Fognini And Panatta: History Repeats Itself - UBITENNIS
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Fognini And Panatta: History Repeats Itself

1976 was the magical year of Adriano Panatta and Italian tennis in general, which had not really shone much since the time of Pietrangeli and Sirola in the 1960s – a geologic period at a time when tennis was still an elite sport played only in few countries. Thanks to those two lads, but also to Beppino Merlo, Fausto Gardini and previously to De Morpurgo, De Stefani, Cucelli and the Del Bello brothers, Italy managed to assert itself on the international tennis scene.

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After almost 15 years of competitive dimness – if not even darkness – it was the turn of a very talented young man from Rome, son of Ascenzio (the caretaker of the Tennis Club Parioli), to light up the prospects of a tennis landscape that had not really been tinged with “azzurro”. In his early 20s, that authentically Roman, handsome young man, whom during the time of “La Dolce Vita” women liked so much (even though sometimes he went a bit too far with a behaviour that could be defined as…a tad arrogant and distinctive of a bully), showed flashes of pure talent by playing magnificent, spectacular tennis and beating, in days of top form, some of the world’s best tennis players: Orantes, Nastase, Borg, Rosewall, Connors. While it was impossible not to fall in love with his technical skills, with his variety and extravagance, even in a time where all big players had different styles, he was criticised for one thing only – his inconsistency, namely those days of top form being too sporadic.

 

There were no tennis players who didn’t fear him. Even Bjorn Borg, the world’s strongest tennis player at the time – surely on clay, but five victories at Wimbledon marked his being an all-round player – knew that Adriano Panatta in top form could have made him tumble down into the fine, red dust. And that happened more than once, including at the most important events. Borg took part in eight French Opens, and won six of them. Who did he lose to on those two occasions? Adriano Panatta. It happened in 1973, but as mentioned, 1976 was his magical year. He triumphed in the tournament that he held dear, in Rome, close to home. To accomplish a major sport endeavour, one needs a lot of physical and mental strength, courage and – as another big player would have said 43 years later in a certain principality – even a bit of luck.

Until that memorable week at the Foro Italico, Adriano had beaten many important opponents, won several minor tournaments, but not yet a big tournament, even though everyone could see the high potential in him. However, he was never the favourite for the final victory. Everyone knew that he could win against anyone, and everyone hoped for it. But that only really happened every now and then. Many other times, for those who had fallen in love with his style of play, what happened was instead the opposite. Fede Torre wrote on Ubitennis – and I invite you to read it again – a while ago: “A sportsperson is never the one who wins, but the emotion that they convey by doing it and the way people identify with them. It is a destiny restricted to only few ones – the destiny of a Valentino Rossi, an Alberto Tomba, a Marco Pantani, a Roberto Baggio. Adriano Panatta was all this. He was handsome, he was young. On the court, he was elegant. Outside, even more”.

That week too, it really seemed that it was not meant to be. Playing against an Aussie who was not a top player and certainly not one of the great Australians who wrote the history of tennis – a certain Kim Warwick, talented of course (the previous week he had beaten Kodes in Hamburg) but a bit crazy and almost hysterical in some situations – Adriano bumped into what could have looked like a bad day. Or so it seemed until almost the very end. Warwick had – and it is no joke – 11 match points. Ten on his own serve starting from when he was 5-2 40-15 up, then another three in the same game. The others when he was 5-4 40-0. Since I noted them down one by one, allow me to say it again – it is no joke. Two of them were exciting, very close racquet-to-racquet exchanges, and the audience went crazy: ‘Adriaaanooo Aaadriaaanooo!’. Who knows how Panatta turned a bad day into an unbelievable day, when he magically started to return divinely, to play incredible passing shots with the Australian desperately attacking the net, match point after match point. Returns and passing shots had never been Adriano’s strength points, yet miraculously and suddenly they became so that day.

Perhaps it was luck, and so what? Then again maybe it wasn’t, because after that Adriano nailed an extraordinary sequence of wins, against very strong clay court players. He struggled again against Tonino Zugarelli, who was from Rome too but was treated like a foreigner by Adriano’s often unjust fans. It was then the time of Franulovic (the current director of the Monte Carlo tournament), and afterwards Solomon, who retired in protest due to an umpire’s decision when he was 5-4 up in the third set. Next, Adriano crushed Newcombe getting everyone excited, and finally he reached the highest point in the final by defeating Guillermo Vilas, who, after Borg, was undoubtedly the strongest and most consistent player on clay. He beat Vilas in four sets. It was pandemonium. In that tournament, there were seven of the world’s top 10 players. Could we still talk about luck? Certainly not. But in every victory, except maybe some of Borg’s and Nadal’s at the French Open, just to remain in the clay world, there is always a bit of luck.

Panatta in tribuna – Montecarlo 2019 (foto Roberto Dell’Olivo)

I will keep it short with Panatta at the French Open. Even that looked like anything but his tournament. In the first round against the Czech Pavel Hutka, it looked like another bad day for almost the whole match, until when he miraculously saved a match point with a phenomenal dive. A different Panatta played the second part of the match, and won it easily making it look like an exhibition. Both in the semi-final and in the final, he would beat two hardcore, short guys who were very much alike, both in physical structure and style of tennis – double-handed backhand capable of very narrow cross-court angles, a mediocre serve, and at the net only to shake hands with their opponent at the end of the match. Still two top 10 players with great consistency and solidity. However, his masterpiece was achieved in the quarter-finals, when his victim was the most prestigious player, dominated with dropshots disguised as feigned chop approaches, wrong-foot attacks, sudden serve&volleys. Bjorn Borg, the strongest ever tennis player on clay before the advent of Nadal, looked powerless. The Parisians got excited thanks to Panatta’s splendid, creative and varied tennis, the same way as the Romans did at the Foro Italico.

Panatta would achieve his best ranking first in Rome and then in Paris, when some already doubted that he would ever make it at such high levels, due to his helplessness in keeping up with the favourable predictions. In Florence, where he also won in the past, unfortunately I saw him lose to almost unknown players such as the Bolivian Benavides, the Americans Winitski and Fagel, and the Australian Dibley.

Well, Giovan Battista Vico will surely agree with me, wherever he is now. Fabio Fognini’s history resembles a lot Adriano Panatta’s. In terms of pure talent and potential, I often compared Fabio to Adriano, frequently writing that in the last 40 years Italian tennis has not seen a stronger and more talented tennis player.

For almost ten years, even without any big tournament, he has constantly been in the world’s top 20 and everyone has expected him to break into the top 10 for years. Fabio has always been the first one to explain the reason why he has never managed to do this – it is a head issue, certainly not a tennis issue. In the good days, his tennis has always been more enjoyable to watch than many top 10 players. We don’t need to mention anyone.

Just like at the Foro Italico 43 years ago, what had been forecast a thousand times without it happening has now happened in Monte Carlo. This is the chronicle of a proclaimed event. He is on the verge of defeat against Rublev (who may not be a Safin or a Kafelnikov but was able to reach the quarter-finals at the US Open as a teenager) – a bit crazy like Kim Warwick. But less brave, or reckless, than Fognini, who scores an ace with his second serve on one of the five break points that Rublev does not convert to go and serve on the 6-4 5-1 up.

After that miraculous and lucky turnaround, Fognini is even luckier as the Frenchman Simon, who had beaten him five times out of five, gives him a walkover. However, then he gives a tennis lesson to the world’s number 3, who had only allowed Fognini to win six games per match in the last two previous encounters. A sheer display of tennis. The great show goes on with Coric – after a first set played by Fognini’s poor substitute, he plays the other two the way he alone knows. And here’s Borg – sorry, Nadal – in the semi-final. Like Borg, Rafa knows that he may lose to an inspired Fognini. It had already happened to him three times. Once despite being two sets up and not in any tournament – it was the US Open.

Fognini vs Nadal match – Monte carlo 2019 (PHoto Roberto Dell’Olivo)

As soon as things don’t look up for him, Rafa gets nervous. He knows he’s not in top form and he hasn’t been playing particularly well since he came back after getting injured in Indian Wells. Fognini, on the other hand, finds himself in one of those days where he is able to do everything he wants. The points go by, the games too, and Fognini is the only player who is really putting on a show with an extraordinary display of tennis, while Nadal falls more and more into his bad day. This Fognini today is unbeatable, relentless and the stronger one. To the extent that Nadal just about manages to avoid the extreme humiliation in tennis – a 6-0 that the world’s strongest clay court player since the Borg era could not have forecast (although, much against his will, he was convinced that he played badly, extremely badly).

But how much of this is Fognini’s credit? Surely a lot, and maybe more. Just like Panatta against Borg.

And like Panatta, Fognini does not get distracted this time – unlike all the other three times when he had inevitably lost after beating Nadal – and beats Lajovic as well, without letting himself being crushed by the pressure of not missing that apparently unique opportunity. Panatta, too, had the same kind of anguish on the eve of his winning matches with first Dibbs and then Solomon in his first great, greatest final.

He won, or rather triumphed. He won the world’s approval, everyone’s unlimited admiration, thanks to the way he won, the way he played. He notched his best ranking. And the Italian tennis movement benefitted from that achievement. While Panatta had two big victories, Fabio has one left if he is to match him. No one doubts anymore that he will get there: at 32 years old, he has finally broken the ice, and he will certainly know how to handle the pressure of being the favourite and a champion in one of the next tournaments. The Italian tennis movement – I don’t think it would be right to forget even now that too often his conduct has not lived up to his tennis – should thank him and consider itself lucky to have had for the past ten years a tennis player, a champion, like him. As already written a thousand times, the best one since the time of Panatta in a 40-year period. Adriano king of Rome, Fabio prince of Monte Carlo.

(Translation by Riccardo Superbo)

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David Ferrer Never Won A Grand Slam, But He Still Captured The Hearts Of A Nation

Ubitennis Reflects on Ferrer’s career with the help of two prestigious Spanish journalists.

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David Ferrer (photo by Roberto Dell Olivo)

MADRID: It wasn’t long into David Ferrer’s career that the world knew he had something special. His journey began as a professional in 2002 when he reached the final of the Croatia Open in just his second ATP tournament at the age of 20. Since then, he has evolved from a rising star to one of the most respected players in the sport.

 

Now 37, the Spaniard may not have been the most decorated of all-time and never won a grand slam title. Yet his accolades are just as impressive. Spending 4914 days continuously ranked inside the world’s top 50 between 2005-2018. Seven of those years saw him end the season in the world’s top 10. Overall, Ferrer claimed 27 ATP titles to make him more decorated on the tour than former world No.1 players Jim Courier (23) and Gustavo Kuerten (20). It wasn’t until his 42nd grand slam where he reached his maiden final at the 2013 French Open in what remains an Open Era record.

“I would have never thought that I would have been able to finish my career in such a successful way and nevertheless, I have experienced a lot of things. It is the best thing that has happened in my life.” Ferrer reflected.
“I have lived a lot of things, thanks to tennis, both professionally and personally.”

Ferrer chose the Caja Magica, venue of the Madrid Open, as the place where he would say goodbye to life on the tour. It was equally ironic and fitting that his opening match would be against another Spaniard in the shape of Roberto Bautista Agut. Who is currently placed 21st in the ATP rankings. Despite only a six-year gap between the two, Agut once labeled Ferrer as one of his idols growing up.

“It’s going to be special for me because I am going to play the doubles with Ferrer. He is one of my idols. I will enjoy a lot that week and I hope to learn a lot.” Agut told Ubitennis about teaming up with his Davis Cup teammate at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Agut’s words are ones echoed by many of his colleagues in the sport. Ferrer only experienced a fraction of the success Rafael Nadal has accomplished, but yet it is due to his commitment to tennis that he has high respect.

“I share tremendous respect for David as a player and as a person as well.” Novak Djokovic said in a tribute on Monday. “He’s someone that has earned that respect many times in his career. His fighting spirit, his devotion to the sport is unprecedented and in a way, it’s sad to see him leave.”

The goodbye

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In the opening match at his farewell tournament in the Spanish capital, Ferrer illustrated why he has the nickname ‘little beast.‘ Fighting for more than two-and-a-half-hours to oust Agut 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. A true testament to the determination of the Spanish veteran.

“I’m trying to enjoy the moment I have right now. I won a match against a good friend and a very tough opponent. I want to be with my family and try to enjoy as much as possible the time that I have to play in this center court.” He said following his win over Agut.

It would be Alexander Zverev who would end his career. The last top-five player he beat earlier this year. Despite a valiant start, he crashed out in straight sets. Bringing an end to his time as a professional player. Seconds after the emotions started flowing as well as the tributes.

“It’s was a very emotional night. Completely different from any other important moment in my life that I have experienced previously. I was not expecting it.” Ferrer commented.
“The reality has been more than fiction, I never expected a goodbye or farewell like today (Wednesday).”

The Ferrer effect

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Whilst he never topped the rankings, Ferrer still managed to leave his mark on Spanish tennis. Drawing admiration for his hard work and dedication to the sport. For Spaniards, it is his work ethic that has won him so many fans according to José Morón, the chief editor of Punto de Break. One of the biggest tennis websites in the country.

“To me, he is an example for kids to follow at school because he was in the shadow of different Spanish players such as Nadal, Feliciano, Verdasco. But he made his own way to the top by fighting.” Morón told Ubitennis.
“I think Ferrer is more connected to people because he is more down to earth. David worked a lot to be at the top. I think that’s why the public loves him because he’s a really nice guy and worked a lot to get where he is.” He added.

Growing up watching Ferrer develop on the tour, it is one of his earliest achievements that stays in the mind of Morón. As well as Ferrer’s comeback in the final of the 2010 Davis Cup where he defeated Radek Stepanek 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 8-6.

“When I was a kid, his first ATP final in Shanghai. In the semi-finals, he was playing against Roddick. Which was very difficult on the Shanghai hard courts. I remember Andy saying ‘no matter how hard I serve, the ball was always coming back.’ David was like a wall.” He recounted.

Another journalist to recognize Ferrer’s achievements is Manuel Poyán, who works for Eurosport. A veteran Spanish commentator whose voice is recognized by many around the world. Speaking with Ubitennis, Poyán paid a special tribute to Ferrer’s ‘technical evolution.’

In light of the loss also comes relief. Unlike his final grand slam match against Nadal at the US Open last September, Ferrer was able to end his career on his own terms. Avoiding injury which has marred his results in recent years. Something that is a dream for many players.

Ferrer may not have been the greatest Spanish player of all time, but his retirement will leave an empty space in his country’s tennis community. Something he perfectly summarised when addressing the crowd during his farewell speech.

“The trophies are material, what I really wanted is the love from the people. That is what really meant the most.”

Ferrer’s career milestones

2002 – Wins first ATP title in Bucharest
2003 – Scores first-ever win over a world No.1 player by defeating Andre Agassi
2005 – First Grand slam quarter-final (French Open)
2006 – Made his top 10 debut
2007 – First ever grand slam semi-final (US Open)
2008-2009 – Plays role in Spain winning two Davis Cup titles
2010 – First Masters 1000 final (Rome)
2012 – First and only Masters 1000 title (Paris)
2013 – First and only appearance in a major final (French Open) and rises to a ranking best of 3rd
2015 – Claimed five ATP titles
2017 – Won his 27th and final ATP title at the Swedish Open

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Will Jerzy Janowicz’s War With Polish Federation Ever Heal Over Time?

Is there any solution to Jerzy Janowicz’s ongoing spat with the Polish Tennis Federation?

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Jerzy Janowicz (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Jerzy Janowicz has been involved with another spat with the Polish Tennis Federation, so will his latest war heal over time? 

 

The latest public spat between Janowicz and the PZT concerns the Pole’s ongoing knee problems as he claims he got the wrong doctor’s assessment before Poland’s World Group Play-Off with Slovakia.

In a tie they won 3-2 to make the World Group for the first time ever in 2015, Janowicz claimed that the Polish Federation doctors cleared him to play even though he had a bad knee.

Since that tie Janowicz has never fully recovered and claims that the PZT are to blame for his current issues, “My career was in ruins just after the Davis Cup match with Slovakia in 2015. Then I had a knee problem,” Janowicz told sport.pl.

“When I said about him, the physiotherapist and the medical team said I had my knee bent and gave me a green light to play. singles, which I played with the Slovaks, the knee was completely destroyed. I came back to my city to the doctor and it turned out that I have torn patellar frenum at a length of 1.8 cm.”

The former Wimbledon semi-finalist also stated that they have not contacted him on any updates since the injury and there is some regret about the situation, “At this level, such a mistake should not take place,” Janowicz explained.

“I’m sure I have some regrets about it. It also hurts that I was later omitted and completely forgotten. Since I have not played, no telephone contact has been made to me.”

The Polish Federation Respond

After a couple of days, the Polish Tennis Federation responded in a long Facebook claiming that Janowicz’s claims have no merit to them but wished the former world number 14 well in his recovery. Here is what the statement said:

“The doctor of the Davis Cup representation during the match with Slovakia was Hubert Krysztofiak – director of the Central Sports Medicine Center and chairman of the Medical Committee of the Polish Olympic Committee. He was the head of the Medical Mission during the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, London 2012 and Sochi 2014. The physiotherapist of the Polish team was Krzysztof Guzowski – a long time personal physiotherapist Agnieszka Radwańska. It is untrue to accuse outstanding experts of an incorrect diagnosis because no diagnosis has taken place. Jerzy Janowicz came to the grouping of the team with a ready diagnosis and recommendations from his orthopaedist at the time.

He made a conscious decision to participate in the grouping and provided the doctor with recommendations from an orthopaedist. On the part of the medical staff, the recommendations were filled one hundred percent. The player felt not only knee pain. He also reported a problem with the shoulder and elbow. Thanks to the work of the physiotherapist, he was able to perform in front of the Polish audience, what he cared about and for which he was rewarded, also financially. After playing matches, he did not report any pain. Despite this, the team of staff after finishing competition with Slovakia recommended Jerzy Janowicz to perform additional imaging tests to rule out a serious injury.

“Jerzy Janowicz had a conversation with the Head of PZT Training, Rafał Chrzanowski. In the interview, he deprecates an extremely valuable contract for PZT with a serious partner who has already helped our tennis players many times. Chrzanowski explained to Jerzy Janowicz that the PZT agreement with the Rehasport clinic does not include the procedure he wants to use, while the Polish Tennis Association will try to ensure that the clinic treats the player as a priority and proposes preferential terms. Chrzanowski and PZT chairman Mirosław Skrzypczyński contacted the Rehab Sport clinic. Thanks to help from PZT, Jerzy Janowicz was able to use the services of the best specialists on very good terms.

Representatives of the Polish Tennis Association have repeatedly contacted Jerzy Janowicz. Both PZT president Mirosław Skrzypczyński and the head of training Rafał Chrzanowski talked to him, as well as the captain of the Polish national team in the Davis Cup Radosław Szymanik. The Polish Tennis Association wishes the athlete a quick recovery and better memory.”

It seems that the Polish Federation are very confident that they offered Janowicz the right medical treatment despite the Pole complaining on a number of occasions about the Polish Federation’s lack of help and contact.

Since then the Pole has responded claiming that the head of the Polish Federation has ‘amnesia’ and will return with more fight when he comes back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv6S7gQn35M/

Analysis 

This war of words doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon as Janowicz continues his rehab and comeback to Tennis as he looks set for a return in July. The problem between him and the Polish Federation has been going on for years and so the relationship looks damaged.

Although his return to the Davis Cup looks non-existent, it is clear that the PZT wants Janowicz to continue doing well and return with the greatest power. After two surgeries it looks like Janowicz isn’t happy with the original diagnosis and seems to blame them for the pain caused.

Even though there is a saying ‘Wounds heal over time,’ I don’t think that will be the case with Janowicz as he will look to prove a point when he returns to Tennis.

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Naomi Osaka’s Rapid Rise To World No.1 Has Its Dark Side Too

Osaka is currently one of the most sought after tennis players in the world, but not everything is perfect.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Exactly 12 months ago Naomi Osaka was yet to crack the world’s top 40 or win a WTA title. Now she is a two-time grand slam winner, reigning Indian Wells champion and the first Asian player in history to become world No.1. It has been a sensational 12 months for the powerful hitting 21-year-old, but there continues to be the inevitable setbacks.

 

On Tuesday Osaka took to the court of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Taking on Kristina Mladenovic in what was her first competitive match as world No.1, she crashed out 6-3, 6-3. Winning only 35% of her service points and making 25 unforced errors. According to data from the ITF, she is the first player to lose their opening match after rising to the top of the WTA rankings.

“I haven’t been practising well recently. I just thought, like, it would go away during the matches. I was kind of counting on that. That didn’t happen, so…” Osaka reflected during her press conference.
“My rhythm was kind of off. But there’s been times where it’s been worse than now, and I managed to play well in matches. Yeah, when I say I haven’t been practicing well, just like rhythm. I don’t know, I feel like I’m not doing enough or something.”

Osaka has never been the kind of player that loves the media limelight. Her shy and introverted personality is one that has won over the hearts of many fans. However, In recent months Osaka has become a household name. Appearing on the front of numerous newspapers in Japan, signing multi-million dollar sponsorship deals, staring in advertising campaigns and earning numerous accolades. Her most recent achievement was at the Laureus Awards, where she was named breakthrough of the year.

With her rise in fame, Osaka also faces more scrutiny in her decisions. Something she was reminded of last week when she ended her collaboration with coach Sascha Bajin. Bajin won the WTA Coach of the Year away in 2018 for his work with Osaka.

“I don’t think I necessarily understand what position I’m in, in a way, because last year I wasn’t even anywhere close to this ranking. People didn’t pay attention to me. That’s something that I’m comfortable with,” said a tearful Osaka.
“I don’t know why I’m crying. Yeah. I don’t know why this is happening.”
“I don’t really like attention. It’s been a little tough.” She added.

The highs and lows

Despite her successes on the court, it has not immune the Australian Open champion from online trolls. Shortly after her loss to Mladenovic, Osaka received a series of abusive messages on social media. In her Instagram story, she wrote that she was ‘used to’ getting insulting comments online.


Like other players in the past, Osaka is not afraid to admit that her position as the best ranked player in the world is daunting, both mentally and physically. Although she has bounced back from nightmare matches before. Earlier this year, she said she, ‘had the worst attitude’ during her loss at the Brisbane International, before going on to win the Australian Open title. She also lost in the first round of two consecutive tournaments heading into the US Open, where she claimed her maiden major title.

“I mean, the Australian Open was not even a month ago. This was just one match. I feel like even if I don’t win any matches for the rest of the year, I wouldn’t say I’m concerned. I think I’m pretty young. I still feel like I have a lot to learn.” She said.
“For me, that’s sort of my biggest thing after this match. I think I play well after I lose a sort of bad match. I’m just looking forward to the next tournament.”

Despite her setback on the court, Osaka maintains her world No.1 ranking heading into the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells). She is hoping her latest loss will make her stronger as a player.

“For sure there’s no one that really thinks losing is fun. But for me, I’ve always been taught that when you lose, you learn more than when you win. I try to take that as really important advice because I think it is true.” wtatennis.com quoted Osaka as saying during her interview with Japanese media.

Osaka is currently down, but is certainly not out.

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