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The Future Is Bright…

The Gerry Weber Open was until it wasn’t any longer, then Noventi stepped in….

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By Mark Winters

 

For twenty-six years, the Gerry Weber Open was one of the foremost grass court tournaments in the world. It is played two weeks before The Championships, as Wimbledon is known, and it put Halle, Germany on the tennis map. It has epitomized a small town’s commitment to the game, and has, justifiably, earned the nickname “The People’s Tournament”. Because of  the local attitude, almost everyone in region has sacrificed in order to make the ATP 500 a significant tennis championships.

That was then, and this is now…

On June 7, the Noventi Group, a company which provides a variety of health care services, stepped in to rescue Halle, as the GWO is known. Noventi, taking a page from its health care proforma, offered needed financial resuscitation.

Having covered Halle since its inception, I have a fondness for the tournament, (as does my wife, Cheryl Jones, who is a regular Ubitennis contributor). In 1993, when Gerry Weber, the millionaire clothing manufacturer turned tournament sponsor, and his partner Udo Hardieck decided to stage a grass court tournament in Germany as preparation for Wimbledon, it seemed to be a very risky move. As things turned out, it was a decision that defined why the duo, Weber and Hardieck, were such successful businessmen.

But they didn’t do it alone. They were assisted by the “must visit” travel poster-like location of the tournament. The quaint setting is lights-out different from the crushing congestion that exists at the Fever Tree Open (formerly Queen’s), which takes place in London at the same time. The serenity found in the Westfalen countryside is special. Its appeal has been added to by the number of “name players” who regularly performed at the event. Topping the list is Roger Federer. After winning Halle for the tenth time today, it would seem appropriate , in time, to name the championships in his honor. Federer’s dominance aside, the June week on grass in Germany has, justifiably, earned praised from players and tennis fans, alike.

The transition from the Gerry Weber Open to the Noventi Open made a number of  impressions. Here are a few thoughts:

Perhaps, after spending twenty-six years, under the same title banner, the Noventi Open just didn’t seem to have the same “ring”…

Walking around the site, it was almost as if those working at tournament were “anxious”, waiting to see what would take place…

Though one could not “see it or  taste it”, there seemed to be a different “feel”…

One thing was very perceivable – Prices – had risen. It didn’t matter if it was tickets, pretzels or charming “take one home” teddy bears, there was an increase. (As an example, pretzels, which used to be three for five Euros were three for six Euros, fifty. Parked, or so it seemed, for years, teddy bears jumped from ten Euros to twelve. While on the subject of parking, the cost of leaving one’s car in one of the tournament’s lot was also “bumped” up.)

But, it would probably be more accurate to say the increases were simply the result of doing business in 2019…

As a result of Phil Thorn’s craftmanship, the courts played very true. There was nary a bad bounce. Once again, he lived up to the title –  “Keeper of the Lawns” (a position he has held since the beginning of the tournament)…

For some time, the Noventi Group had been looking for a business involvement that would provide a sensible way to expand its healthcare focus. When the company learned that the Gerry Weber Open was searching for a title sponsor, a new platform was found.

Michael Silvio Kusche, CMO Marketing at Noventi said, the company was really fascinated by the tournament, sometimes even speechless about the quality of the event.  They had been looking for quite a while  for a tennis event they could support. The background has two aspects: making the name Noventi known in Germany and coming next – promoting the App “callmyApo” where the public can order medicine and drugs online.

Studies have conclusively proven that those who play the game recreationally on a regular basis have longer lives. Becoming immersed in the “The Sport of a Lifetime” is a savvy move for Noventi.

From all indications, the new partnership was a success. This year, more spectators attended the tournament than ever before. More important, they were not on hand to see “only the names.” The Stadion, as well as Courts 1 and 2, were filled whenever  a match took place. This was a first and a wonderful prelude for 2020.

True, this was the first year of  the NO replacing the GWO, but “The Future Is Bright…”

 

 

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Novak Djokovic Survives Krajinovic Battle To Seal Last Eight Berth In Rome

Novak Djokovic reached an 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic survived a tough battle in Rome to beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7) 6-3 to reach the last eight.

 

Although the World Number one got the victory, it was a tough battle as he fought his compatriot for a place in the Quarter-Finals.

Breaks were shared to start the match as Krajinovic brought his fearless game to the top seed.

Djokovic created a total of ten break points, with only one executed as Krajinovic saved two set points in the tenth game to hold for 5-5.

After two comfortable holds, a tiebreak settled the winner of the first set as Djokovic was having a hard time to contain Krajinovic’s power.

The world number one battled from 3-0 down to edge the tiebreak 9-7 and win the opening set in 88 minutes.

Once Djokovic had survived the Krajinovic stormed, he took control and went into another gear as a break of serve in the third game was all that was needed to seal his place in the quarter-finals.

Winning 47% of his 2nd return points was key as Djokovic reaches his 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final of his career.

Next for Djokovic will be either talented teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti or Dominik Koepfer.

In other results today, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov set a last eight showdown after tight three set wins.

Shapovalov edged out Ugo Humbert 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 while Dimitrov defeated Jannik Sinner 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a tough match.

There were also third round wins for Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.

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Rafael Nadal Missing Fan Support Despite Emphatic Win At Italian Open

The 19-time Grand Slam winner reacts to his latest win 200 days after his last.

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Rafael Nadal (image via https://twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

The absence of a crowd at this year’s Italian Masters has been branded as ‘not beautiful’ by Rafael Nadal following his opening match on Wednesday.

 

The world No.2 raced to a 6-1, 6-1, triumph over US Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta in what was his first competitive match of any sort since March 1st. Despite his lengthy break from the Tour, Nadal showed little rust as he dropped only eight points behind his serve and broke the world No.18 five times overall. The latest victory is Nadal’s 62nd in Rome and he has only won more matches at four other tournaments.

“Of course I have to improve things. The things that I have to improve, the only way to improve is to keep practising with the right attitude, the right intensity and to spend hours in competition matches,” he said afterwards.
“Today has been a positive start for me,”
Nadal later added.

Choosing to skip the New York bubble due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nadal is still getting used to the concept of playing without the crowds. Something many of his rivals has already had experience of. The Italian Open had originally hoped to allow fans to enter its grounds before the local authorities ruled against it over concerns it could trigger an outbreak of the Coronavirus.

“It’s Not beautiful the feeling of playing without the spectators because the energy of the fans is impossible to describe. But for me, at least, today has been a very positive comeback,” Nadal assessed.

It is a case of wait and see as to how the Spaniard will fare in the coming days given his recent lack of match play compared to his rivals such as Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. Fortunately for Nadal, he is playing on the clay which is a surface which he has won more ATP titles on than any other player in the Open Era. As for the upcoming French Open, will a lack of play in recent weeks be problematic for him?

“I don’t think so, no. If Roland Garros was this week, maybe yes. Roland Garros is two weeks away.” He concluded.

Nadal will next play either Milos Raonic or Dusan Lajovic who will play their second round match on Thursday.

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Dominic Thiem And Thomas Muster: A Comparison

They are the only Austrian Slam champions in men’s tennis, but how do they stack up against each other?

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Dominic Thiem - US Open 2020 (via Twitter, @usopen)

The original version of this article was published on loslalom.it.

 

On October 24, 2011, Dominic Thiem had just turned 18 and was in the very early stages of his professional career, so the organisers of the ATP tournament in Vienna rewarded him with a wild card. On October 24, 2011, Thomas Muster had been 44 for about three weeks and at the sunset of his career, so he was also given the wild card for Vienna tournament. What no one could predict, neither the players nor the tournament organizers, was that the draw would pit them against each other in the first round, for what would be their first encounter, and ultimately the only one – after conceding with a 6-2 6-3 score in an hour and four minutes, Muster retired forever. He was the only Austrian to have won a Grand Slam tournament, in 1995 at Roland Garros, at least until Sunday night, when the then teenager who ended his career equalled him.

In the first decade of his career, Thiem has earned almost twice as much as Munster did in 18 (22 million dollars against 12). Thiem is right-handed, Muster a southpaw. Both sport one-handed backhands. It took 10 years for Muster to win a Major, and by the eleventh he was the world N.1, albeit not for long. He was a bona fide drop-shot chaser. It took nine years as a professional for Thiem to win at Flushing Meadows, but he has not yet risen higher than third in the ATP Ranking. Thiem is two inches taller (6’1’’ versus 5’11’’), he has an edge for the number of aces (5.8 per game on average against 3) and for the effectiveness of his first serve (74.2% vs 69.1%). The two are essentially tied with their second serve (53.2% vs 53.7) and in the break-points-saved department (62.9% vs 63%), but Muster is more dominant in the return games (31.6% break vs 23.5%) and, despite earning a street rep as a marathon runner, his matches were 11 minutes shorter than Thiem’s (an hour and 30 minutes against an hour and 41). His winning points ended on average in 35 seconds, Thiem’s in 37,8 seconds.

In his career Thiem has met stronger opponents, ranked on average at 35 in the world, while Muster’s foes usually hovered around number 52. Despite this, the latter managed to beat opponents better placed than him in the standings in only 9.8% of cases, while Thiem’s ​​percentage is 12.3 %. On the contrary, Thiem was beaten in 21.4% of cases by tennis players ranked worse in the rankings, whereas this happened to Muster in 19% of cases, a percentage that drops to 13% when it comes to clay only. For a couple of weeks at the beginning of 2020, Muster coached Thiem.

The following chart summarises the numbers: 

Gianni Clerici, the Italian Hall-of-Famer journalist and writer, gave Thomas Muster the moniker of “Mr Muscolo” (Mr Muscle). This is the portrait he made of him: “He’s not very nice, seven out of ten people say about Muster. A couple of them find him downright unpleasant. The remaining, meagre ten percent all but worships him. It is probably the attitude that does not appeal. His face appears incredibly rapacious, reminding of a bird of prey, or, if not strictly of an eagle or a hawk, at the very least of a possessed personality, those wide-open eyes animated by a blue and sinister light. But, even more than the face, what repels many people is his technique, his relentlessness devoid of human breathing which is fully on display as he gets back bopping on his side of the court a ripe thirty seconds before the  established one minute and 25, while the unfortunate opponent is still splayed on his chair, trying to recover some breath and peace in the aftermath of the gruelling races that Muster locked him into. If the style is the man, well, the Austrian’s style does not capture the imagination. His serve is average at best, and he cautiously avoids volleying, but he has some great weapons, like that terrible loopy forehand and, in the last couple years, that no less terrible backhand slap. Come to think of it, even Muster’s ancestors, Borg and Vilas, were no less engulfing, less repetitive. But Borg had more athletic talent, his runs were very fluid, his sense of playing so high that he even managed to adapt to the Wimbledon lawns where he won five times and where Muster instead looks like a wretch. Muster has the athletic pedigree of champions but certainly not the charisma”.

Clerici also had the opportunity to write on Thiem for “la Repubblica” (an Italian daily newspaper), stating that “he was born with tennis in his blood, […] he has a refined hand, as can be seen with his drop shots and with his cross-court volleys,” then adding: “I have seen many times the Austrian go all-out on his backhand, as if he were holding an umbrella wide open, while his forehand is more akin to a machete.” Yesterday morning, he added that Thiem reminds him of “the tennis players of my time during the Fifties, when tennis was different from today, perhaps more beautiful to watch, a spectacles that intellectuals like Giorgio Bassani enjoyed, and that could have taken place in the genteel backyards sketched out in his novels.” 

Translation and graphics by Andrea Canella

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