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Sloane Stephens Ready To ‘Start Her Season’ Alongside New Coach

The world No.8 is hoping to find a boost in her form with the help of her new coach.

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Sloane Stephens (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

MADRID: Technically the tennis calendar always begins in January, but Sloane Stephens has her own plan in motion.

 

The former US Open champion has endured mixed start to the season. Prior to this week, she had only won back-to-back matches in two out of seven tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open and the quarter-finals in Charleston. A far from ideal situation for somebody who was ranked third in the world back in February, but has since dropped to eighth.

Trying to pinpoint the reasons behind those results, the 26-year-old admits the problems are more mental, than physical. A similar sentiment that has been echoed by Jelena Ostapenko. Another former grand slam champion trying to find her footing on the tour.

“I think definitely mentally. I’ve had a lot of changes in my life and career.” Said Stephens, who recently got engaged to MLS player Jozy Altidore.”I won’t say I’m an emotional person, but I definitely need to adjust to things and take it all in. I think that took me a bit longer at the start of the year.”

Hoping to get herself back on track, Stephens recently appointed Sven Groeneveld as her latest coach. A well-known figure on the WTA Tour, who has previously worked alongside Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Caroline Wozniacki, and Maria Sharapova.

“I think he’s a great guy, he’s a great coach. We had some great practice before here (Madrid).” Stephens assessed. “I can’t speak about it too much, but I guess two wins is good and I think it’s good tennis.”

It has been so far, so good for the new partnership. In Madrid, Stephens overcame Victoria Azarenka in the second round on Monday. Claiming her fourth consecutive win over the Belarusian since the start of 2018. Whilst it is too early to tell how the collaboration is working out, Stephens believes she is heading in the right direction.

“Now that I’ve found a good coach and I’m happy with things. I’m looking forward to starting the season, I know it’s May, but it’s never too late.” She said.

During the clay swing, the American has 1527 points to defend. Most of which will be at the French Open where she lost to Simona Halep in the final last year. She is one of only two player’s defending more than 1500 points during this period. The other is Halep with 2900 points.

“I try not to think too much, get too stressed. It’s kind of trying to find the right balance in tennis, like in life.” Stephens commented on coping with the pressure.

The next task for the world No.8 will be either Alize Cornet or Saisai Zheng in Madrid on Wednesday.

ATP

Alexander Zverev Denies Using Phone During Match At ATP Finals

The world No.7 has insisted that he didn’t break any rules at the season-ending event.

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LONDON: Reigning ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev has denied allegations that he was swiping through his phone during a sit down in his latest match in London

 

A series of Twitter users posted footage of the German placing his hand in his bag. It appeared as if he was using a phone or some sort of electronic device. Using his thumb to either press a button or swipe something. Despite the allegations, Zverev has denied any wrongdoing. 

“My phone was in the locker room. I always leave it there. I don’t know what they saw, but it was definitely not a phone.” Zverev replied when quizzed in his press conference. 

Under rules set out by the ATP, it is an offence for players to use their phones during matches and they could potentially be penalised. The rule is in place as part of fight against match-fixing in the sport. 

“A player is not allowed to use any electronic devices (e.g. CD players, mobile phones, etc.) during matches, unless approved by the Supervisor.” The 2019 ATP rulebook states. 

Despite the 22-year-old stating his innocence, questions remain about what he was looking at inside his bag. Which is located next up the chair of the match umpire. Asked to explain, he said it might have been ‘an empty water bottle.’ 

 

Zverev will play his final match of the round-robin stage at the ATP Finals against Daniil Medvedev. He is currently 1-1 in the group after defeating Rafael Nadal before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas on Wednesday. 

“Days like this happen. It’s just how it is in sports.” Said Zverev after his latest loss. “Against Rafa, I played a great match. Today I didn’t. This is just how it is sometimes, even though I have to give credit to him. He played really well.”
“There are a lot of things that I did not do great, and I have to change that to have a chance on Friday.”

There are three possible scenarios in which Zverev can qualify for the semi-finals. The most simple is that if both he and Nadal or Tsitsipas win their next matches. He can also qualify if he loses to Medvedev in three sets and Tsitsipas wins. 

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ATP

Wimbledon Finalist Tomas Berdych To Retire

Details have been released about a ‘special announcement’ being made by the former world No.4 later this week.

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LONDON: It has been confirmed that Tomas Berdych will travel to London where he is expected to formally announce his retirement from tennis at the age of 34.

 

The former world No.4 will address his future in the sport during a media engagement at the ATP Finals on Saturday. An event he has played six times during his career with his last appearance being back in 2015. News of Berdych’s upcoming departure was first reported by the Czech newspaper Blesk, who contacted his father.

“I think it will be a great end on Saturday,” Blesk quoted Martin Berdych as saying.

In the aftermath of the media report, Berdych took to social media to confirm that he will be making an announcement. Although he did not specify as to what it will be. The Czech hasn’t played on the tour since his first-round loss at the US Open due to injury. Overall, he has only managed to play 22 matches this season. Winning 13 of them.

“Hey guys, if you want a surprise don’t watch any media or social networks, but I know it is impossible these days,” Berdych said in a video uploaded to his Twitter account. “I know, these little mistakes happen.”
“I had it planned as a little surprise on Saturday where I’m going to be in London. But now it’s not even possible because it is all over (the news). It’s fine, more information is going to come on Saturday.” He added.

Speculation about Berdych’s retirement from the sport began to gain momentum in September following an interview with idnes.cz. Where he opened up about his struggles with both back and hip injuries.

Playing during the same era as the prestigious big Three of the sport (Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer), Berdych still managed to establish himself as one of the tour’s top players during his career. Winning 13 ATP titles in 32 finals he played in, including the 2005 Paris Masters. Berdych remains the youngest player in history to win a Masters 1000 title. He also finished seven consecutive seasons inside the world’s top 10 (2010-2016) and managed to remain inside the top 100 for an impressive 794 weeks (2004-2019).

Should Berdych retire on Saturday, he ends his career with 640 wins. Including 53 against top 10 opposition. He has featured in 61 grand slam main draws with his stand out performance being a run to the final of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships.

Berdych has earned $29,491,328 in prize money. The ninth highest amount in the history of men’s tennis (as of 11th November 2019).

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ATP

Revenge And Redemption On The Mind Of Roger Federer Ahead Of Djokovic Clash

They say time is a healer, but has Federer recovered from that Wimbledon final yet?

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It was the outcome that many tennis fans wanted at the ATP Finals, but not necessarily Roger Federer.

 

The chances of the Swiss maestro reaching the semi-finals of the event hangs in the balance ahead of his final round-robin match. Where he will take on nemesis Novak Djokovic. Whilst their head-to-head look deceivingly close at 26-22 in favor of the world No.2, it has been four years since Federer has won a match.

Twice the 38-year-old loss to the Serbian last year in Cincinnati and Paris. Then in July, he was ousted in a marathon encounter at Wimbledon where he failed to convert two championship points.

“I’m excited about playing against him. I’m excited to see how he’s going to play tonight (against Thiem), as well. It’s definitely going to give me some more information about what to expect.” Federer previewed about meeting No.49.
“But other than that, I think I need to focus on my game, what I do best. And regardless of what I need to do, I just hope I play well.”

A lot of happened since their Wimbledon encounter. Earlier this week Djokovic believes his rival will not be mentally affected by what happened at The All England Club. Hailing him as ‘one of the greatest players to ever hold a racket.’ Although Federer is human and undoubtedly there will be some kind of scarring.

“I think we both can take away some confidence from that match. Him obviously a lot. Me maybe a tad bit less.” Federer explained.
“It’s good for me to play him again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back or whatever it is, but at the end of the day, I’m here for the World Tour Finals and not because of the Wimbledon final.” He added.

This week has so far been a turbulent experience for the 20-time grand slam champion, who lost to Thiem on Sunday. An almost identical scenario to 12 months ago why he lost his opening match to Kei Nishikori before progressing to the semi-finals. Losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev.

One has to wonder if his losing starts to the London extravaganza is linked to his decision in recent years to reduce his schedule on the tour. Therefore limiting his match play. Excluding the Laver cup, Federer has played two tournaments since the US Open. One of which was in Basel when he won his 103rd tour title.

“I don’t necessarily think I’m a player who now needs a million matches to feel good on that day, but it’s true with every place you go to, it probably takes you two days, five days, three matches to feel perfect.” He admits.
“In the beginning, everybody feels a little bit uncomfortable, and that’s no different for me. It’s just getting used to the conditions, the flight of the ball, the ball pressure, the altitude, whatever comes with it.”

Should Thiem defeat Djokovic on Tuesday evening, he will qualify for the last four. Leaving the two members of the Big Three to fight it out for the other remaining semi-final spot in their group. A mouthwatering prospect for the event organisers.

A breakdown of the rivalry

By tournament

Grand Slams: Djokovic leads 10-6
ATP Finals: Djokovic leads 3-2
Masters 1000: Djokovic leads 11-9
ATP 500 events: Federer leads 4-2
Davis Cup: Federer leads 1-0

By year

YEAR

DJOKOVIC

FEDERER

2006

0

2

2007

1

3

2008

1

2

2009

3

2

2010

1

4

2011

4

1

2012

3

2

2013

2

0

2014

3

3

2015

5

3

2016

1

0

2017

0

0

2018

2

0

2019

1

0

 TOTAL

26

22

 

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