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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Living In The Moment Pays Off For Garbine Muguruza At The Australian Open

The former world No.1 speaks out about the factors behind her winning run at the Australian Open.

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Garbine Muguruza - Australian Open 2020 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

Tennis can be a very technical sport with a lot of planning and preparation needed at times. Although for Garbine Muguruza the less she thinks the better she performs at the Australian Open.

 

It is hard to argue with the approach taken by the two-time grand slam champion given her resurgence at the tournament. On Wednesday Muguruza disposed of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3, to reach her first major semi-final since the 2018 French Open. It is also the first time she has ever reached the last four in Melbourne Park. Although the Spaniard admits that there is room for improvement after hitting 21 winners along with 21 unforced errors in her latest encounter.

“At the beginning of the match I wasn’t feeling so good and said to myself that I had to find a solution.” Muguruza said during an interview with Eurosport Spain.
“I felt better, used my mind and my mentality to stay focused. Even if you’re feeling bad, it doesn’t matter.”

The breakthrough comes after what was a roller-coaster 2019 season for the former world No.1. During that year she split with long-term coach Sam Sumyk, exited the world’s top 20 for the first time in four years and at one stage won just one match in six tournaments played. So what has triggered the revival of Muguruza?

Besides a reunion with Conchita Martinez, who was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week, it is her mental approach to the tournament. It is no longer a case of looking ahead, but just taking it day-by-day. The Australian Open is the first major she has been unseeded in since 2014.

“I came not feeling great. I wasn’t really thinking, How far will I go? I had enough already thinking, How will I go practice today?” She said.
“I took every day at a time. Like that, each day I was gaining a better feeling instead of getting frustrated thinking in the future.”

One journalist during her press conference described Muguruza’s revival as ‘coming back from a coma two years ago.’ A phrase the Spaniard didn’t completely agree with. Between 2016-2018 the 26-year-old won four out of her seven WTA titles. Including both the French Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2017).

“I think a ‘coma’ is a pretty strong comment.” She replied.
“I would say I think those years were less successful if you compare them to my previous years. That’s how I see it. I don’t see it at all as a coma. I just think you struggle as a player, and there is moments where things don’t go your way.’
“You just have to be patient and go through the rough moments, just hang in there and it will come back again.”

Patience, as well as discipline, could be key in her upcoming semi-final clash with Simona Halep, who reached the final of the Australian Open two years ago. She leads their head-to-head 3-2, but lost their only grand slam encounter at the 2018 French Open in straight sets.

“I think it will be a tough match. I think that no matter when you play top five, it’s always deep in a tournament. It’s a semifinal, so of course I’m expecting a big player.” Muguruza previewed.
“I think she’s (Halep) a very solid player. She plays very consistency through all these years.” She added.

Muguruza’s upcoming semi-final clash with Halep will take place on Thursday. The last Spanish woman to reach the title match in Melbourne Park was her coach Martinez back in 1998.

The head-to-head between Muguruza and Halep

  • 2018 French Open, clay, SF, Halep 6-1 6-4
  • 2017 Cincinnati, hard, F, Muguruza 6-1 6-0
  • 2015 Stuttgart, clay, R16, Halep 3-6 6-1 6-3
  • 2015 Fed Cup Week 1, hard, R1, Muguruza 6-4 6-3
  • 2014 Wuhan, hard, R2, Muguruza 2-6 6-2 6-3

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(VIDEO) Novak Djokovic Makes Tearful Tribute To Mentor Kobe Bryant After Australian Open Win

The world No.2 pays his respect to ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’ on the Rod Laver Arena.

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Novak Djokovic posing for a photo ahead of his quarter-final match with Milos Raonic at the Australian Open (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

World No.2 Novak Djokovic shed tears following his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic after paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

 

The 16-time grand slam champion took to the Rod Laver Arena wearing a green zip-up top. On the top right of his jacket with Bryant’s initial along with the numbers 8 and 24. The jersey numbers Bryant worn throughout his 20-year NBA career with the LA Lakers. A love heart was also placed under the numbers on Djokovic’s top.

“’I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise.” An emotional Djokovic said during his on-court interview with John McEnroe on Tuesday.
‘He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he inspired myself and many other people around the world. I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.’
‘When I needed some advice and support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.’

Bryant was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. As an athlete, he achieved numerous milestones. Including being named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medallist and played in 18 All Star Games.

Just days before Bryant’s death, Djokovic spoke about their friendship during an interview with ESPN. Praising him for the support he received during his elbow injury and fall in the rankings during 2017 and the start of 2018. Reflecting on the conversations the two have had, he said he received some ‘valuable guidance.’

“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.”

Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

The tribute can be watched below (from 00:30 to 01:40)

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Novak Djokovic Books 50th Meeting With Federer At Australian Open

The world No.2 is closing in on a record eighth title at Melbourne Park.

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Defending champion Novak Djokovic withstood 18 aces from Milos Raonic to set up a semi-final showdown with Roger Federer at the Australian Open.

 

Besides an issue with his contact lenses the 16-time grand slam champion was in solid form throughout his 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1), win over the world No.35. Who was contesting a grand slam quarter-final match for the first time since Wimbledon 2018. Despite Raonic’s renowned thunderous serve, Djokovic’s defensive abilities enabled him to thwart the threat posed in convincing manner. In total, the world No.2 fire 29 winners to 14 unforced errors. Although it wasn’t entirely straight forward with the him only being able to convert two out of 16 break point opportunities.

“I felt great on the court. I was very focused.  The first couple of sets went the way I wanted them to go. One break was good enough. I was comfortable serving, which is very encouraging.” Djokovic evaluated of his latest performance.
“Playing against Milos I knew that two key elements in the game would be the return and how efficiently I hit my spots with my serve.’
“I was fortunate to get out of trouble in the third (set) and played a perfect tiebreak. It was a great performance.” He added.

Heading into the match Djokovic said there was one thing which separates Raonic from fellow fast servers John Isner and Ivo Karlovic. That was that he found it easier to read the serve of the Canadian. This was evident during the opening set with the Serbian having numerous chances to break his rival, who had only faced seven break points in his four previous matches in Melbourne.

In Djokovic’s case eight break points came and went for him before he secured a breakthrough at the best possible time. Leading 5-4, back-to-back forehand errors from Raonic enabled the second seed to break for the first time and subsequently take the 6-4 lead after 54 minutes of action.

Gaining in momentum, the former world No.1 struck again four games into the second frame. This time it was a winning forehand pass from Djokovic that granted him yet another break for a set and 3-1 lead. Raonic continued to battle hard, but he was unable to find a way to break down the solid game of his rival. A 190km/h serve out wide forced the Canadian to return the ball into the net and grant Djokovic the two-set lead.

Closing in on the victory, he continued to face resistance from Raonic. Who mixed up his tactics to pose more of a threat. However, proceedings were then halted at 4-4 in the third set after Djokovic encountered an issue with his contact lenses. Unexpectedly triggering a medical time-out.

“I was to apologise to Milos because it was definitely not something you see very often.” Said Djokovic. “It was not intentional or tactical. It was just something I had to do because during those games I couldn’t see much. And I had to change my lenses. “

Returning to the court, Djokovic continued to weather the storm in what turned out to be a one-sided end to the match. A faltering Raonic resulted in him valiantly winning 11 out of the last 12 points played. Storming through the third set tiebreaker, he clinched victory after a backhand shot from his rival crashed into the net.

Djokovic’s win means that he will take on Federer next. The Swiss star suffered an injury scare during his marathon five-set encounter with Tennys Sandgren, which lasted just over three-and-a-half hours. Something he later described as ‘pain and problems’ but not an injury in his press conference. Despite questions over Federer’s current form, Djokovic is taking nothing for granted.

“I have tremendous respect for Roger and everything he achieved in this sport. He’s one of the all-time greats and has been one of my two biggest rivals.” He said.
“I’ve been saying this many times, but I will say this again: The match-ups against Roger and Rafa (Nadal) has made me the player I am today. I am very grateful for many great matches against those guys.”

Djokovic leads Federer 26-23 in their head-to-head and has won all four of their grand slam meetings since 2015. It will also be the fifth time the two have locked horns in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Out of those encounters, Djokovic has won four of them.

-2016 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 61 62 36 63
-2011 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 763 75 64
-2008 Australian Open SF: Djokovic won 75 63 765
-2007 Australian Open SF: Federer won 62 75 63

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