By Matthew Marolf
What today’s schedule lacks in top names, it makes up for in gripping stories. There’s the three-time Major champion fighting to get back to the top of the sport. A two-time Major champion looking to get her career back on track after a bitter custody battle with her child’s father.
Both year-end champions from last year, who are yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals of a Major, and currently struggling to win matches at all. And two Italians with strong clay court credentials playing on their nation’s biggest tennis stadium.
Stan Wawrinka vs. David Goffin
Here are two former top 10 players fighting to return to that level. Coming off knee surgery the year before, Wawrinka never got back to 100% in 2018, going just 17-17 on the year. He’s improved on that this season, already almost matching his number of wins from last year. But despite two impressive victories this season over Kei Nishikori, Stan is yet to achieve any significant results. And last week in Madrid, he was demolished by Rafael Nadal, taking just three games.
Goffin ended his 2017 on a high, by defeating both Nadal and Federer at the ATP Finals. But he was slowed down by multiple injuries last year, and has more losses than wins in 2019. Wawrinka leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Goffin won their most recent clash. All four matches have been close, with half the sets they’ve played decided by a tiebreak. Stan is the more in-form player of the two, and he won’t mind the cold, heavy conditions in Rome giving him extra time to set up his big groundstrokes.
Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Victoria Azarenka (WC)
It’s rare to consider a player ranked outside the top 50 a favourite over the No.6 player in the world. But that’s the case here, with a two-time Major champion against a player on a three-match losing streak. Svitolina has been battling a knee injury for the past few months.
She was forced to withdraw from Stuttgart a few weeks ago, and hasn’t won a match since Indian Wells. And this is a tough draw for her first match in Rome, in a champion who seems just one or two big wins away from recapturing her mojo. Azarenka dropped just three games yesterday against Shuai Zheng of China, and I like her chances of advancing here as well.
Other Notable Matches on Tuesday in Rome:
Sascha Zverev (4), who is just 6-7 since March, vs. Italian Wild Card Matteo Berrettini. Berrettini is in line to be seeded at Roland Garros coming off a nine-match win streak on clay between Budapest and Munich. This will be a dangerous opening match for the fourth seed in front of a partisan crowd.
Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Belinda Bencic, who is now back in the top 15, and made the semis in Madrid last week.
In another encounter between two top 20 players, Karen Khachanov (11) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut. RBA is 3-1 against Khachanov, though the Russian took their only match on clay.
In a battle between two countrywomen and former doubles champions who no longer get along, Caroline Garcia vs. Kristina Mladenovic.
Italian No.2 Marco Cecchinato, in his first tournament back home since last year’s shocking run to the French Open semi-finals, vs. perennial tough out Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Australian Tennis Great Passes Away Aged 83
Ashley Cooper is one of only 11 men in history to have won three grand slam titles within the same year.
Women’s world No.1 Ash Barty has led tributes to multiple grand slam champion Ashley Cooper, who passed away on Friday.
Cooper was one of the sports best players in the years leading up to the birth of the Open Era. He was declared the world’s best amateur player in 1957 and 1958. It was during 1958 where he really stood out by winning three out of the four major tournaments within the same season. Something only 10 other players in the history of men’s tennis have been able to achieve. Cooper also achieved success in the doubles by winning another four grand slam titles. In the Davis Cup he led Australia to a 3-2 victory over America in the 1957 final.
Whilst his achievements occurred during the 1950s, Cooper did sort of have a taste of what it was like to place in a major event during the Open Era after featuring in the main draw of the 1968 French Open. He progressed to the second round after his opponent retired before withdrawing from the tournament without playing a single point.
After retiring from the sport, he maintained his links with tennis. Working alongside Tennis Queensland with their player development and was on the Board of Directors for Tennis Australia.
“Ashley was a giant of the game both as a brilliant player and an astute administrator and he will be greatly missed,” said Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
“His contribution to the sport went far beyond his exploits on the tennis court. His rich legacy includes the magnificent Queensland Tennis Centre, a project he was passionate about, nurturing the development from the very beginning, and resulting in the return of world-class international tennis to Brisbane.”
“Ashley was also the most humble of champions and a great family man. Our hearts go out to his wife Helen and his family, along with his wide and international circle of friends, including so many of our tennis family.”
Paying her own tribute, French Open champion Barty took to Twitter to send her sympathy to Cooper’s family. Last year she was presented with the Ashley Cooper Medal at the Queensland Tennis Awards. The highest individual honour that can be issued by the organisation named in after the tennis great.
Thank you for everything that you have done for our sport. My thoughts are with your family and loved ones.
Rest In Peace, Ashley. https://t.co/uOoedanL6K
— Ash Barty (@ashbarty) May 22, 2020
Rod Laver, who is one of Australia’s greatest tennis players of all time, described Cooper as a ‘wonderful champion’ in his tribute.
“So sad to hear of Ashley’s passing. He was a wonderful champion, on and off the court. And what a backhand! So many cherished memories. Farewell my friend. My thoughts are with Ashley’s wife, Helen, and his family.” Laver wrote on Twitter.
The have been no details released on the exact cause of Cooper’s death, but it has been reported that he has been battling ‘a long illness.’ He was 83-years-old.
Novak Djokovic aims at breaking Federer and Nadal Grand Slam records
Novak Djokovic told US program In Depth presented by Graham Bensinger that he wants to break all Grand Slam records and play for many years. The Serbian player is the third best ever player with 17 Major titles behid Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19).
“I believe that the journey chooses you and not the other way around and I know that I still have things to do in sport. At the same time, they are not the only things that motivate me, what really feeds me is the desire to keep growing. I can achieve all feats and become the greatest in history maintaining on the courts”, said Djokovic.
The Serbian legend said that he does not set set any limits. He was still unbeaten before the suspension of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. His winning streak includes a record of 18 consecutive match wins and a 21-match win streak dating back dating back to the Davis Cup Finals last November. He beat Roger Federer in the semifinal and Dominic Thiem in the final to clinch his 8th Australian Open title. He became the third man to win 8 titles at a Grand Slam tournament. Last February he saved three match points against Gael Monfils in the semifinal before beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final in Dubai.
“I don’t believe in limits. I think limits are just illusions of your ago or your mind. I definitely want to go on for a long time but I know that at the same time I have to maintain the right principles and the routine to maintain the health and well being of my body, mind and soul”, said Djokovic.
33 Facts To Mark Andy Murray’s 33rd Birthday
Here is a load of things you may or may not know about the three-time grand slam champion.
33 years ago today the most successful British tennis player of all time was born in Glasgow. Andy Murray has managed to establish an impressive career during an era that has been dominated by the Big Three of the sport. A former world No.1 and grand slam champion, Murray has already cemented his place in the history books.
To mark the Brit’s birthday, here are 33 fascinating facts about the Brit.
- Prior to committing fully to tennis, Murray also showed promise as a football player and was asked to train at the Rangers FC School of excellence when he was just 15 but declined the invitation.
- Besides both his mother and brother being heavily involved in tennis, Murray’s grandfather was a former professional football player. Roy Erskine made 46 appearances in the Scottish Football League throughout the 1950s and played as a defender.
- In 2004 he became the first British player to win a junior title at the US Open. At the tournament he scored wins over Juan Martin Del Potro, Sam Querrey, Viktor Troicki, Mischa Zverev and Sergiy Stakhovsky.
- Murray claimed his first ATP Tour win at The Queen’s Club when he defeated Spain’s Santiago Ventura 6-1, 6-2, back in 2005.
“This was a very important match for me – one of the biggest of my career,” an 18-year-old Murray told BBC Sport after.
“Playing in an ATP tournament at my age is obviously going to be a big deal. Once I got on top I didn’t let the guy off the hook and finished the match off pretty well.”
- In 2013 Murray became the first British man to win the Wimbledon title since Fred Perry back in 1936. A peak TV audience of 17.3 million viewers switched on to watch his win on the BBC in Great Britain with the average being 12.1 million. It was the seventh most watched program that year on British TV.
- Murray’s achievements have been marked by the Royal Mail on numerous occasions. Twice there has been a special series of stamps released in his honour. The first was following his triumph at the 2012 Olympics and the second was shortly after he won Wimbledon for the first time. There is also a post box in his hometown of Dunblane painted gold to mark his maiden Olympic title.
- He is the only tennis player in history to have won two Olympic gold medals in singles. In 2012 he defeated Roger Federer in the final and Juan Martin del Potro in the 2016 title match. Murray has also won a bronze money in the mixed doubles with Laura Robson.
- His career prize money earnings currently stands at $61,544,007. This is the fourth highest tally in the history of men’s tennis after Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Murray has earned than five times more than any other British player in the history of the ATP Tour. Tim Henman, who is second on the British all-time list, made just over $11.6 million during his career.
- Murray has been named BBC Sports Personality Of The Year more times than any other athlete in its history. He received the honour in 2013, 2015 and 2016. He also earned a top three position in 2012.
- In 2019 he received a knighthood to become Sir Andy Murray. Making it the first time somebody from the world of tennis has received the accolade since Sir Norman Brookes back in 1939. Brooks received his knighthood long after he retired from the sport.
- No other player has won the Queen’s title more times than Murray. Currently known as the Fever-Tree Championships, he has triumphed five times in total. His singles record at the tournament currently stands at 30 wins to seven losses.
- He has scored more than 100 wins over top 10 opposition so far in his career. At present, he has a winning rate of 55% against the top 10 (101 out of 184 matches played). 12 of those wins have been against somebody who was ranked world No.1 at the time
- Outside of the Big Three, Murray is the only player to have held the No.1 ranking within the past 15 years. He was at the top of the rankings for 41 consecutive weeks, which is more than Mats Wilander, Andy Roddick and Boris Becker.
- In June 2017 he became only the 15th player in ATP Tour history to have won a 650th match. He achieved the milestone at the French Open when he defeated Karen Khachanov in the fourth round.
- Murray has played in 21 Davis Cup ties where he has won 40 out of 48 matches. His singles debut in the competition was against Stan Wawrinka back in 2005.
- During 2015 Murray completed a perfect 8-0 record in the Davis Cup to become only the third person in history to do so within the same year after Wilander and John McEnroe. In the final against Belgium, he won all three of his live rubbers. Becoming the person to do so since Pete Sampras back in 1995.
- He has made 48 grand slam main draw appearances since 2005 and has won 189 out of 234 matches played.
- He is fifth on the all-time list for most Masters 1000 titles won (14) and fourth for most matches won (213).
- Murray is the first and only British player to have won the ATP Finals in either singles or doubles. In 2016 he was unbeaten in the group stages before going on to defeat Novak Djokovic in the final.
- He is the founder of 77 Sports Management which is a marketing company that specialises in the representation of talent. The agency recently signed tennis player Paul Jubb, who will now be mentored by Murray.
- Murray is the only player to have scored seven or more wins over every member of the Big Three. He has defeated both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer 11 times. He also scored seven victories over Nadal. Despite the wins, he still has a losing record against all three of them.
11-15 against Djokovic
11-14 against Federer
7-17 against Nadal
- At the 2016 French Open Murray became only the 10th man in the Open Era to have reached the final of all four grand slam tournaments during his career. Overall, he has reached 11 finals and won three of them (US Open once and Wimbledon twice).
- In 2019 he was the lowest ranked player to win a title on the ATP Tour following his triumph at the European Open over Wawrinka. At the time of his triumph, he was ranked 243rd.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) October 20, 2019
- In 2013 Murray purchased the Cromlix Hotel in Dunblane, Scotland. A luxury 15-bedroom facility that is located in 34 acres of secluded woodlands and garden grounds.
- Murray’s most successful year as a tennis player was in 2016. During that season he won 78 out of 87 matches played and made $13,327,822 in prize money. In total he won nine tournaments.
- In an emotional press conference during the 2019 Australian Open, he hinted that he may be forced to retire from the sport due to injury. After his first round loss in the tournament, a video tribute was played to mark his career. Murray didn’t retire and returned to the court six months later.
- He has undergone two hip operations in 2018 and 2019. The second procedure was hip resurfacing surgery, which is a form of hip replacement where you have an artificial metal cup put into the pelvis.
- His net worth is said to be in the region of $165 million, according to a Forbes estimate made in 2019.
- The All England Tennis Club has already outlined plans for a statue of Murray at Wimbledon. However, it will not be created until he has retired from the sport.
- Murray is one of two players outside the Big Three to have won three grand slam titles since 2001. The other is Wawrinka.
- He has also enjoyed success on the doubles tour by winning three ATP titles. Two of those were with his brother Jamie and his most recent was alongside Feliciano Lopez at the 2019 Queen’s championships.
- In matches played on either the ATP Tour or in grand slams, Murray has won 93% of the them when he has taken the first set. His win-loss record currently stands at 564 wins to 40 losses.
- Coincidentally Murray has an almost identical winning rate against both left and right handed players. Against lefties his ATP Career Fedex Index 0.773 (85-25) and against right handers it is 0.774 (585-171).
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