reduced the charge to a misdemeanor,” said his legal team in a statement.
“Justin did this to move on with his professional life and focus on his family.”

The incident occurred last Halloween when Gimelstob approached Randall Kaplan and hit him a reported 50 times, according to a restraining order issued last year. The incident took place in front of Kaplan’s pregnant wife, who film some of the incident, and his two-year-old daughter. Prosecutors said that the stress of the attack caused Kaplan’s wife to have a miscarriage.

“Thankfully my husband survived, but our unborn child did not,” Madison Kaplan said. “My doctors said everything had looked perfect with the pregnancy before the attack. The only reason they could see causing the miscarriage was the stress from the attack. Justin might not have gotten his wish in killing Randy, but he did kill a tiny innocent little baby girl.”

The Rome vote

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Gimelstob is currently one of three player representatives currently serving on the ATP Board and represents the Americas region. They are elected by the Players council and play an instrumental role in decision making. Such as voting for the removal of Kermode.

The fact Gimelstob remains in his current position is one that has drawn concern from some. The All England Club confirmed on Tuesday that he has been banned from the Wimbledon legends event as well as sitting in the Royal Box. The Telegraph has also reported that officials are pondering whether to remove his credentials all together.

It will be the Player’s council decision if Gimelstob should maintain his current position or not. They will gather in Rome next month to have a vote on his future. Among the member’s is John Isner, who has Gimelstob as an ‘unpaid advisor‘ on his team. The world No.10 has previously described him as a ‘’a misunderstood character.’

“The decision was taken to let the judicial process run its course before any judgement was made on his future, so with that process complete this is now a subject for review by the board and/or the player council.” The ATP said in a statement.
“As a related matter, the election for the role of the next Americas player representative on the ATP board – the position currently held by Gimelstob – will take place as scheduled on Tuesday, 14 May, in Rome.”

Despite his work and dedication to tennis, the idea of voting to keep Gimelstob in his role seems illogical. Prior to his assault charge, he has been embroiled in a series of controversies. Speaking about former player Anna Kournikova in 2008 he once said ‘She’s a bitch. Hate’s a very strong word. I just despise her to the maximum level just below hate.’ He later apologised for that comment. In 2010 he also was briefly suspended from the Tennis Channel concerning comments he made about then president Barack Obama.

A return to The Tennis Channel?

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Besides his role at the ATP, Gimelstob has been a prominent figure and valuable commentator for The Tennis Channel. He took a leave of absence from the network in November due to the legal proceedings. Now he has received his sentence, it is unclear as to what will happen next.

“We are sure that Justin is pleased that this matter has been resolved. Since he took his leave of absence from Tennis Channel in November 2018, we have been waiting for the legal system to run its course. Now that this is behind him, we will have internal meetings among our executives — and meetings with Justin — to discuss his future with Tennis Channel.” The Tennis Channel said in a statement.

According to Deadline the situation is complicated due to the close relationship between the former player and Ken Solomon, who is the president of the Tennis Channel. Speaking to The New York Times Solomon said ‘We are here and ready to discuss the situation with Justin whenever appropriate, and will decide at that time.’

Despite the seemingly calm approach from the president of the network, some people within The Tennis Channel are questioning the situation.

“There is a feeling here that it would be shocking if he comes back and works for the Tennis Channel,” one source told Deadspin. “But at the same time, this guy is super powerful and has been at Tennis Channel since it started, so he has a very close relationship with [Tennis Channel president] Ken Solomon. They go way back.”

At one point in his post-playing career, Gimelstob was regarded as one of the most powerful men in tennis. His resume includes commentator, coach, ATP board member and owner of a television production company. Now his stronghold within the sport is rapidly loosening. Any decision by the ATP to keep him on their powerful board will be one condemned for years to come. Despite all he has done for the sport.

It is for this reason why at the upcoming Italian Open only half of the attention will be on the court’s. The other half will be on how the Player’s Council handles this situation. Another new headache for president Novak Djokovic and his fellow members.

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