An Idiots Guide To Saudi Arabia's Extravagant Diriyah Tennis Cup - UBITENNIS
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An Idiots Guide To Saudi Arabia’s Extravagant Diriyah Tennis Cup

Here is everything you need to know about the newest event in the world of tennis.

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Today marks the birth of a brand new off-season event taking place in the Middle East.

 

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is the first ever international tennis competition to be hosted in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. A total of eight players on the men’s tour will feature in the multi-million dollar tournament, which has a prize money pool of $3M. It is part of the country’s drive to establish themselves as a sporting powerhouse in the world. Just last week Saudi Arabia hosted Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight fight against Andy Ruiz.

“The Diriyah Tennis Cup can inspire new players and new fans in Saudi — male, female, old or young. Our goal is to have our people engaged in tennis, inspired by tennis, taking part in tennis and connected as a nation by the sport.” Said Prince Abdul Aziz.

Whilst there is hype surrounding tennis’ latest event, just over a year ago Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was heavily criticised for planning to play an exhibition match there before cancelling it. At the time the country was implicated in the killing of a prominent journalist in one of its own embassies. Prompting widespread condemnation. Saudi Arabia have also been criticised for their poor human rights record.

Here is everything you need to know about the tournament.

Where it is being played?

Diriyah is where the tennis stars will grace their presence. It is a town located to the north west of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The newly built Diriyah Arena, which is where the tournament takes place, has a footprint of 10,000 square meters. It took only two months to build and holds a capacity of up to 15,000. It is the same venue where Joshua’s ‘clash of the dunes’ boxing match took place last weekend.

Who is taking part?

For a brand new tournament, organisers have done exceptionally well to attract top names to the venue. The only former grand slam champion to take part is Stan Wawrinka. However, he isn’t the highest ranked player in the field. That honour belongs to world No.5 Daniil Medvedev, who enjoyed a meteoric rise during the second half of this year. Other top 20 players include David Goffin, Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils. The full list of entrants are the following :-

  • Daniil Medvedev RUS (WR 5)
  • Gael Monfils FRA (WR 10)
  • David Goffin BEL (WR 11)
  • Fabio Fognini ITA (WR 12)
  • Stan Wawrinka SWI (WR 16)
  • John Isner USA (WR 19)
  • Lucas Pouille FRA (WR 22)
  • Jan-Lennard Struff GER (WR 35)

What is the prize money and format?

The ability to attract a world-class field was substantially enhanced by the generous prize money that is available for those taking part. The winner exits with a payment of $1 million. To put that into perspective, Nick Kyrgios earned $384,120 for winning the Citi Open in Washington. An ATP 500 event. Even the quarter-finalist starts on $125,000.

BREAKDOWN
Quarter-finalist $125,000
Semifinalist: $250,000
Finalist: $500,000
Winner: $1,000,000

Final Consultation round: $100,000
Winner: $200,000

The structure of the tournament is similar to that of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which started back in 2009. Held over three days, the knockout tournament will begin from the quarter-finals onwards. Consolation rounds (players who lost their previous matches) will also be taking place.

The order of play

Fognini’s clash with Isner will be the first ever match to be played at the event on Thursday. All four quarter-final matches will be played on the first day, followed by the semi-finals and final. On day two and three the consolation matches will be played.

Day 1 schedule

CENTER COURT start 04:00 pm local time
F. Fognini (ITA) vs J. Isner (USA)
G. Monfils (FRA) vs S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 8:00 pm
D. Medvedev (RUS) vs J. Struff (GER)
D. Goffin (BEL) vs L. Pouille (FRA

Why is a separate exhibition match taking place?

In a bid to showcase national talent, an exhibition match will take place on the last day of the competition. It will feature little-known player Ammar Al-Haqbani. The son of American-based diplomat Faleh Haqbani and a regular member of his country’s Davis Cup team.

“The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will have a significant impact on tennis in Saudi, especially for local tennis lovers and young talents who want to be professionals.” Al-Haqbani told arabnews.com.
“Watching closely as these big names compete at the Diriyah Arena will be a huge inspiration for them to work more and build their professional path in order to compete on the global stage in the future.”

His opponent will be former top 100 player Michael Mmoh, who was born in Saudi Arabia. His father was a part-time coach for the country’s Davis Cup team and his mother worked as a nurse. He moved to America at the age of 13.

“Having some of the best players in the world coming to the Kingdom can really inspire new fans to pick up a racquet and get on a court for the first time and play this great game.” Said Mmoh.

The exhibition match will be the first to be played on Saturday.

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Tour Suspension Will Benefit Novak Djokovic More Than Nadal And Federer, Claims Woodbridge

The former world No.1 doubles player explains why he thinks Djokovic will benefit more than his rivals.

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Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge believes the current suspension of tennis could have a silver lining for Novak Djokovic and his bid to claim the greatest of all time honour.

 

On Wednesday it was confirmed that all professional tennis tournaments have been suspended until at least July due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision came shortly after Wimbledon was forced to axe their event for the first time since 1945. Prior to the suspension, Djokovic started 2020 unbeaten by winning 18 matches in a row. During that period he guided Serbia to the ATP Cup title, won a record eighth Australian Open title and triumphed at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Now with the tour being brought to a halt, some are speculating as to what the implications could be on the prestigious Big Three. A trio featuring Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Between them they have won 52 out of the last 60 grand slam tournaments.

Woodbridge believes Djokovic is in the best situation because of his age. At the age of 32 he is younger than both Nadal (33) and Federer (38). Although neither of those players are planning to retire from the sport just yet.

“Because of the uncertainty, it makes it hard to see how the three can dominate when they come back because of the age of Roger and Rafa,” Woodbridge told Yahoo Sport Australia.
“It also puts more pressure on Rafa and it changes all of those storylines that were on the table for 2020.
“For Novak, it may come at a good time in his career to actually rejuvenate him again, give him another big burst.
“So if anything, this period helps him the most.”

The biggest question mark surrounds Federer, who recently underwent knee surgery and will turn 39 in August. However, the Swiss Maestro has recently confirmed that he intends to play the 2021 season after pledging to return to the court in Halle. One of the grass-court tournaments that has been cancelled this year.

“We experience difficult times, however, we will arise from it strengthened. Already today I am glad and excited about my return to Halle next year.” He said.

Although Woodbridge believes the suspension will hinder Federer’s dream of extending his record-breaking grand slam tally of 20 titles. He last won a major at the 2018 Australian Open. However, since then Federer has only reached a grand slam final in one out of seven attempts.

“The less match play that you get in this period at that age, it’s so much harder to come back and recover once you start again.” Woodbridge explained.
“So I really think that post-2020 will be a new era of people trying to create records because it’ll have really have broken up a great period in tennis.
“It has stopped the potential, I think, of Federer winning one or two more.
“It becomes very highly unlikely for him.”

Djokovic heads the world rankings with a 370-point lead over second place Nadal. Federer is currently in fourth position behind Dominic Thiem.

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Grigor Dimitrov – ‘Tennis Is A Microscopic Thing In The World Right Now’

The world No.19 speaks out about how he is coping during the tour suspension.

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Former grand slam semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov has become the latest player to urge the governing bodies of tennis to make a united decision regarding when play will resume again.

 

The ATP and WTA Tours are currently suspended until June due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although it is likely that the suspension will be extended further with rumours that Wimbledon will be cancelled for the first time since the second world war later this week. Dimitrov’s last tournament was at the Acapulco Open in Mexico, where he reached the semi-finals before losing in straight sets to eventual champion Rafael Nadal.

“Tennis is a microscopic thing in the world right now. The ATP supervisors I’ve talked to in recent days have a variety of theories, but for the time being, we can really only guess if we’re being honest.” Tenniskafe quoted Dimitrov as saying during an interview with bTV.
“The tournaments are cancelled, but we have a big luxury in tennis – there is always next week. Yes, it is very difficult right now, you have seen the Olympics cancelled. The only thing that is at the forefront is to go through this situation we are in, and then start rebuilding. “

The world No.19 is currently residing in California during the lockdown. Describing the situation where he is as ‘more casual’ compared to other parts of the world. California is where the Indian Wells tennis tournament was set to take place earlier this month before it was cancelled.

“In my opinion all federations and players, no matter what rank they are, must come together and make a general decision. Because it’s really not easy at the moment to talk to everyone about points, tournaments, competitions … But now other things are really more important – to be safe, to be healthy and to go through this thing.” He said.

During the suspension, the 28-year-old is keeping himself busy in other ways. Recently he has signed up for an online course with Harvard Business School. Becoming the latest of a series of players to do so. He also manages to keep in touch with his fellow rivals on the tour thanks to the world of social media.

“One of the first players I wrote to was Fabio (Fognini) because he was in Italy. Everyone is on Instagram, we know everyone what they do every minute.”

When the restrictions related to the pandemic comes to an end, Dimitrov has vowed to return back to Europe as he outlines the first thing he would do.

“I just want to go back to Europe. Whether it will be in Bulgaria or in Monaco – I do not know. I certainly want to go home, gather all my relatives and just spend time together. I’ve been in the US for over a month now. As things currently look, there will certainly be another two months. Hopefully it will be faster, but I just want to go home and be with my loved ones.” He concluded.

In the fight against Covid-19 in his home country, Dimitrov has made a donation to a hospital in Haskovo. The city where he was born.

Dimitrov has started the 2020 season with a win-loss record of 7-5. Besides his run to the semifinals in Acapulco, he also reached the second round at the Australian Open and Rotterdam. He has been ranked as high as third in the world.

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Tennis Could Be Suspended For ‘A Long Time,’ Warns Millman

The top 50 player isn’t expecting to play on the tour anytime soon.

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Australian player John Millman has indicated that he believes the current suspension of the ATP Tour is all but certain to be extended in the coming weeks.

 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, both the ATP and WTA Tour have been suspended until at least June 8th. Although those in change of both of those governing bodies have previously admitted they are uncertain as to when play will resume. ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has said that ‘it is unknown at this time’ as to when men’s tournaments will resume. Meanwhile, Steve Simon has echoed a similar view during an interview with The Tennis Channel.

Speaking about the current situation, world No.43 Millman said the sport is in a difficult situation due to its global reach with both tournaments and players based around the world. For example the Australian started his season by playing four tournaments in four different countries across three continents within five weeks.

“We’re going to have to be pretty unified in terms of our recovery process before the tour can resume,” Millman told The Age.
“Maybe the tournament location has got the COVID-19 situation under wraps and then manage to contain it, but if someone’s flying in from South America, say, and their country hasn’t got a hold of it, then the tournament can’t (go ahead).
“You can’t have the tournament going when only certain players can get there. I think that’s
where the problems lie.”

The 30-year-old didn’t speculate as to when he and his rivals will be returning to the court, but believes it could be a while. During the coming week the fate of Wimbledon will be decided at an emergency meeting. The All England Club is pondering the motion of cancelling this year’s tournament. A move that has never been taken during peacetime. Wimbledon has been scrapped a total of 10 times during the first and second world wars.

“It’s almost like we have to have a vaccine or the virus has to run its course before there’ll be any let-up there.” Millman commented.

Besides trying to maintain fitness, many players like Millman are in a difficult situation financially due to a lack of income. He has managed to earn $290,705 on the tour this year before the suspension. This is the 44th highest total on the men’s tour. In total, 131 players have surpassed the $100,000 mark. Although the earnings don’t take into account travel costs, coaching, accommodation and so on.

“I just can’t see us playing tennis for a long time and now it’s a matter of trying to stay (the) fight, trying to scrape by a little bit while not much is coming in,” he said.
“You’re used to a bit of money coming in and obviously that’s not the case anymore. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s just not easy. You try and make do.
“But I don’t want to be a sob story, that’s for sure, because I know Australians are doing it a lot tougher than me.”

Millman reached the third round of the Australian Open earlier this year before losing to Roger Federer in a five-set thriller.

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