WIMBLEDON: Roger Federer has come out in favor of allowing young players to play more matches on the tour in the wake of Cory Gauff’s success at Wimbledon.
15-year-old Gauff is through to the third round of the grand slam after coming through the qualifying rounds. Becoming the youngest player in history to do so. Wimbledon is only her third event this year on the WTA Tour. Under the Age Eligibility Rule Gauff is allowed to play a maximum of 10 tournaments between her 15th and 16th birthdays. Plus the two year-end tournaments if she qualifies and the Fed Cup.
“I understand the rule completely that they want the young players not to play too much. I’ve told the WTA they should loosen up the rules.” Federer said following his second round win at Wimbledon.
“I loved seeing (Martina) Hingis doing what she did at a young age.’
“I think it would be nice if they could play more.”
The policy is in force to prevent early burn-out. It was better known as the Jennifer Capriati rule in connection with her adjustment to a surge in fame at such a young age. Capriati made her professional debut at the age of 13 before breaking into the world’s top 10 a year later.
Whilst the intention is good, 20-time grand slam champion Federer feels that it could be having a negative effect on some players. As of 4th July this year there are 20 players aged 16 or under with a WTA ranking.
“I feel like it (the rule) puts in some ways extra pressure on them every tournament they play.” Federer points out.
“It’s like their week, this is now where they are finally allowed to play, they have to do well, right? I’m not sure if it’s maybe to some extent counterproductive.”
Those views are ones not necessarily agreed upon by everybody. Serena Williams was more coy about the situation. Shortly after her 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, win over Kaja Juvan, the 37-year-old said she was unsure if there should be a change. Adding that she believed she was ‘not a good player’ at the age of 15. Williams’ first professional event was at the 1995 Bell Challenger at the age of 14.
“I can’t really comment on that because I can’t really experience that. I do know when I was younger, I was limited to tournaments. I also was able to go to school and be able to do things that I’ll never get back.” Williams responded when asked.
One possible solution mentioned by Federer is the creation of a mentoring scheme. Where legends of the game would help guide the rising stars. Providing with tips about how to cope with life on the tour. Naming Billie Jean King, Chris Evert or Martina Navratilova as potential mentors.
“They could maybe do a mentoring system that there is maybe still a rule about how many tournaments they’re allowed to play, but maybe it should be more, in my opinion.” He said.
“Maybe your best time (in tennis) is from 14 to 20 for some reason. It’s not like everybody is from 20 to 30.’
“Some want to have kids maybe at 24. At least you had a strong career for 10 years, from 14 to 24.”
“I don’t have the perfect solution. I see why they did it because we’ve had a history of some tough parents out there. But at the same time, you’re also increasing the pressure for that player each week to produce.”
At present, there are no signs from the WTA that they will make any changes to the rules in the foreseeable future.
As Bushfires Rages, The Australian Open Is Left In Limbo
The upcoming grand slam leaves a sense of uncertainty for both players and fans
On Saturday Novak Djokovic endorsed the idea of potentially delaying the start of the Australian Open and with good reason too.
The country has been battling devastating bushfires since September. Resulting in the loss of life, homes being destroyed and thousands of acres of land being burnt. In the midst of it all, Australians are getting on with everyday life. Although concerns are mounting about air quality, especially when it comes to major sporting events.
Fires burning from the East of Melbourne Park have had a negative impact on its air quality. Just over 300 KM away from the sporting venue is the town of Bright. On Sunday, authorities declared the area as having a hazardous air quality rating. On the same day Wangaratta (257KM away) had a ‘very poor’ air rating.
“They’re obviously tracking the situation every single day as it’s evolving and hopefully calming down with the smoke and fires,” World No.2 Djokovic told reporters when discussing the idea of delaying the Australian Open.
“I think they will, if it continues the same way and if the quality of air is affected… I think Tennis Australia probably will be forced to, I think, create some rules about it.
“I mean, it’s tough for them because scheduling has to be respected in terms of play and the Australian Open starts at a certain time, so there’s a lot of different things involved.
“But health is a concern for me and for anybody.”
Tennis Australia find themselves in a difficult situation. Wheather conditions get better or worse over the coming days are down to mother nature. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that Melbourne’s air quality could be ‘hazardous‘ on Monday. This is due to the haze spreading from fires burning in Tasmania.
Tennis tournaments have already been affected by the current conditions. A Challenger event in Canberra, who recorded the worst air pollution rating in the world earlier this week, was moved to Bendigo. Meanwhile, at the ATP Cup in Sydney on Sunday, the city had a rating of 150 on the Air Quality Index at 15:00. Meaning is is ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups.’ It if had reached 151, it would have been declared unhealthy for all.
“Obviously I’ve seen it a little bit more now [after the match] – it’s definitely not pleasant,” Grigor Dimitrov said following his singles match on Sunday. “I even noticed [the smoke haze] this morning when we were going to warm-up, the court was a little more dustier than it was the previous days. It is what it is … we can control only what we can.”
The smoke haze in Sydney has noticeably got worse over the past hour or so. The view towards the SCG… pic.twitter.com/BDArHpgsHe
— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) January 5, 2020
It is unclear as to if or what organizers will do at the Australian Open to deal with a potential threat posed by the haze. One idea mentioned by Kevin Anderson, who is the vice-president of the ATP Players council, is to continuously monitor the air quality throughout. Although the prospect of delaying the Australian Open remains unlikely.
“First and foremost it has been so sad to see everything that has been going on, to see the extent of it (bushfires),” Anderson said.
“A distant second is the air quality and us being able to perform.
“But it is hazardous. I think that is one of the concerns.
“Hopefully it won’t be an issue but if it is we will definitely need to have that conversation about whether it is dangerous to be out there.”
Former Doubles Star Backs Daniil Medvedev For Australian Open Glory
The 16-time men’s grand slam doubles champion believes the Russian has what it takes to topple Rafael Nadal and Co.
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev is the player to end the dominance of the Big Three in grand slam tennis, according to former world No.1 doubles player Todd Woodbridge.
The 23-year-old has been picked by the Australian as his favourite to win the upcoming Australian Open. Medvedev has rapidly risen up the ranks following a successful second half of 2019 where he reached six consecutive finals on the ATP Tour. Including the US Open where he took Rafael Nadal to five sets in the title match. Despite experiencing a wobble towards the end of the season, he has finished the year in the world’s top five for the first time in his career.
“I’m going with Medvedev,” Woodbridge told Nine’s World Wide of Sport.
“That run he had through the US Open was just phenomenal. I think he believes, I reckon he thinks he can get into a final and take those guys out.
“He’s also the most dynamic of that group. He’s going to run all day long, he’s going to keep that ball going.”
2020 has been billed by many as the potential year where there could be a change in the guard at the top of men’s tennis. Other challengers to the Big Three include ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. However, breaking the dominance of the trio will be easier said than done.
Consisting of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, the Big Three have won 51 out of the last 59 grand slam tournaments. At least one of them have featured in the final in 57 out of the last 59 majors. Furthermore, Since 2004 Andy Murray is the only player outside of the trio to have clinched the year-end No.1 spot back in 2016. Something Medvedev hopes to one day achieve.
“I have been thinking about it (the No.1 spot) since I was six-years-old, but the thing is that I’m not obsessed with it,” He explained during a recent interview with Ubitennis. “For example, if I was 40 and during my career, I achieved a best ranking of number two in the world, It would not change my life completely.’
“Of course working hard and playing so many tournaments you want to achieve the best ranking possible.” He added.
Looking ahead to the Australian Open, Medvedev is hoping to build upon the confidence he gained in 2019. Where he won more matches on the ATP Tour than any other player. Only two Russian men have ever won the Melbourne major. Yevgeny Kafelnikov triumphed in 1999 and Marat Safin in 2005.
“Being in the grand slam final makes you confident for the next grand slam, because you know it’s possible to achieve it,” Medvedev told the Australian Associated Press.
“Before the US Open, the fourth round was my best result, so maybe I wasn’t sure about myself at grand slams and five-set matches.
“Now I know that it’s possible, but the other question is, is it going to happen again? I’m going to try to do my best.”
The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th.
Kei Nishikori To Miss Australian Open
There is bad news for fans of the Japanese tennis star.
Japanese No.1 Kei Nishikori has suffered a blow to the start of his 2020 season after deciding to withdraw from two key events next month.
The world No.13 has announced his withdrawal from both the ATP Cup and Australian Open due to an ongoing injury. Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open in September. He has been sidelined from action due to a right elbow issue that continues to cause him problems. He underwent surgery on his elbow in October.
“Unfortunately I have to pull out of the ATP Cup and the Aussie Open,” Nishikori said in a statement.
“Today, together with my team, we have made this decision as I am still not 100 per cent ready or healthy to compete at the highest level.
“This decision was not taken lightly as Australia is one of my favourite places to compete,” he added.
Nishikori reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this year for the fourth time in his career. He was also forced to pull out of the event in 2018 due to a wrist injury. Due to his upcoming absence, he will be unable to defend his 360 ranking points previously won at the major.
There has been speculation in recent weeks that the 30-year-old would miss next months grand slam in Melbourne. Earlier this month, he stated that his goal was to be fully fit for the second half of next year. He had also recently pulled out of an exhibition event in Hawaii.
“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying on December 4th.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.
Nishikori embarks upon the new year with a change in his team. In November he added former world No.1 doubles player Max Mirnyi to his coaching staff. He will also continue his collaboration with Michael Chang.
The Australian Open will start on January 20th.
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