Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic shine to retain Hopman Cup - UBITENNIS
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Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic shine to retain Hopman Cup

Federer and Bencic withstood a strong challenge from Zverev and Kerber to win the Hopman Cup for the second year in a row.

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Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic played sparkling tennis to beat Alexander Zverev and Angelique Kerber 4-0 1-4 4-3(4) in the deciding mixed doubles rubber and retain the Hopman Cup in Perth.

 

The tournament’s exciting conclusion was set up by a 6-4 6-2 win for Federer over Zverev and a 6-4 7-6(6) win for Kerber over Bencic.

Federer and Bencic were virtually flawless in the opening set. They secured two easy holds, punished some lacklustre serving from Zverev to earn an early break, and then took Kerber’s serve apart to clinch it 4-0 in just 13 minutes.

To their immense credit, the German pair responded superbly. They served a lot better and broke both Swiss players’ serves to turn things around completely and win the second set 4-1.

As so often in three-set matches, the decider was much closer. After Zverev handed Federer and Bencic an early break with a double-fault, all four players held serve in consecutive games for the only time in the match to move the score along to 3-2 to the Swiss.

That left Federer with the chance to serve for the title, and most viewers would have expected him to take it. However, Zverev and Kerber had other ideas.

First, the German woman produced a stunning forehand around the net post to win the opening point. Then Zverev pounced on a weak volley form the Swiss man to make it 0-30.

The Germans made it 0-40 when Zverev hit a superb low return to set Kerber up for a decisive volley, and then sealed the break two points later when Federer netted a backhand volley.

Federer and Bencic win thrilling tie-break

In the tie-break, the Germans combined well to earn an immediate mini-break, only for the Swiss to peg them back immediately with some good tactics of their own.

Bencic then fired down a big serve which Zverev was unable to return, before the German hit a backhand volley into Federer’s knee to level the score again.

The Swiss got the better of a wonderful rally to move ahead, but a big serve from Zverev kept the final on a knife-edge at 3-3.

And it was the Germans who earned the first chance to win it when Zverev hit a superb return that bisected Federer and Bencic.

However, the Swiss were far from done. Federer sent an excellent serve out wide and then put away an easy volley to make it 4-4 and championship point for both teams.

What a point it turned out to be. Zverev returned a wide serve from Federer and then the Germans tried everything to get the ball past the Swiss at the net.

But Federer and Bencic kept their cool, and it was the 21-year-old who got the champagne moment when she hit a low volley that Zverev could only re-direct into the net.

Federer produces his best to beat Zverev

Earlier in the day, Federer and Zverev set the standard with a high-quality opening singles match which began with an exhibition of great serving, as both players held with ease in the first five games.

In a sign of things to come, the Swiss then put the German under plenty of pressure in his next two service games.

Zverev dug in to hold both times, but Federer eventually broke down his resistance in the tenth game of the opening set to take it 6-4.

The 20-time Grand Slam threatened to run away with the second set when he charged into a 3-0 lead. However, the World No.4 demonstrated his willingness to fight. He secured two gutsy holds to just about stay in the contest at 2-5.

Unfortunately for Zverev, Federer found another gear. He played some excellent shots to break the German again and seal a straight-sets win.

Kerber holds off strong Bencic challenge

The standard remained high during an absorbing women’s singles encounter between Kerber and Bencic.

It was the German who made a stronger start as she opened up a 3-0 lead in the first set. But the Swiss then gained a foothold by earning a break in game four and holding serve in game five.

Bencic almost made it three games in a row when she had three chances to break in game six. However, she was unable to take any of them and it ultimately cost her as Kerber secured two far easier holds to finish off the set 6-4.

The second set was terrific entertainment. The Swiss raised her level and pushed the three-time Grand Slam champion all the way.

Although she dropped serve in the opening game, Bencic never let it bother her and eventually broke back in game ten.

By this stage, the Swiss was clearly the aggressor, as most points ended when she either hit a winner or made an unforced error.

Unfortunately for Bencic, she made too many of the latter in game nine and lost her serve again. However, she bounced back immediately to force a tie-break.

At this point, Kerber’s experience showed. She worked the Swiss around the court intelligently to establish a 6-4 lead, and then refused to panic when Bencic drew level.

First, she produced a brilliant backhand return that was too hot for the World No.54 to handle. Then she forced Bencic wide to set herself up to hit the backhand winner that sealed victory.

Davis Cup

Davis Cup Finals To Be Extended To 11 Days But With Fewer Teams

One of the oldest tennis events in the world will be changed once again.

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The International Tennis Federation has approved a series of changes for the prestigious Davis Cup competition with the option of a multi-city finale on the cards.

 

In a bid to ‘ease the burden on players’ the ITF Board has extended the length of the Davis Cup finals from seven to 11 days. The move comes following the inaugural competition in 2019 when some ties went on until as late as 4am due to the scheduling. As a result of the change, this year’s finale is set to take place between November 25th – December 5th. Meaning that the competition will eat more into the off-season which players use to train for the following year.

Furthermore, from 2022 the number of teams playing in the finals will be reduced from 18 to 16. This year’s field will remain unchanged as the teams have already been decided. Both of these proposals were put forward by Kosmos, who is the main financial backer of the competition.

“We recognise that the most successful tournaments adapt and evolve over time, and while the inaugural Davis Cup Finals delivered fantastic tennis, it also provided some learnings,” tournament director Albert Costa said in a statement.
“We are committed to a long-term vision for this historic competition and are confident these adjustments will enhance the experience for players and fans.”

Discussions are also underway over the possibility of making the end-of-season team showdown a multi-city event. Kosmos wants to expand the number of hosts from one to three. Although details about how this will be done have not been disclosed and the ITF are yet to approve it. Supporters of the idea argue that it will make the event appeal to a wider audience.

“With large stadiums providing show courts for all ties, the introduction of a multi-city event will bring the competition to the widest possible audience, while we will also be able to ease the burden on players with improvements to the scheduling. Crucially, a revised schedule will allow us to avoid late finishes while providing more rest for players,” Costa commented.

Should the multi-city idea get the green light, Madrid will still host both the semi-finals and final of the event. Meanwhile the other two cities would each stage two group stages and one quarter-final. Interestingly Kosmos Tennis has already launched a bid to find cities despite their proposal not being approved yet.

The Davis Cup Finals will return later this year after the 2020 edition was forced to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain are the reigning champions.

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ATP

Viktor Troicki Set For Key Davis Cup Role

The 34-year-old will continue his playing career in 2021 but is also likely to take on a top coaching position in his country.

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Former world No.12 Viktor Troicki is likely to become the new captain of the Serbian Davis Cup team next year, according to various news sources.

 

Kurir newspaper has reported that the 34-year-old is set to take on the role when Nenad Zimonjic’s term as captain expires next year. Troicki is still an active player and is currently ranked 201st in the world following what has been a disappointing season for him. He has only managed to win one main draw match on the ATP Tour this season which was in January at the Pune Open in India.

“I am aware that the time is slowly coming when I am finishing my professional career. Now my priority is to prepare as well as possible for the new season,” Troicki recently told 24sedam.rs.
“I give myself about five or six months to see how I would feel, but also what results I would achieve. My plans also depend on that a lot. If it goes well, that’s great, but if I see that it’s not going and I’m struggling, I think that I will most likely stop playing actively.”

At the height of his career, Troicki was ranked 12th in the world rankings back in 2011. He has won three ATP titles with two of those occurring in Australia at the Sydney International in 2015 and 2016. He also won the 2010 Kremlin Cup in Moscow. In the Davis Cup he has played in 24 ties, including the 2010 final where Serbia won the team competition for the first time in history. Overall, he has won 24 out of 40 matches played at the event.

There has been no official confirmation yet of Troicki’s appointment but he has previously stated that he hopes to stay working in the sport after retiring. Should he take the role as captain, his term is set to continue until after the 2024 Olympic Games.

“As for my future plans, of course I will stay in tennis. I have been in it all my life and I think that I will give the most in where I am the best,” he said.
“I have some plans, but I don’t want to talk about them yet. Slowly, all in good time. My focus is on the beginning of preparations, and to do them as well as possible.”

Whilst he is staying coy about his future plans, another player has already praised his appointment as coach. During a recent TV interview on Nova S Filip Krajinović hinted that the appointment is already a done deal.

First of all, we are friends, Ziki (Zimonjic) did an amazing job, Viktor is now the coach, we all supported him and we can’t wait to play for the national team again. We couldn’t play this year because of this situation, I hope there will be opportunities,” Krajinović commented.

The first glimpse of Troicki as a coach could occur earlier than Serbia’s next Davis Cup tie. Blic has reported that should the ATP Cup go ahead, he could be their team captain. Although this has not been confirmed.

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Interviews

EXCLUSIVE: ITF Insists Davis Cup ‘Financial Covered’ But Uncertainty And Doubt Remain

The governing body says all is well despite not addressing UbiTennis’ questions surrounding speculation that millions have been lost over the past 12 months.

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The International Tennis Federation has defended their decision to cancel the Davis Cup Finals five months before it was set to get underway amid growing speculation surrounding its financial viability.

The finale of the men’s team event, as well as the Fed Cup, have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought tennis to a standstill since March. It was set to be held at the Caja Magica in Madrid, which is located in the country where investment company Kosmos originated from. Founded by footballer Gerard Pique, Kosmos is the financial driving force behind the Davis Cup revamp after pledging to commit to a 25-year deal worth in the region of $3 billion.

“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”

There is however some confusion over the move and why it was decided so early before the event was set to start. Especially when the same city is set to hold a premier mixed ATP and WTA tournament in September.

UbiTennis has been in contact with the ITF concerning their decision with questions surrounding their motives to cancel the event. French newspaper L’Equipe had previously reported that Kosmos lost millions of euros last year staging the Finals and cancelling this year’s event would actually save them in the region of  €18M. Furthermore, it has emerged that the national tennis federations were not consulted about the cancellation prior to it being formally announced.

During an email exchange with the governing body, the ITF did not comment when asked by  UbiTennis’ about the financial figures that have been reported in the media.

“The ITF and Kosmos Tennis undertook extensive scenario planning, exploring feasible options to host the event safely. We strongly believe this is the right decision for the players and captains, the National Associations, the event organisers and the competition as a whole. National associations and team captains were informed as soon as we were able to confirm the decision.” The ITF told UbiTennis.

When pressed further as to if the loss of money last year contributed to their decision in 2020, there was no direct reply. Instead the ITF stressed that the event ‘is financially covered’ for 2021. Insisting that the driving force behind their decision was being unable to generate a ‘unique atmosphere’ and ‘make commercial sense.’

“Postponing the Davis Cup Finals was an extremely difficult decision. Delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved was ultimately not feasible at this time given the risks, restrictions, logistical challenges and continuing uncertainty caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” the ITF stressed.

“We looked at alternative scenarios, including playing behind closed doors, and selling only a limited number of tickets – but ultimately, they did not (a) fully enable the unique atmosphere that makes Davis Cup great and (b) make good commercial sense. The important thing to note is that the event is financially covered and all stakeholders are already working towards the 2021 edition.“

Whilst there is limited financial information, there are some figures that are known. As a result of the cancellation, Kosmos will not be paying €9M to the tennis federations and €18M to the players. This is according to a member of the German Tennis Federation who says those numbers ‘are not a secret.’

Furthermore, there is also uncertainty over what is going to happen to Kosmos’ agreed payment to the ITF, who launched a ‘job protection scheme’ back in April due to the worldwide pandemic. At the time ITF president David Haggerty took a 30 percent reduction in pay and members of his senior leadership team took a 20 percent drop.

“There will of course be a financial impact of the 2020 event being postponed until next year, but we are now focused on delivering a world-class event in 2021,” the ITF replied when questioned about Kosmos’ payment to them.

Hordorff speaks out

In the wake of there being no Davis Cup Finals, UbiTennis contacted the vice-president of the German Tennis Federation (DTB)  to get his perspective on the current situation. Dirk Hordorff has worked in the tennis industry for many years coaching the likes of Janko Tipsarevic, Vasek Pospisil and former world No.5 Rainer Schuettler. For him, he fears that the latest developments could threaten many in the sport financially. Germany was one of the country’s to vote against the Davis Cup changes, which received a 71% backing in the 2018 ITF AGM meeting.

“The cancellation of the Davis Cup in July 2020 at a time where the 1000 ATP/WTA event in Madrid is scheduled for September is only understandable if Kosmos believes that 2020 (Davis Cup Finals) will also produce massive losses as 2019 and they want to try to avoid this,”  he said.

“This will bring the ITF and many nations financially in trouble. The German Federation as many other federations like LTA or Tennis Australia were aware of this and voted at the AGM against this project.

Hordoff later added that the ITF was challenged by Davis Cup captains about their decision to scrap the 2020 finals and the speculation that the move was done to help Kosmos save millions. Although those discussions only took place after the event was officially axed.

 “The ITF called DC captains after they cancelled the event. They denied this reason and stated this as a rumour. But in my opinion and with my knowledge I can clearly say that Kosmos refused to play DC 2020. And unfortunately this will not be the last bad news in this matter.” He concluded.

This year is only the 12th time in history and the first since 1945 that a tennis season will conclude without the winners of the Davis Cup being decided.

 




 

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