Novak Djokovic dedicates his Australian Open title to Kobe Bryant and to bushfire victims in Australia - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic dedicates his Australian Open title to Kobe Bryant and to bushfire victims in Australia

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Novak Djokovic has claimed a record eighth Australian Open at Melbourne Park after a five-set battle against Dominic Thiem. The Serbian star has become the first player in the Open Era to win Grand Slam titles across three decades. He will make his return to world number 1 ranking next week after his triumph in his favourite tournament.

 

During an emotional on court speech Djokovic paid tribute to Los Angeles legend Kobe Bryant, who died with his 13-year-old daughter in a helicopter crash in California, and to the bushfires victims in Australia.

“There were some devastating things that started 2020 with huge bushfires here in Australia, conflicts in some parts of the world, people dying every day. Obviously one person that I considered close in my life and was a mentor to me, Kobe Bryant, passed away as well as his daughter. I would just like to say that this is a reminder to all of us that we should stick together more than ever. We compete and try our best but obviously there are more important things in life and it’s important to be conscious and humble about things that are happening around you”,said Djokovic.

Djokovic has extended his match record to a perfect 13-0 in the 2020 ATP season. He helped Serbia win the first edition of the ATP Cup. He clinched the 900th match win on the ATP Tour when he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the first round in Melbourne en route to his eighth title.

“This is definitely my favourite court. My favourite stadium in the world and I am blessed to hold this trophy once again. I would like to congratulate Dominic on an amazing tournament. It wasn’t meant to be tonight. You were very close to winning. You definitely have a lot more time in your career and I am sure you will get more than one Grand Slam trophy in your career”.

 By winning the 17th Grand Slam title of his career, Djokovic comes closer to all-time leaders Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (19) in the list of the most successful players in the history of the Grand Slam tournaments.

“I am grateful to have an opportunity to win another Australian Open trophy. At this stage of my career, Grand Slam titles are the ones I value the most. They are the ones I prioritize. Before the season starts, I try to set my form, shape for these events where I can be at my prime tennis, mental and physical abilities. There are a lot of stats that obviosly I am proud of, but they can’t dictacte my career. Of course there is a lot of history on the line. I have professional goals. Grand Slams are one of the main reasons why I am still competing and still playing full season, to get the historic number 1. That’s the other big goal. I put myself in this position that is really good at the moment. I am super happy with I started the season. It sets the tone for the rest of the season. There are many things on the tennis court that I can still improve. That excites me and motivates me to go day in, day out with my commitments, with my practice commitments, with my practice sessions, because there is always something to work on. There are always trophies to win”, said Djokovic.

 Thiem: “I really hope that I win my maiden Slam when they are still around”

Thiem, who had beaten Djokovic in four of their five past head-to-head matches coming into the Australian Open final including in the semifinal of 2019 Roland Garros and at the ATP Finals in London, was bidding to become the first new player to win a Grand Slam title since Marin Cilic at the 2014 US Open.

“I definitely gave everything I had. Novak is part of the three guys who are by far the best players ever who played tennis. If you play a Grand Slam finals against him, it’s always going to be a match where very small details are deciding. I could just have converted the breakpoint in the fourth set, where I could have taken the 2-1 lead. I think he had some issues in the second set. He recovered very well. He played really good after in the third and fourth sets. There were some small mistakes here and there, but they are happening. At the end it was a close five-setter”,said Thiem.  

Thiem lost in a Grand Slam final for the third time after finishing runner-up in the past two editions of Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019 to Rafael Nadal.

“Djokovic and Nadal brought tennis to a complete new level. They brought me to a much better level. It was amazing how the matches went this week. It’s great tennis. It’s a great show for everybody. It would be easier for sure in a different era to win big titles, but I am happy that I compete with these guys at the best level. I really hope that I win my maiden Slam when they are still around because the big three are still around”,commented Thiem.

Thiem also paid tribute to the victims of bushfires in Australia after the match.

“It’s very tough what this beautiful country is still going through. I think that the Australian Open was a big distraction, but I still wish that Australia will recover very soon from this tragedy. It’s such a beautiful country, it’s so amazing. I hope that a disaster like this is never happening again”,said Thiem.  

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‘He Did Everything I did, Only Better’ – Pat Rafter Names The Toughest Rival Of His Career

The two-time grand slam champion opens up about his toughest rivalry as he predicts a bleak outlook for the 2020 tennis season.

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Former world No.1 Pat Rafter has named an American tennis legend as the player who he struggled the most against throughout his professional career.

 

The 47-year-old was a star of Australian tennis during his playing days after achieving a series of milestones. His accolades include becoming the first player from his country in 28 years to reach the top of the ATP rankings in 1999 and becoming the first man to win the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Masters and US Open within the same year. Rafter is also the last player outside of the Big Three to have won back-to-back US Open titles after triumphing in 1997 and 1998.

Despite his successes, there was one player that caused him difficulty. Rafter played Pete Sampras 16 times on the ATP Tour, but could only win four of those encounters. At one stage he lost to the 14-time grand slam champion eight times in a row.

“The toughest player I played against was definitely Pete Sampras – he did everything I did, only better.” Rafter told Eurosport.
“His record was the best so there’s no doubt about it Sampras the stand-out. I enjoyed playing Andre Agassi the most – I thought we had a really good battle, I really enjoyed playing him.”

The rivalry between the two was tense at times. Highlighted best by their encounter in the 1998 US Open semifinals. Sampras complained of a quadriceps injury following his loss to the Australian. Prompting Rafter to famously say ‘he’s becoming a bit of a crybaby.’ A few months before that comment, he admitted that his relationship with the American wasn’t solid by saying ‘We’re not the best of mates. I wouldn’t go out for a beer with him, put it that way.’

22 years on from the verbal exchange between the two, Rafter now describes it as a thing of the past. Insisting that his rival never took what he said to him ‘personally.’

“I can’t remember the exact words, but we had a run-in in Cincinnati one year – I probably told him to grow up.” He recounted.
“He cracked it when I beat him one time. But that was back in the old days, emotions were running high and don’t take it personally. It’s all good.”

No tennis in 2020

Besides reminiscing about his playing career with Eurosport, Rafter has also predicted a bleak outlook for this year’s tour. All professional tournaments have been suspended until July 13th due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time since 1945 Wimbledon has been cancelled due to the situation.

Many are now speculating as to when it will be possible for the tour to resume. The US Open is still optimistic that they can hold their tournament as scheduled later this summer. Meanwhile, the French Open is set to be played during the later part of September. However, Rafter doubts that either of those tournaments will happen.

“No, I think this (the virus) is going to be around for a long time.” Rafter commented on the chances of the 2020 season resuming. “Until they get a vaccine I can’t see how anyone is going to be playing.’
“Personally, I think it’ll be like the flu and we’ll have to get used to it.”

Potentially one solution for the tournaments would be to host matches without spectators. In order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. An approach that has already been taken by other sports such as football. However, Wimbledon refused to consider that option this year.

“I think they could. No spectators. Sure. No ball-boys – I’d love to see the players pick up the balls themselves!” he concluded.

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‘Don’t Be Afraid’ – Nick Kyrgios Offers Support To Those Struggling During Covid-19 Pandemic

The bad boy of tennis says he will support those in need by delivering essential supplies.

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Former top 20 player Nick Kyrgios has urged members of the public to reach out to him if they require any help during the covid-19 pandemic in a social media post.

 

The two-time grand slam quarter-finalist has offered to deliver food to those who are struggling during the current crises, which has suspended the ATP and WTA Tours until at least July. It is estimated by economists that more than 500,000 people in Kyrgios’ home country of Australia will lose their jobs due to the outbreak. There have been more than one million cases of the coronavirus worldwide with many countries currently placed in a lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

‘If ANYONE is not working/not getting an income and runs out of food, or times are just tough… please don’t go to sleep with an empty stomach,’ Kyrgios wrote on Instagram.
‘Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I will be more than happy to share whatever I have.
‘Even just for a box of noodles, a loaf of bread or some milk. I will drop it off at your doorstep, no questions asked.’

In Australia there have been 5687 cases of Coronavirus as of Sunday which has resulted in 34 deaths. This is according to figures provided by chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy.

It is not the first time Kyrgios has offered to support those in need. Earlier this year he was an instrumental figure in helping raising money for the Australian bushfire appeal. Donating AUS$200 for every ace produced during the first month of the season and participating in a series of exhibition matches. According to 7 News, Kyrgios raised in the region of AUS$100,000 for the bushfire fund.

Kyrgios is currently ranked 40th in the world and has won six out of his nine matches played earlier this season. At the Australian Open he reached the fourth round before falling in four sets to Rafael Nadal.

 

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Diego Schwartzman On Playing The Big Three And Who He Believes Is The Best

The top-20 player pays tribute to the three tennis legends as he cast his vote in the greatest of all time debate.

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When it comes to taking on the Big Three in tennis, Diego Schwartzman is perhaps one of the best players to provide an insight into how frustrating it can be.

 

The Argentine world No.13 has played a member of the illustrious trio no less than 18 times in his career, but is yet to gain a single victory to his name. Consisting of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the big three have dominated men’s tennis in recent years. Between them, they have won the last 13 grand slams and at least one of them has featured in 58 out of the past 60 major finals. Since February 2004, Andy Murray is the only player outside of the group to have held the No.1 position.

Schwzrtman’s record against the big guns has seen him lose to Nadal nine times as well as succumbing to both Djokovic and Federer on four occasions. Nevertheless, the three-time grand slam quarter-finalist isn’t bitter as he hails their achievements in the sport.

“Against Nadal you always come in hope of giving him a fight on any day and on any surface, but you quickly realize that it is almost impossible to defeat him.” Schwartzman said during an Instagram live chat with journalist Danny Miche.
“Djokovic makes me feel that in the second game of service I no longer have lungs. It’s unbelievable.’
“Federer gives you more air (time), but you don’t seem to know how to play tennis. It’s amazing how he hits the ball.’
“The three are unbelievable, in different ways.”

There is also the ongoing debate as to who should be named the greatest of all time. Each player has their own credentials. Federer currently has the all-time lead for most grand slam titles at 20. Nadal has won more ATP tournaments on the clay than any other player in history. Meanwhile, current world No.1 Djokovic has won more prize money in the sport than any other player – male or female.

Weighing on the debate, Schwartzman has given the edge to Djokovic. Prior to the suspension of the tour due to covid-19, Djokovic started 2020 by winning 18 matches in a row. Claiming titles at the ATP Cup, Australian Open and Dubai Tennis Championships.

“At his best, Djokovic has beaten Rafael Nadal many times on the clay and Roger Federer many times on the grass. So maybe I would say that he is slightly above the other two.” He explained.
“Let’s see if you can reach the records, now it was packed and saw that pace being broken. But Djokovic knows that he has to keep the level, because if he doesn’t win he will win the other two.”

Schwartzman started the year by winning nine out of 14 matches played. His best performance of the season so far took place on home territory when he reached the final of the Cordoba Open before losing to Christian Garin.

The Big Three head-to-head

Djokovic

Nadal

Federer

Djokovic

N/A

29-26

27-23

Nadal

26-29

N/A

24-16

Federer

23-27

16-26

N/A

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