FEATURE: A New Era Of Russian Tennis Heads To The US Open With High Hopes - UBITENNIS
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FEATURE: A New Era Of Russian Tennis Heads To The US Open With High Hopes

Ubitennis looks at the surge in success of Russian male players with one of the country’s top tennis journalists.

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The times are changing in Russian tennis. For years the focus has been on the rise of WTA players such as Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Myskina. However, at this year’s US Open all the attention will be on a trio of rising stars in the men’s game.

 

For the first time since grand slam tournaments introduced 32 seeds in 2001, there will be no seeded player from Russia in the women’s draw at Flushing Meadows. Something that last happened in the tournament back in 1998. The highest ranked player at present is Daria Kasatkina at 42nd. A somewhat different situation compared to that of the ATP Tour.

Daniil Medvedev and Karen Khachanov are ranked inside the top 10 during what has been a breakthrough season for both players. 23-year-old Medvedev has become one of the most successful players since Wimbledon. Reaching three finals within as many weeks in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati. It was in Cincinnati, where he stunned world No.1 Novak Djokovic en route to his maiden Masters title. Meanwhile, Khachanov has amassed a win-loss of 22-19 so far this year and broke into the top 10 for the first time in June.

“I hope big, but you never know. Two guys from the same country in the top 10, it’s great, of course.” Khachanov commented about the impact the duo are having on Russian tennis.
“On the other side, maybe we used to have higher standards in Russia. They are expecting maybe once you start doing it more consistently, you go deeper in Grand Slams.”

Further down the rankings lies Andrey Rublev at 47th. The 21-year-old has scored two wins over top five players in recent weeks, including Roger Federer at Cincinnati. Despite being the youngest of the trio, he is the only one to have previously reached the quarter-finals of the US Open back in 2017. Since then, his journey on the tour has been marred by injury. However, he recently reached the final of the German Open.

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There is no doubt that the Russia men are on the rise in the world of tennis. Giving a boost to their country’s Davis Cup team, who last won the trophy back in 2006. But how significant is this surge in reality?

Maria Nikulashkina is an editor for Russian sports newspaper Sport Express with an extensive knowledge of the tennis circuit in her country. Speaking with Ubitennis, she believes the trio has provided a new sense of hope.

“Nikolay Davydenko retired. Mikhail Youzhny had played until last autumn, Andrey Kuznetsov had not bad results from time to time and even Evgeny Donskoy once beat Roger Federer. In general, there weren’t a lot of reasons to talk about Russian men’s tennis in positive ways.” She explained.
“Now everything’s changed. Medvedev, Khachanov and Rublev are pushing each other to the best results. After few years of silence Russian men’s tennis is on top. It even seems like things are going too fast sometimes. But it is great and a reason to be proud of these guys.”

There is no doubt in her mind that during the remainder of the season Russia’s focus will be on the men. Although that isn’t to suggest that Russian women’s tennis are in a crisis with 11 players currently inside the top 100.

“Though I do believe Dasha (Kasatkina) will bring her best tennis back, Svetlana Kuznetsova is flying high and Veronika Kuderetova can improve, the Russian young men are the ones Who’ll make best results in 2019.” Said Nikulashkina.

US Open dreams

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With the Big Three maintaining a strong hold on the ATP Tour, it would still require an exceptional performance for somebody such as Khachanov, Medvedev or Rublev to triumph at the big events. In fact, in the Open Era only one Russian man has ever contested a final at the US Open. That was Marat Safin, who claimed the title back in 2000.

Perhaps the best chance lies with Medvedev given his recent surge in form and his at times kamikaze-like serving where he blasts his second serve no matter what.

“I’m sure I can win a Masters because I just did it, but winning a Grand Slam is different. At this moment I haven’t been in the quarter-final yet.” The world No.5 recently admitted.
“I will try to do my best to win everything, but at this moment I need to take it step by step and just become better player every day.” He added.

According to Nikulashkina Medvedev has a history of peaking too early before a grand slam. Citing 12 months ago as an example when he won the Winston-Salem Open before losing in the US Open third round to Borna Coric. So far in his career, Medvedev has played in 11 grand slam main draws. He has only managed to win back-to-back matches in four of those with his best run being to the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.

“Last year Daniil won Winston Salem before US Open and was absolutely out of gas in round three match against Coric.” She points out.
“He had good results on clay this spring (Monte-Carlo SF, Barcelona F) and lost in 5 in French Open first round.’
“I hope one week will be enough for him to recharge physically and mentally, but I have some concerns he’ll not be able to go that far. But I’ll be glad to be mistaken.”

Living in the shadows

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It remains to be seen what the future careers of Medvedev, Khachanov and Rublev will bring. Some are hopeful that they can match or even potentially excel the achievements of previous stars from their country. Including Safin and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who are the only Russian men to win a major title in singles during the Open Era.

These comparisons are inevitable and occur around the world. One example being those tipping Coco Gauff to become the next Serena Williams. It is always an honour to be compared with a legend of the sport, but it also has it drawbacks.

“I actually feel sorry for young players sometimes because every time they are named the “second Safin” and “new Kafelnikov”. Nikulashkina told Ubitennis.
”No doubt that Evgeniy and Marat had wonderful and successful careers and no one could repeat the results since, but young players are not allowed to be themselves – just Rublev, Khachanov and Medvedev. I know the guys are working very hard to have the results they have. And all of them are very dedicated. And they are very talented and have potential to win big things, but I actually I don’t see any of them winning a Grand Slam right now.’
“Maybe in the next few years with hard work and the same dedication to tennis and improving their game and mentality it could be possible.”

Should Russia get a male grand slam champion in the coming years, it will be a test for the popularity of the sport. The country has an extensive and highly respected reputation in tennis, but is by far not the most popular sport. When Simona Halep won the Wimbledon Championships, she returned back to Romania and had a special stadium event in her honour. Was that to happen in Russia, Nikulashkina believes the outcome would be somewhat different.

“The interest in tennis is growing but maybe not as fast as all of us want. Football, MMA fighting, figure skating even in off-season and even volleyball national teams matches attract more attention than tennis. I do not see the situation of Halep/Romania can be repeated in Russia right now. If one the guys win a Grand Slam 30000 people will not come to congratulate him.”

The US Open will get underway on Monday. Medvedev will be seeded fifth and Khachanov ninth. Rublev will not be seeded.

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Andrea Gaudenzi recognizes the contribution of the Italian Tennis Federation in staging the Internazionali d’Italia

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ATP President and former Italian tennis player Andrea Gaudenzi spoke in an interview to Italian TV channel Supertennis about staging the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome before the French Open and recognised the contribution of the Italian tennis Federation (FIT) in staging the tournament in the Italian capital. 

 

The Rome ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier 5 tournaments will be held from 20th to 27th September one week before the French Open (27th September to 11th October). 

“We are grateful to everyone, holding an event this year is difficult from an organizational and financial point of view. We thank the Italian Federation and those who organize the Challengers. Italy is making a great contribution. I think the players are waiting for the BNL Internazionali d’Italia. The Foro Italico is among the most beautiful venues in the world. Rome is splendid in September”, said Gaudenzi. 

During his tennis career Gaudenzi scored wins over Roger Federer in Rome 2002, Pete Sampras in the first round of the 2002 French Open, Jim Courier in the 1994 US Open, Goran Ivanisevic, Thomas Muster, Michael Stich and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Gaudenzi claimed three ATP titles in Casablanca in 1998, St. Poelten and Bastad in 2002. He graduated in law at the Bologna University and obtained a MBA with Honours at IUM.

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The Trial Has Ended: David Ferrer Is Now A Head Coach Of Alexander Zverev

The former French Open finalist is set to become a regular face on the men’s Tour once again but in a differnt capacity.

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By Emil Evtimov

David Ferrer is the new head coach of Alexander Zverev alongside his father Alexander Sr. The news was revealed by the world No.7 after his win against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in Nice.

 

In the beginning of July Zverev announced that he and Ferrer will work together on a trial basis for two weeks in Monte Carlo. Now the German confirmed that the former world No.3 and Roland Garros finalist will be on his side as a coach at least until the end of the year. 

“The trial period is over. We are together. We understand each other great and now we are a team,” said Zverev.

Ferrer won’t be the first prominent name in team Zverev. Previously the three-time Masters 1000 champion worked with Juan Carlos Ferrero and Ivan Lendl. Since the end of his relationship with Lendl, Zverev has been trained mainly by his dad.

“David and my father are both my head coaches now. My dad doesn’t get any younger. Both are extremely important for the team.”

For Ferrer this will be the first coaching experience. His playing career ended in May 2019 during the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid with his last opponent on the court being none other than Zverev.

For quite a long time Zverev was considered the big star from the young generation but in 2019 was a bit overshadowed by players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and  Daniil Medvedev.

The German began 2020 with a great performance at the Australian Open reaching the semifinals where he lost to Dominic Thiem in four sets.

Zverev is on the entry list for the first tournament after the pandemic – the Western & Southern Open which will be staged in New York to create a “protective bubble” for the US Open. The 23-year old talks also about the Grand Slam tournament, saying he would prefer it not to happen, although he is going to play at this point.

“It is a bit crazy to play the US Open now. I would prefer if it would not happen and we just restart in Europe. Because of the pandemic it is not the right time to fly. But when they host the open – what shall we played do? Especially when everyone plays’ it is about ranking points, too. At this point I didn’t think about withdrawing. If everyone reacts within hygiene rules and it will be similar to the NBA bubble it could work out.”

Zverev was one of the tennis players most criticized for his behaviour during the pandemic. The reason was his participation in the Adria Tour where he and his colleagues weren’t following the social distancing rules very strictly. The German gave a negative test for COVID-19 after finding out about the positive test of Grigor Dimitrov. He promised to be in quarantine for safety reasons but was seen partying a few days after. This caused a criticism from Nick Kyrgios, as well as a Twitter war between the Australian and German legend Boris Becker.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas opens up: “I Wasn’t Sure If I Was Good Enough”

Stefanos Tsitsipas reflects on how hard it was in the beginning of his pro career.

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BY EMIL EVTIMOV

 

In the latest instalment of “Behind the Racquet” world No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas has shed light on the personal struggles he encountered whilst breaking into the sport.

Tsitsipas had a great 2019 season, climbing from N.15 to N.6 at the end of the year after winning the Nitto ATP Finals, as well as two ATP 250 tournaments in Estoril and Marseille. He also reached the final of the Madrid Open.

However, life wasn’t always so easy for the charming Greek. In his “Behind the Racquet” post, he recalls the times when he was playing Futures while doubting that he was good enough to play professional tennis. He admitted he was feeling “very lonely” and not having many friends on the ATP tour.

Here is the Tsitsipas story in the “Behind the Racquet”:

“In 2018, I broke into the Top 15 and was seeded in Grand Slams. That’s when I understood my potential. In the beginning, I traveled with only my dad. Now, I travel with my dad, mom, and three siblings. I’m the main source of income for my family. 

I have hobbies that keep me interested in different aspects of life. These activities keep me creative and are reflected in my tennis game and presence on court. Sometimes, I post things on my social media that not many people understand. These posts express my inner creativity. I’m just trying to be different from the rest. I put Stefanos’ twist on life. I am philosophical, I come from a country with a history of philosophy and I don’t know if I was Pythagoras or Socrates in my previous life, but I wouldn’t mind being either one. 

There was a time when I wasn’t doing well. I started to play futures and was doubting myself. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to play professional tennis. My country was going through hard times. Greece was on the verge of bankruptcy. The entire population was suffering. My father’s siblings were unemployed and couldn’t feed their families. People looked at me like I was the one ruling the country and they thought I was part of the problem. 

I felt isolated. I wasn’t home to see what was going on because I was traveling. I needed support. My mental coach shared his wisdom and inspired me. Then I said to myself, ‘You’ve dedicated your entire life to tennis, you can’t just give up. You’ve got to keep going.’ I play tennis to prove that my country has a great history and can achieve success. Tennis is a very introverted sport and we face everything alone. We have a team that follows us all over the world but I have spent countless sleepless nights on my own. All the traveling and competing causes a lot of stress and I grew very lonely.

I was an introverted child and I didn’t have many friends. When I first started playing on tour, I thought I would develop friendships but it turned out to be the opposite. Most players keep to themselves. I feel like players don’t want to become friends because they think someone will grab a secret from you to beat you. I guess they’re just too serious about the whole thing. Friends would make traveling less lonely.”

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