Rankings Winners And Losers: Novak Djokovic Returns To The Top, Sofia Kenin Breaks New Ground - UBITENNIS
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Rankings Winners And Losers: Novak Djokovic Returns To The Top, Sofia Kenin Breaks New Ground

Ubitennis looks at the biggest movers in the ATP and WTA rankings following the conclusion of the Australian Open.

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2020 Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The Australian Open has come to an end and there has been some noticeable moves in the world rankings by both veterans as well as rising stars of the game. On the other hand some players now face the prospect of battling to regain some footing on the tour following a series of disappointing losses.

 

Here is a breakdown of this week’s top movers and fallers.

Novak back on top

Novak Djokovic has once again returned to the world No.1 spot for the first time since November. Overtaking rival Rafael Nadal in the process. It is his 276th week in the position and he now has a 325-point lead over his nearest rival. Compared to two weeks ago, the same players are in the top five. However, Melbourne finalist Dominic Thiem overtakes Daniil Medvedev into fourth spot.

“Novak has had a faultless start to the season, leading Serbia to victory at the ATP Cup and capturing a record eighth Australian Open crown. He has proven yet again that he is the man to beat and his record in Australia is second to none. Many congratulations to Novak and his team on such impressive start to the year and his deserved return to World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.”ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.

Elsewhere, Nick Kyrgios has risen six places to 20th following his run to the fourth round of the Australian Open. Where he was knocked out by Nadal. It is the first time the Australian has been inside the top 20 since August 2018. He has been as high as 13th back in 2016.

Tennys Sandgren has achieved the biggest jump in the top 100 after rising 44 places from 100 to 56. The 28-year-old reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in what was his joint-best performance ever achieved at a grand slam. He also reached the quarter-final of the same tournament back in 2018. He was knocked out of the tournament by world No.3 Roger Federer.

Sandgren is one of only three players to rise 10 or more places in the top 100. The other two are Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics (67 to 53) and America’s Tommy Paul (80 to 70).

At the other end of the spectrum, Frances Tiafoe has fallen to his lowest position in over a year. Dropping 29 places to 79th in the world. The fall was due to his first round exit at the Australian Open where he was defending quarter-final points from the previous year. He is now the eighth highest ranked ATP player from America.

Tiafoe is one of five players to drop 10 or more places in the top 100:-

The top five fallers:-
No.62 Lucas Pouille FRA – down 38 places (currently injured)
No.79 Frances Tiafoe USA – down 29 places
No.85 Lloyd Harris RSA – down 13 places
No.69 Joao Sousa POR – down 10 places
No.95 Andreas Seppi ITA – down 10 places

Finally, Andrey Rublev is the most high-profile player to achieve a career-best ranking this week. The Russian has risen to 15th in the world as a result of an emphatic start to 2020. After winning titles in Doha and Auckland, he also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open. Another player to reach a new best is Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz at 28th.

Barty still leads the women, But Kenin is on the chase

As for the stars of the women’s game, Ash Barty is still comfortably in the world No.1 spot. The Australian currently has a lead of more than 2000 points against her nearest rival, which is Simona Halep. Both Barty and Halep reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

“It’s disappointing but it’s been a hell of a summer. If you’d have told me three weeks ago that we would have won a tournament in Adelaide and made the semi-final of the Australian Open, I’d take that every single day of the week.” The world No.1 told reporters last week.

Undoubtedly the biggest riser is newly crowned Melbourne champion Sofia Kenin. The 21-year-old has rocketed up the rankings to seventh in the world. Becoming the youngest American woman to crack the top 10 since Serena Williams back in 1999. Although she has already set her sights on one day claiming the No.1 honor.

“I hope so. I would love to; that’s my dream,” she said.
“I want to strive and get there. But baby steps and hopefully it will happen.”

Two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza is another player to rise up the rankings. The Spaniard has risen 16 spots to world No.16. Making it the first time she has been in the top 20 since May. Coached by Conchita Martinez, Muguruza finished runner-up to Kenin in Melbourne.

Ons Jabeur’s impressive run in the Australian Open he enabled her to rise to a ranking high of 45th. The Tunisian recently became the first Arab woman in history to reach the last eight of a grand slam tournament. Jabeur was the last player Caroline Wozniacki played before retiring from the sport.

As for the fallers, Naomi Osaka is on the verge of exiting the top 10 for the first time since August 2018. After failing to defend her title in Melbourne following a second round loss to Coco Gauff (who is now ranked 51st), she has dropped from fourth to 10th in the world. A big contrast to this time 12 months ago where she became the first Asian player in history to become world No.1 in the sport.

The biggest casualty in the top 100 is Danielle Collins, who has gone from 25th to 50th. The American was defending a heavy amount of points in Australia following her semi-final run in 2019. This year she lost in the second round.

Finally, Venus Williams has fallen a further 11 places to 66th. Her lowest position since 2012.

The WTA top 10

  1. Ashleigh Barty (8367 points)
  2. Simona Halep (6101)
  3. Karolina Pliskova (5290)
  4. Elina Svitolina (4775)
  5. Belinda Bencic (4675)
  6. Bianca Andreescu (4665)
  7. Sofia Kenin (4495)
  8. Kiki Bertens (3965)
  9. Serena Williams (3915)
  10. Naomi Osaka (3626)

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Paolo Bertolucci: “I really believe that Federer will continue in 2021”

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Former Davis Cup champion and 1977 Hamburg winner Paolo Bertolucci talked in an interview to the Italian OA Sport website about the tennis calendar changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is affecting the world of sport.

 

Bertolucci said that the decision to cancel Wimbledon and the entire grass season was inevitable.

“I agree with the decision of the ATP to cancel all the tournaments until the grass season. I think that it may be unlikely for the season to resume in 2020. In my opinion tennis has taken the right decision. It was the sport to stop everything, first by blowing the European clay season and then cancelling the grass season too. I believe it would take a miracle if the tennis season will resume with the US hard-court tournaments. It is much more likely that tournaments will be cancelled until at least September. I absolutely do not hope so, but, if the epidemic continues in this way and they cannot find an effective solution in a short term, I think it is difficult to start over. It is true that tennis is not a contact sport, but it about players, who move from one continent to another every week. Travel is the real problem, not so much the game itself. You could opt for closed doors or for a distancing of spectators, but I find that hard. Starting the hard-court season seems an extremely optimistic idea. Doing it in Asia in October is something more realistic, but in the end i would not be surprised if the whole season was cancelled”, said Bertolucci.

Roger Federer was aiming at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but both events will not be held this year. Bertolucci thinks that Federer will continue his career in 2021.

“I really believe that Federer will continue in 2021. At what levels it is difficult to say. At his age, every age counts. While skipping does not make a difference for young people, when you start to cross the 30-32 threshold every year, it gets more and more complicated, even more if get close to 40. This is mainly true for him, a little less for Nadal, even less for Djokovic. It is true that they are great champions and will be able to better manage all these months of inactivity, but inevitably they will pay. On the other hand, young people who would have needed to play many games to accumulate experience will not be able to do it, but I still believe that the gap will decrease”.

 Tsitsipas and Thiem have the potential to take over the top three in the future.

“Thiem has more experience and has been playing at such a high level for five years. Tsitsipas has a good story and comes from a country without a tennis tradition. The Greek player has the potential to win titles on all surfaces. I also like Shapovalov, but he has a risky playing style. Auger Aliassime is a good prospect. Italian fans can have hopes for Berrettini and Sinner. All depends on injuries, because many players will not be able to be consistent at these levels, although they are talented.”

Bertolucci thinks that 2019 Next Gen ATP champion Jannik Sinner will continue his rise in the future after his breakthrough season last year.

“He would have needed to play a lot in 2020, but he is so young that he can even afford to lose a year. He will watch many matches and study tactically. I know he watches one match after another. I have never seen an Italian player reach this level at the age of 18. He must certainly work on every aspect, but he has enormous margins for improvement. He must physically improve, raise the percentage of first serves and the percentage of returns, he must learn to learn new offensive solutions and to know areas of the court that he has not frequented so far. In my opinion he is more suitable for hard court, but he can also play well on clay and on grass, but these are things that he will discover only later in a few years”.

Bertolucci thinks that Matteo Berrettini has the potential to confirm the excellent results that propelled him to his career high of world number 8.

 “Matteo had not so many points to defend in the first half of 2020. The priority for him was to solve his physical problem. For this reason the injury was not a big problem, as he would have had to defend the points that he won in 2019. He worked very hard. I don’t know if he will be able to repeat the results he achieved last year, but he has not reached the top eight by chance”.

 

According to Bertolucci, Italy has a good chance to win the Davis Cup with a full team.

 

“Italy would have a good chance to win this event with the best times. There are not so many teams, which can boast two players, who are close to the top 10 and a good doubles team formed by Fognini and Bolelli. It is necessary that the two singles players are in good shape. Unfortunately that was not the case last year. Italy can win the Davis Cup, if Fognini and Sinner are in form”.

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Tennis In The Time Of Covid-19

There will be tennis again, but along the way there should be memories of triumphs that rise above the challenges that these times engender. Existence can hinge on more than tennis, but the game will survive a pandemic with a lot of patience and ingenuity.

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By Cheryl Jones

It’s April. Tennis hasn’t been cancelled, but it’s been sidelined by something much bigger than the sport itself. The Covid-19 virus has taken center stage. It’s doubtful that Rafael Nadal will be taking his yearly bite out of the Coupe des Mousquetaires, even though Roland Garros has merely been rescheduled for September. Paris’ delay could eventually lead to cancellation, gauging the way things are now. Roger Federer is likely having mixed feelings about the cancellation of most major events that he was planning to skip anyway, having had knee surgery quite recently. Andy Murray has probably been weighing the events of the day, trying to decide if he should retire and become an expert on the rare species of bats that have taken up residence on his property – or maybe not.

 

There’s a likelihood that the stars of the tennis world are doing just what everyone else is doing – sheltering in place, reading that book that’s been on the shelf gathering dust, or maybe like Federer trying to hit balls against a wall to get back into condition. Of course it is snowing and windy and cold in Switzerland this time of year, but as Chaucer once said – time waits for no man. Evidently, not even Roger Federer.

Having a good deal of time on my hands, having read three of those dusty books and missing tennis, my mind began to wander. I thought about others that were confined to their homes, much as I am here in Southern California. Because this was a rather unplanned sequestering, most folks have had to make-do with what they have on hand.

Last week, ESPN, hungry for sports news, where thanks to the virus, none exists, showed Federer hitting balls against a backboard on his private court. I imagined that he had to make sure there were no gut strings involved that would grow gummy in the wet and wild weather. Then I thought, what if his supply of synthetic strings ran low? A crafty guy like Federer would have something on hand. He would have known that he needed to rehab and there should have been a way to make that happen. What better way to get in shape for tennis than with tennis?

I imagined that he called his good friend Rafa and the two of them surely would have chatted about the dilemma Roger was having. He needed to rehab, but he had way too much gut and not enough synthetic string. As problems go, this should have been inconsequential, in the scheme of things, but it wasn’t. They both knew that their livelihood should not depend on the lack of suitable manmade product. The chitchat that the two greats exchanged would have been light and airy – How are the kids? How about the newlyweds? How’s the fishing going? Kids are fine; marriage is fine; fishing isn’t what it once was, but life is good. Wait – fishing… Rafa might have remembered that he left a tackle box in Roger’s huge garage. Recalling the contents, he would have said, “Check the stash of fishing line, No?”

A glimmer of hope would have painted a smile on Roger’s face and off he would go to check the garage for the tackle box. Looking in every crevice of the space that was carefully catalogued and organized for convenience, he might finally have spotted the box. It was filled with hooks and lures. Not much in the way of fishing line, but when he moved the top drawer, there under it all, was a supply of fishing line. It would have been cold out there. Roger would have stuffed his pockets with spools of various test weights. (Fishing line is gauged by the size of fish it could be strong enough to reel in.)

He would have jogged back into the house, thrilled with his find. After all, the sporting goods stores were all on hiatus because the places had been declared non-essential businesses. The thought of that had left him muttering about who made those decisions? But, he would have headed for his stringing machine, hoping all the while for a miracle.

He would have tried the 16-pound test line first. It was easy to evenly string the test racquet he had selected. But when he struck a ball, it nearly sliced the little green orb into pieces. By then, his wife, Mirka would have entered the picture and procured the strangely strung racquet for slicing hardboiled eggs to make uniquely cubed egg salad sandwiches. With those snacks, their four kids would have memories to share with their own children, someday. Who but a child of the father of an invention could have been so lucky?

A determined Roger would have moved on to another test case (or test racquet) then. He would next have tried the 40-pound test. The curly string would have been a clear example of over-kill, but he persevered. After it had seemed satisfactory, the excited Federer would have swiftly donned his outside clothing and ambled to the soggy court. In mere seconds, his racquet would have been immune to the wet, icy air. He would have swatted ball after ball toward his anxious opponent – the wall. Satisfied to having solved his pressing issues, at least for the day, he would have again dialed up his Spanish friend. The line would have crackled and a friendly voice would have answered, No?

Yes! Would surely have been Roger’s reply. The two friends would have marveled at their ability to think outside the box, even though the solution had been in the tackle box all along.

There will be tennis again, but along the way there should be memories of triumphs that rise above the challenges that these times engender. Existence can hinge on more than tennis, but the game will survive a pandemic with a lot of patience and ingenuity.

 

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Neil Stubley: “It is impossible to host Wimbledon in late summer because the courts would become slippery”

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Wimbledon groundsman Neil Stubley explained to the British newspaper that the change of date was not possible at the All England Club. It is impossible to stage Wimbledon in late summer. Wimbledon became the highest-profile tennis tournament to be called off due to the coronavirus. The All England Club confirmed that the 134th edition of the Championships will be held from 28th June to 11th July 2021.

 

According to Stubley it is impossible to host Wimbledon in late summer because the courts would become slippery much earlier than in July. It would shorten the window for matches making it extremely difficult to organize many matches between 11.30am to 17pm.

“In late summer the sun gets lower in the sky. The dew point on the grass arrives earlier and the courts get slippery. The window for play becomes shorter at both ends. As much as it would be lovely to play in late summer and autumn. It’s not possible. We have indeed staged Davis Cup matches in September, but the the play would start at 11.30 or noon and finish by 5pm. Whereas, at the Championships, you are going from 11am until 9 pm every day. To get through 670 matches over 13 matches is a challenge in the height of summer, let alone at other times of the year”, said Stubley.

Stubley said that he will miss the adrenaline rush he gets on the first day of Wimbledon.

 “One of the beauties about my job is that to showcase my work to the world every day. When the eyes of the world are looking to how Centre Court is for that first day of the Championships, it’s always a nervous feeling. It will be a funny feeling, through June and July, not to have that adrenaline rush again”, said Stubley.

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