LONDON: The attention should be on the court and not what is going on in the background. This is the message being stressed by the ATP less than two months before the launch of their latest masterpiece.
The ATP Cup has been billed as an event that has the potential to overshadow the historic 119-year-old Davis Cup. Held over 12 days at the start of January in Australia, 24 teams will lock horns in a group format. Unlike any other current team event, both ranking points and prize money will be up for grabs. A huge attraction for many of the men’s elite during what is a turbulent time in tennis politics.
“I ask you, I know there is lots of talk about tennis politics and all of that sort of stuff, but please get behind this event. I genuinely believe we are all in this business together, trying to sell our sport.” ATP CEO Chris Kermode pleaded during a press conference on Thursday in London.
“This (the ATP Cup) will be global and we want to try to reach new markets by presenting it in a different way.”
The tournament promises to provide a mixture of current stars working with former legends of the sport. The German team will be lead by captain Boris Becker, who was nominated for the role by Alexander Zverev. Under rules of the competition, captains are nominated by the top player from each country after discussions with their fellow teammates.
“Tennis is in a very good place right now. The fact that we have so many new competitions speaks for the interests, speaks for the image and the quality of the players we have.” Said Becker.
“This format gives players a chance to, in one way, represent their country, another way start the year off with a big bang.” He added.
It’s not perfect, but it will do for now
From 2020 there will be three team tournaments taking place on the men’s tour. Besides the ATP Cup, the Davis Cup now has a week-long finale at the end of the season in November. Meanwhile, the Roger Federer-backed Laver Cup occurs shortly after the US Open.
With three team events taking place during what is already a packed calendar, some have questioned the long-term likelihood of these events co-existing. Leading to some of the sport’s biggest names calling for the two of the biggest tournaments to be combined. A far from simple concept given the Davis Cup is run by the ITF, not the ATP. In recent months the two governing bodies have held somewhat tentative discussions with little compromise being reached.
“Of course we need to fix a couple of more things on the tour to make a big, big competition. I think two team tournaments, Davis Cup and ATP Cup in one month, is something that, in my opinion, is not good.” Rafael Nadal commented during the Paris Masters.
“My feeling is that we need to create one big, big competition to stay together. ITF, ATP, that’s a good opportunity to make that happen and we need to make that happen.”
Nadal is not along in his calls. World No.2 Novak Djokovic has also made similar comments. They argue that having one big event will alleviate pressure on the player’s schedule and not have such an impact on what is already a very limited off-season period.
Adavntage ATP Cup
1995 French Open champion Thomas Muster leads the Austrian contingent. He points out that the current date of the new event places it in a stronger position of that held by the Davis Cup. Djokovic and Nadal have both stated their intention to play in the Davis Cup next week. However, Nadal had admitted that he is unsure of how his body will hold. Meanwhile, Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic have both withdrawn due to injury. Furthermore, Federer and Alexander Zverev have opted to play exhibition matches instead of the event.
“That sort of brings back to the conclusion of why certain players are not playing at the end of the year at Davis Cup final.” Said Muster. “It’s just because it’s late in the season, and players are tired and they have played a lot, and there is not much time between now and the new start of the season.”
Fellow former world No.1 and Russian captain Marat Safin also issued the same sentiment. Deciding the ATP Cup as ideal preparation for the Australian Open. A tournament he won back in 2005.
“It’s a perfect setup for this event at the beginning of the year, so all the guys are already in Australia and they want to start with a good step in the new year,” Safin stated.
“Quite interesting placement of the event, the beginning of the year. I think it’s a good choice.”
There is a feeling that at some point, one team event has to give way. Although it is impossible to see which one. It won’t be the newly created ATP Cup, which has a prize money pool of $15 million. The Laver Cup has managed to gain growth within the past three years. Meanwhile, the Davis Cup has received a much-needed investment from Kosmos. Creating a complicated situation in the sport.
“Is this the perfect scenario? No.” Admits Becker. “But I don’t want to talk about the politics in tennis. I think we are here today to speak about a new competition, a new venture, a new event, which is great.”
“I’m not responsible for the Davis Cup format, and I’m not responsible for the Laver Cup, either.”
The ATP Cup will officially launch on January 3d.
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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