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Experience is the name of the game in Halle on Thursday.

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Roberto Bautista Agut (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

The second match of the day at the Noventi Open featured a couple of old timers. Frenchman, Richard Gasquet is thirty-three and Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut is thirty-one. They’ve both been around since the early part of the twenty-first century. Lest that seem like a short time ago, it is now 2019 and soon we will be slipping into the roaring twenties. (Yes, I know that was a twentieth century tag, but maybe there will be a whole new set of Mousquetaires, i.e. Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste. Then again, maybe not.)

The match today was over in just two minutes more than an hour. Bautista Agut came out on top 6-1, 6-4. It was a match that seemed to hover over the baseline with Gasquet moving toward the net more often than Bautista Agut, but not much. There was a good deal of hit and miss going on from both players, with lengthy rallies tending to be non-existent. The grass seems much more amenable to the tennis this year. The bounces seemed slow but steady – even if the serving speed of this match was toned down a bit from today’s earlier match between two Italians – Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi. (Berrettini sent many serves over the net at speeds, well over 125 miles per hour [200 kilometers per hour]. He won in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2).

Gasquet became a professional tennis player in 2002. That’s a lot of days to spend on the court – more than 6,200 actually. (If years are more easily visualized, then that’s seventeen.) Over all those years, his winnings have averaged about a million American dollars for each of them. (That amount may seem like a good deal of money for batting a little ball across a net, but, there are coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and all the other folks who work to keep a player in the best shape possible that need to be paid for. Then one must add to that, the airfare, the transportation, the hotel rooms and all the other sundries that can total more than one can calculate in a day or two.)

To say that Gasquet’s career is pedestrian is a misnomer. He began playing as a youngster. At nine, he was touted as the “next” future champion in February 1996 on the cover of French Tennis Magazine. He was nine. In 2007 he reached his highest ranking of 7. He has slipped to number 54 today, which is his lowest since 2010. He’s always been a competitor. He has spent all of his adult life on the tennis court, always expecting a win. Seventeen years is a long time to stay in top form. It is apparent he still loves tennis, and amazingly his one-handed backhand is a sight to behold. It flows like a feather in the wind.

He could be thinking of moving over to allow the younger players a space in the rankings, or like many other competitors today, he may feel there’s another win waiting for him. This one could be just around the corner at Wimbledon. His hopes for the future are likely simple and to the point – London may be calling.

Bautista Agut has been a professional player since 2005. As of today, he has been ranked in the top 30 of the ATP rankings for 267 consecutive weeks. That’s a smidge over five years. He began playing tennis at five. He scampers about the court like a youngster, to this day. Actually, he enjoys horseback riding and owns seven horses, which I assume he leaves at home in Spain.

Earlier this year, in the first round of the Australian Open, he managed a win over Andy Murray in a trying five set match. He then moved on to the second round and defeated John Millman in yet another five setter. In the third round, he mowed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. He continued his winning ways by defeating Marin Cilic (last year’s Gerry Weber Open champ). But, then he met the up and coming Greek player, Stefanos Tsitsipas who was on a real high after defeating Roger Federer. Stefanos showed him the door. He then re-entered the top 20 and now he stands at 20 today.

With all that historic momentum stored in his memory banks, he might just have a chance at defeating nine time champ, at the Noventi Open, Roger Federer whom he will face in his next match here in Halle. Federer defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a nail biter – 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. This is Federer’s charmed tournament, and Bautista Agut will need all the luck and skill he can conjure to manage a win in the last match on Friday.

 

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Andy Murray won’t travel to Australia

Andy Murray will miss next month’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago.

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Andy Murray (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Andy Murray has made it official, he won’t be making the trip down under after working with Tennis Australia to find a viable solution to make it work.

 

“We’ve been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”

Murray was scheduled to fly to Australia with one of charter flights but due to a positive Covid test wasn’t able to make the flight and put his tournament in jeopardy.

Although he missed the chartered flights there was still a small chance he would play but had to workout an agreement with Tennis Australia to make it work. However it didn’t work and was gutted with the news.

“I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I’m devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It’s a country and tournament that I love.”

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‘If I knew, I Wouldn’t Come’ – Victor Troicki Slams Hard Quarantine In Melbourne

Troicki, who will head the Serbian ATP Cup team next month, says his career has been thrown into ‘chaos.’

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Former top 20 player Victor Troicki says his ‘Grand Slam is failing’ after implying that he felt that he was misled about the quarantine rules ahead of the Australian Open.

 

Troicki, who is currently ranked 202nd in the world, is among 72 players who have been placed in a strict quarantine where they are not allowed to leave their room for a 14-day period. Those affected have all been deemed as a ‘close contact’ of somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. A series of positive tests was detected on flights en route to the country.

34-year-old Troicki travelled to Australia from Doha after successfully qualifying for the Australian Open with wins over Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Ulises Blanch and Jurij Rodionov. This year’s two qualifying tournament’s took place in the Middle East due to the pandemic.

“If I knew, I wouldn’t come,” Troicki told Sportski Zurnal earlier this week.
“Total chaos, horror as far as everything is concerned. I’m locked up for 14 days, I can’t leave the room. No training, nothing. My Grand Slam is failing, I can’t get ready for five sets in the room.”

In recent days there has been some dispute over whether players knew about the conditions regarding going into a strict quarantine. Carlos Martinez, who is the coach of Daria Kasatkina, told UbiTennis that players were initially under the impression that sections of a plan would have to be isolated if there was a positive case and not the entire plane. Ultimately the decision was up to the Australian health authorities.

“Tennis Australia was doing a great job in my opinion. The only thing that was a bit unclear was about the quarantine when somebody gets infected on the plane. They were talking like they were going to make sections inside the plane so if they found somebody in a section (who tests positive) they would isolate those people,’ said Martinez.
“But in the end the government didn’t want to do this and they preferred to isolate all on the plane because it was safer for everyone.”

Amid the debate over whether Troicki and his peers knew the full story or not, Spain’s Paula Badosa has become the first Australian Open player to contract the virus during quarantine. She had previously criticised the procedure before later apologising.

As for Troicki, he says the current situation is creating ‘chaos’ in his career.

“All preparations are failing,” he said. “Two weeks of lying in bed, it is certain that I will have to get back in shape for the next month and a half. All this is creating chaos in my career.”

Troicki is the team captain of the Serbian ATP Cup team. The tournament will start a week prior to the Australian Open on February 1st.

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No Advantage For Those Quarantining In Adelaide, Says Dominic Thiem

The 27-year-old dispute claims of unequal treatment ahead of the first major of 2021.

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Dominic Thiem has dismissed allegations of special treatment for top ranked players going through quarantine ahead of the Australian Open next month.

 

The World No.3 is among a series of players who are staying in Adelaide instead of Melbourne where an estimated 1200 players and their teams have travelled to. Under an agreement struck by Tennis Australia, the top three players on both the men’s and women’s Tour’s have been allowed to quarantine in Adelaide along with their hitting partners, family and team members. The move is to help ease the flow of people into Melbourne.

Some players have claimed that special treatment is being provided to those in Adelaide with the use of a private gym among other extras. However, Thiem has insisted that he is no better off than his peers.

“It’s a privilege to be here in Adelaide. But it’s not that huge an advantage,” Thiem told The Guardian. “We get the same amount of practice time as the guys in Melbourne. It’s just not that busy on-site. It’s just that we are [fewer] players here. Compared to the players who are not in hard quarantine in Melbourne, we have pretty similar conditions.”

Earlier in the week Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley openly admitted that those in Adelaide had gotten a better deal. Speaking to Nine News of Melbourne he said ‘My general rule is if you’re at the top of the game, a Grand Slam champion, it’s just the nature of the business. You are going to get a better deal.’ Meanwhile in a recent interview with UbiTennis, world No.44 doubles player Marcelo Demoliner pointed out that the disparity in treatment between the top names and other players is a common trait in the sport.

“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”

Strict quarantine woes

Perhaps those most frustrated with Thiem and Co are the ones currently placed in strict quarantine. 72 players are not allowed to leave their rooms for 14 days after being deemed a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. A series of positive tests occurred on flights en route to Melbourne.

Speaking about the group, US Open champion Thiem admits they face a struggle in the coming weeks but stress that it was a risk they took. There have been arguments over the quarantine rules and whether they were clear enough upon arrival. Carlos Martinez, who is the coach of Daria Kasatkina, told UbiTennis that players were unaware that if somebody tested positive on a plane all passengers would be required to isolate.

It’s going to be really tough to play a good ATP Cup or good tournament before the Australian Open and then a good Australian Open,” said Thiem.
“They have a huge disadvantage, but that’s the risk we take when we go on to a plane nowadays.”

Novak Djokovic has previously sought to help out those in strict quarantine by writing a letter to Tiley outlining a series of suggestions including the increased use of testing to reduce the isolation period. However, government officials rejected calls for any changes to their system. Djokovic issued a statement on Thursday outlining his motive was made with ‘good intentions’ after he received backlash from some.

“He received unnecessary criticism a lot in the past. This topic, I don’t really know,” Thiem commented.
“He tried to help the other players in Melbourne but in Australia they did a great job with corona. It almost doesn’t exist here any more so Australia wants to keep it that way.”

The Australian Open will get underway on February 8th. Thiem is aiming to go one step better than last year when he finished runner-up to Djokovic.

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