Ranking Points At The Olympics A Distant Dream For The Men’s Elite - UBITENNIS
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Ranking Points At The Olympics A Distant Dream For The Men’s Elite

Novak Djokovic onced described the Olympics as ‘a fifth grand slam.’ So why are players not being awarded for their performance by their governing body?

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LONDON: 31 years have passed since tennis was reintroduced back into the Olympic Games. Since then the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray have all claimed medals for their countries. Yet the event continues to be plagued by one aspect putting some players off participating. 

 

Points are the holy grail for many on the tour, particularly those lower down in the rankings. They range from one point in Futures events to 2000 for those who triumph in the grand slams. Looking at the Olympic tennis event at-a-glance, it seems common sense that points should be awarded there too. However, it is not as simple as it seems. 

The four-year event is under the jurisdiction of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). A different governing body to that of the ATP. Whilst the two are in a partnership, they still ultimately compete against each other. Something departing ATP CEO Chris Kermode admits is a barrier. 

“It’s (ATP points) the only equity the ATP has.”  Kermode said during a press confrence on Wednesday.
“We tried and we had discussions, but for instance, quite a few of our tournaments in the summer, even the Masters events, suffer from repercussions caused by the Olympics.’
“Was there a way the Olympics compensate those tournaments for points and stuff like that? We had those conversations, but we never got across the line.”

Simon Higson, who is the head of communications for the ATP, has previously echoed a similar sentiment to that of Kermode. Saying there have been ‘collaborative discussions’ with the ITF and International Olympic Committee. Which was previously confirmed to Ubitennis back in April

There appears to be little enthusiasm from either side about the chances of an agreement coming soon. Ubitennis spoke with a representative from the ITF last month. Heather Bowler in their director of communications. Addressing the upcoming 2020 Games in Tokyo, she empathized the ITF’s commitment to continue investment into the event in the future.

”Over the last 30 years, tennis has successfully established itself as an integral part of the Olympic and Paralympic programmes, and the ITF continues to work with the IOC, IPC and other stakeholders to maximise both the athlete and fan engagement and experience.” Said Bowler. 

Whilst working in partnership with those organizations are positive, with regards to the ATP it isn’t so black and white. Illustrated best by their continuous differences over the team tournaments. The newly revamped Davis Cup belongs to the ITF, but from January they will face an annual rivalry from the ATP Cup. 

“No ranking points will be awarded at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Tennis Event, but the ITF will continue to liaise with the ATP and WTA about future Games.” Bowler states without further elaboration.

The irony is that it is the player’s ranking that is used to partly determined their place in the Olympics. Providing they meet their Davis\Fed Cup participation requirements or have launched a successful appeal to the ITF. 

Roger Federer has already announced his intention to play in Tokyo. The 2008 Olympic champion has twice been a flag bearer for Switzerland. For him, the event is like no other with the elevated feel of national pride.

“It is just something completely different to the tour tournaments that we have,” he told CNN in October.
 “Obviously, I do feel like I represent Switzerland wherever I go, it is always Roger Federer from Switzerland. I just feel at the Olympics it is next level.”

Clearly, there is something about the Olympics that attracts the likes of Federer. The feeling of representing your country in a sporting extravaganza that dates back to 1896. It is an event that captures the attention of the world. The 2016 Rio Games attracted a worldwide audience of 5.2 billion TV viewers according to one IOC report.

So with such a milestone event, will an agreement for ranking points eventually occur? 

“I don’t know. You can ask the new man,’ was the discouraging response from kermode. 

Nothing is going to happen soon. The hope now lies with Kermode’s replacement, Andrea Gaudenzi, who played in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Will he work on striking a deal?

Let’s wait and see. 

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Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round

The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.

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Denis Shapovalov - Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.

 

The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.

” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.

Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.

However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.

The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.

The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.

The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.

Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.

After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.

” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.

Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon

For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime (Manuela Davies/USTA)

Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.

 

The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.

The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.

It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.

The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.

The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.

The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.

For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.

Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.

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‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open

Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.

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World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.

 

The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.

Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.

“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.

A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.

O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.

“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”

Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.

“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”

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