Andre Agassi Has No Regrets Over Work With Djokovic, Backs Him To Break Grand Slam Record - UBITENNIS
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Andre Agassi Has No Regrets Over Work With Djokovic, Backs Him To Break Grand Slam Record

The former world No.1 reflects on his time working with Djokovic during a trip to India.

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Novak Djokovic and Andre Agassi (photo by Gianni Ciaccia)

Multiple grand slam champion Andre Agassi believes he ‘shook the cage enough so tennis could benefit’ during his collaboration with world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

 

Agassi coached the Serbian alongside Radek Stepanek for less than a year between 2017-2018. The two ended their partnership last March on ‘mutual grounds,’ but it was later revealed that there was a range of disagreements between them. At the time Djokovic was returning to the tour from a serious elbow injury and underwent further surgery to treat the problem.

“No, I’m not regretful. I am very happy. The reason why I tried to help him or hope that I could help him, was because tennis deserves this.” Agassi said during an interview with The Times of India.
“What he was capable of was never in question. He has his own tortured process, as we all do, and I truly believed that I could have helped him and then I truly believed I couldn’t help him.”

It is the respect the 48-year-old has for Djokovic that contributed to their separation. Djokovic’s persistence and determination to play on the tour whilst continuing his recovery from injury was one that frustrated Agassi. So much, that he decided he could no longer be a member of the team.

“He was never healthy two days in a row with his elbow and I live by one clear philosophy, which is if you don’t listen to your body, your body is not going to listen to you. So we need to heal. But unlike me, when I played, he loves the game, he wants to play and he wants to run and he wants to find his way to get through the injury and playing injured is just not responsible. That I can’t support that because I’d be hurting the very person I’m claiming I care about and I’d be doing the very thing for tennis that I’m trying not to do.”

Following Agassi’s departure, Djokovic reunited with former mentor Marian Vajda. Under his guidance, he has surged back to the top of the sport. Winning three consecutive grand slam titles since june, two Masters 1000 trophies and became the oldest player in history to finish a season ranked No.1. At the Laureus Awards, which is dubbed the Oscars of the sports world, Djokovic was named sportsman of the year.

“I felt like I learnt a lot and I felt like in some way I shook the cage enough that tennis could benefit. To be clear, first night we were together, I told him he doesn’t need me.” Agassi explained.
“Whatever formula he has with his team is a very powerful one that he relies on because of who he is and it’s not something I am capable of doing or pretending or any of that. I am who I am and I only wish him the best and I root for him because tennis deserves it.”

The grand slam tally

Already a 15-time champion in the majors, many are tipping Djokovic to break rival Roger Federer’s record. Federer currently has 20 grand slam titles to his name, but is six years older than him. In between the two players is 32-year-old Rafael Nadal with 17 titles, including 11 at the French Open alone.

“I mean I am from Vegas, so I have to make a bet right, if I have to make a bet, what is he at? 15? So two more for three years? Yes. Now, you also have children, you also have priorities in life, but if he wants to, he will.” Said Agassi.

Should he win the French Open, Djokovic would hold all four of the major titles at the same time for the second time in his career. Something that has never been achieved by any other member of the Big Four.

Agassi remains coy to deciding who should have the ultimate title of Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). The topic has been extensively debated in the sport with numerous players having strong cases for the accolade. Ranging From Federer’s 99 ATP titles to Nadal’s dominance on the clay. However, who does Agassi think can play the highest level of tennis?

“If somebody is playing their best tennis – which is different from the Best Of All Time – let me make that clear, then the highest standard of tennis that I’ve ever seen is when Novak is playing his best tennis.” He concluded.

Djokovic will return to the tour next month at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

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Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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