Focus On Tennis, Not Politics: Former Legends Back Inaugural ATP Cup Amid Ongoing Dispute - UBITENNIS
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Focus On Tennis, Not Politics: Former Legends Back Inaugural ATP Cup Amid Ongoing Dispute

The brand new tennis event sparks excitement, intrigue and yet more uncertaincy for the future of men’s team tennis.

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The launch of the Davis Cup at the 2018 ATP Finals

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.

https://twitter.com/ATPCup/status/1194733806344912896

It’s not perfect, but it will do for now

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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.”

https://twitter.com/ATPCup/status/1194953773313081345

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.

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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