EXCLUSIVE: International Tennis Federation Sheds Light On Coronavirus Fight - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: International Tennis Federation Sheds Light On Coronavirus Fight

Ubitennis has been in contact with an official from the governing body about the threat the worldwide virus poses to the sport.

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The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has told Ubitennis that health and safety of both players and fans is ‘paramount’ as they continue to deal with the evolving threat posed by Covid-19 (aka Coronavirus).

 

Tennis tournaments have been disrupted worldwide by the illness, which has claimed the lives of more than 3000 people. Although experts estimate that the death rate from Covid-19 is roughly 1% with the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions most at risk. Numerous outbreaks around the world have resulted in various ITF, WTA and ATP events getting cancelled or postponed across South Korea, China and Japan. Meanwhile, the final of the Bergamo Challenger was also recently cancelled due to northern Italy being placed on a lockdown.

As experts try to conjure up with a solution to the outbreaks, sporting organisations have been placed under pressure to do what they can to minimise the disease spreading. Heather Bowler is the Executive Director of Communications for the ITF in London. In an email exchange with Ubitennis.net, she stressed that the ITF is taking a ‘case by case’ approach to dealing with the impact of Coronavirus on their events.

“The ITF is constantly monitoring the data and information from the relevant authorities about the evolution the virus and reviews the situation on a daily basis. The situation is different in each country.” She said.
“We monitor WHO notifications, review travel restrictions issued by national authorities and consult with security and medical experts to monitor the situation daily. Decisions about specific events continue to be made on a case by case based on at this time.”

The organisation is responsible for all tournaments that don’t fall in the jurisdiction of either the ATP or WTA. This includes Davis/Fed Cup ties, junior tournaments and the Olympic tennis competition. There has been doubts concerning the Tokyo Olympics going ahead on time, but organisers remain determined that this will not be the case.

Italy has one of the biggest outbreaks of Coronavirus. At least 79 people have died, according an update from the country’s civil protection agency on Tuesday. At present there will be at least 10 ITF singles tournaments taking place from now until the end of April there. Four men’s, four women’s and two juniors. All of the professional tournaments will be hosted in Santa Margherita Di Pula, Sardinia. Meanwhile the junior events are set to be played in Florence and Salsomaggiore Terme (Northern Italy).

Despite the threat, the latest stance is that the ITF has no restrictions implemented on those participating in forthcoming events in Italy. Something that could change in the coming weeks.

“We are monitoring the situation on a country by country basis but have not imposed restrictions on players participating in Italian events.” Ubitennis is told.

Italy is expected to host their most prestigious tennis tournament, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia Rome, in May.

Player fears

The uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 outbreak places player’s in an uncomfortable position with many planning months in advance of what their schedule will be. For those ranked outside of the top 100, any last-minute changes will likely result in extra costs and panic about where to play instead.

“If a player makes the decision to withdraw from a tournament citing concerns about COVID-19 they will not be fined.” Bowler stated.

There are ongoing conversations between the ITF and the other governing bodies of tennis concerning the ongoing crises. At present their advice is based on information provided by the World Health Organisation in relation to certain countries. Should it deteriorate any further, there is a chance the ITF could make adjustments to their ‘global policy.’

“We are in regular communication with the ATP and WTA. Currently, the evolution of the virus remains specific to each country and decisions relating to events are made on a case by case basis.” The ITF reiterated.
“We are constantly monitoring the situation and the data provided by WHO, as well as the policies and travel restrictions issued by relevant national authorities, together with advice from expert medical and security advisors. Should the situation evolve and the need arise, we will review a global policy.”

How the ITF could review their global policy is unclear. Although in a worse case scenario, it could advise players against playing in certain countries all together if it was deemed that the threat posed was too substantial.

No fans allowed

This weekend will see countries battle it out in the Davis Cup for a place in the 18-team finals later this year. One of those ties, however will be played in mostly silence with no spectators. Japan will host Ecuador in the city of Miki. In a bid to minimise the Coronavirus threat, organisers have decided to suspend mass gatherings of people. Something that has been seen at other sporting events in the country, which is set to host the Olympics in August.

“Health and safety is paramount. We will make the necessary decisions according to the notifications of the relevant authorities and our expert medical and security advisors. The Japan vs Ecuador tie at the Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki, Japan on 6-7 March will be played without spectators. This decision was taken in consultation with the JTA (Japanese Tennis Association) following advice from Japan Sports Agency and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.”

The problem with Covid-19 is the unpredictability at present. It is thought illness originated from a market in Wuhan, which illegally trades wild animals. As experts get to grip with the science behind the illness, the world of sport is left patiently waiting and hoping for a solution sooner rather than later. Especially for the world of tennis, which hosts numerous top tennis tournaments across Asia during the final quarter of the season.

Despite the mayhem, Bowler is confident that the ITF has the relevant resources to deal with whatever occurs in the future.

“We have dealt with many issues that have had widespread impact and most have their specificities. When dealing with such occurrences, we ensure that we monitor the data closely, remain in close contact with the relevant authorities, constantly monitor and provide information, and, in consultation with the relevant experts ensure we are in the best position possible to make the right decisions about our course of action.” She concluded.

Covid-19 Impact on Tournaments

ATP Challenger Tour
-Anning, China (Week of 20 April 2020) – CANCELLED
-Seoul, South Korea (Week of 27 April 2020 – postponed to August)
-Busan, South Korea (week of 4 May 2020 – postponed to August)
-Gwangju, South Korea (Week of 11 May 2020 – postponed to August)
-Madrid, Spain (Week of 23 March 2020) postponed to October following ATP’s agreement to the club’s request.

Women’s Tour
-WTA Xi’an Open (April 13-19) CANCELLED
-WTA Kunming Open (April 27-May 3) CANCELLED

Davis Cup

-China withdrew from competition in February
-Japan to play Ecuador without spectators

Exclusive

Lorenzo Musetti: “A Year with Few Peaks, but I’ve Improved as a Tennis Player and Physically” [Exclusive]

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Lorenzo Musetti – ATP Sofia 2023 (photo: Ivan Mrankov)

Our correspondent in Sofia interviewed Italian talent Lorenzo Musetti, who is taking on Jack Draper this afternoon

 

Lorenzo Musetti is  the top seed in the ATP  250 that together with Metz closes the season of “regular” tournaments, just before the ATP Finals in Turin. Exempted from the first round, he’s waiting to make his debut in the Bulgarian capital where last year at the beginning of October he was halted in the semifinals by Marc-Andrea Huesler, the future winner of the tournament.  With our correspondent in Sofia, Ivan Mrankov, he compared this season with 2022, but also about the Davis Cup, and Jannik Sinner.

Greetings from Ubaldo. It’s the last tournament, how do you rate your season? Was it maybe less positive than last year when you won two tournaments? But there are improvements in all areas of your game and it’s also normal for younger players to have a less rewarding year after their first breakthrough. Do you feel improved, do you think it was a positive season?”

“It’s not been an easy season, but as you said, it’s also been a season in which I have been settling in. In the middle part I was able to find a very good continuity in terms of results. Of course, it started off a bit badly.  As I had played so much at the end of last season, it was perhaps more complicated to start the new year in high gear. So it took me a while to get going, I played very well from Monte Carlo. Let’s say it was a season with few peaks. Last year, the weeks in Hamburg, Naples, Paris-Bercy were very high in terms of level.”

For sure I feel improved in terms of tennis and physically, I’m working hard, even if people sometimes only see the results but not what’s behind them. It was a season of firsts. Even if we consider the example of Jannik, last year he had a season of adaptation, different from the standards he has displayed on court this year. And I also hope next year to be more focused, more concrete in terms of results, attitude and everything.”

You’re part of the Davis Cup team again this year, so your season will end pretty late. Do you think you’ll be able to prepare better than last year as you have the same amount of time to rest and train? And last question, what do you think your chances for Davis are? Since the USA, Russia, Spain are missing… Our editor wrote that Italy is the favourite along with Djokovic’s Serbia.

“I think other teams as well, like Australia and Canada who won last year. The Davis Cup is a unique event, not always the team with the best ranked players comes out the winner. And the doubles rubber is fundamental. Having Jannik in our team gives us a great hand. I think he’s playing his best tennis right now. I wish him all the best in Turin and that he can join us as late as possible. It’s a huge boost for us.

In terms of preparation, almost all the players have a month, December, to prepare for Australia. Unfortunately, when we all play so much, we have to adapt. We could do with more days off and obviously more weeks to load, work and prepare for the season. But you have to be good at making do with what we’ve got. And also, during the year, we have to specially focus on maintaining injury prevention.”

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ATP

EXCLUSIVE: Coach Gilles Cervara On Medvedev’s Vienna Defeat, Sinner’s Rise And The Future

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Daniil Medvedev and Gilles Cervara - ATP Rotterdam 2021 (via Twitter, @abnamrowtt)

By Federico Bertelli

At the end of the final, once the confetti had settled and the staff began to dismantle the court, Ubitennis exchanged a few words with Gilles Cervara, the coach of Daniil Medvedev, following the conclusion of the Vienna Open. Medvedev was ousted 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3, by Jannik Sinner in a thrilling final. 

 

QUESTION: It was an incredible match, one of the best of the year, what are your immediate feelings?

CERVARA: I’m really disappointed and somewhat angry. However, Sinner played an incredible match. I mean, to score a point against him today was very difficult because at any moment he could hit a winner with one of his “laser shots” as I call them; and even when Daniil managed to hit well and make him run, you got the feeling that he could send the ball back; he managed to defend very quickly and deeply and then turn the momentum of the exchange. And even when Daniil managed to serve good first serves, Sinner responded very well. Daniil was very brave to come back into the match and he also had his chances to win and he really pushed Jannik to the limit; unfortunately, though, in the end, the match went in Jannik’s direction.

QUESTION: It could have really ended with either Jannik or Daniil’s victory; if you had to say, were you more impressed by Jannik’s improvement in the offensive phase or the defensive phase? 

CERVARA: I would say that there have been improvements in every aspect of his game. I’m really happy for him and his team. It’s always a nice thing when you see someone who manages to improve so much and works so seriously. I see them every week for many months and to see the level they are reaching is remarkable. In general, it is rewarding and significant to see the results when one has worked so hard. Then in general, Jannik is good both in defense and in attack. He manages to put so much speed to his shots effortlessly and now he is playing without making the mistakes he did before (the same observation was also made by Medvedev in the press conference). Playing against him now is really a great challenge and even his first serve now is faster. He’s playing better and better in every aspect and winning finals gives great confidence for the future. And in general, it’s good for tennis that there are so many players capable of reaching such a high level.

QUESTION: Can we say then that Jannik has now reached the same level as Daniil, Novak, and Carlos?

CERVARA: Yes, definitely, he’s just started to reach these levels and to win consistently, in big events against top players; the challenge for him will be to confirm himself at this level and in the Grand Slam tournaments; I just hope it doesn’t happen against us (smiling).

QUESTION: This year has been excellent for Daniil, even though there have been some difficulties at the beginning; for example, in Australia, he lost to Korda and for a few weeks even dropped out of the top ten; but then what changed? Was there something that clicked?

CERVARA: That period was difficult; after the Australian Open, it was complicated as a coach; I told Daniil at the time that it was not a disgrace to lose to Korda, who was playing well and perhaps Daniil at the same time was not at 100% and was not able to beat that day’s version of Korda; but in any case, there was nothing to be ashamed of, the important thing was to remain calm and analyze why we had lost against that type of player, what had put Daniil in difficulty and work on it to rebuild confidence. But it’s not automatic, otherwise, it would be easy. At those times the challenge for a coach is precisely to rebuild the player’s confidence; this is something you do day by day, and every day was a challenge and it was not easy. You need to maintain a fighting spirit, look for solutions, and accept the moments of difficulty. I am happy to have remained strong, to have maintained trust and inner calm to try to be the best version of myself and the best possible coach at that time. Daniil is someone who wants to fight, find solutions and win, even when he goes crazy on the court. We both tried to do our best and since he has great talent and has the ability to reach a high level, so in the end he found the way back to winning and to being “on fire,” a bit like Sinner now who is putting together a series of victories.

QUESTION: One last question, from a physical standpoint Daniil this year has had an extraordinary season and will end up playing more than 80 matches; in the coming years do you think he will reduce his commitments (curiously, this was also an aspect touched upon by Medvedev in the press conference)?

CERVARA: It’s a good question, and it’s a question that only top players when they have more experience can afford to ask themselves. A bit like Novak who now does not play all the tournaments and focuses only on the most important ones. But you can afford to make these considerations only if you win and it’s a question we will start to ask ourselves also with Daniil; he is now 27 years old, runs a lot, has a taxing tennis game. He has already won the most important tournaments and consequently, he will have to focus on those and perhaps set aside some lesser ones.

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(EXCLUSIVE) Bryan Shelton, Father And Coach Of Ben: “A Break After Tokyo? He Didn’t Even Consider It”

“A win gives you confidence. A loss teaches you something more about yourself,” says the father-coach of the young American. “Sinner? A genuine and smiling person.”

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Ben Shelton and Bryan Shelton (photo Instagram @benshelton)

by Federico Bertelli

If Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are increasingly establishing themselves as the present of men’s tennis, there are already those who are eager to challenge them. And the name on everyone’s lips right now is Ben Shelton. The 21-year-old American, fresh from winning his first tournament in Tokyo, has risen to the world’s number 15 spot with a powerful and effervescent game, and he recently also had the satisfaction of beating the Italian number 1 Jannik Sinner (in Shanghai).

 

Earlier this week at the Vienna Open Ubitennis had an exclusive interview with Bryan Shelton, Ben’s father and coach.

Bryan, 57 years old and a native of Florida, has an impressive past as a professional tennis player, with two ATP singles titles under his belt (both on the grass of Newport in the two-year period 1991-92), a best ranking of world number 55, and even a mixed doubles final at the 1992 French Open, partnering with Lori McNeil. His best Grand Slam placement is the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1994, where he was defeated by the Swede Christian Bergström.

UBITENNIS: First of all, we appreciate your time and patience, Mr. Shelton. Well, I have many questions, but the first that comes to mind is this: For the first time, Ben played against a great player like Ruud on the clay in Barcelona, he showed a great attitude. He wasn’t afraid at all to face a Roland Garros finalist. What’s your perspective on his attitude? What has changed?

BRYAN: “I think he’s a great competitor; he loves to compete regardless of the level. Whether it’s a Challenger, ATP, or a Grand Slam tournament, he sees it as an opportunity to showcase his talent, his personality, and to have fun. And to challenge himself and get the chance to play against the best like Casper, Jannik, and others. He’s always excited. We left Tokyo yesterday (Monday), and we’ve just arrived here (Vienna). I must say he’s eager to play now. Many players, after a tournament, might think about taking a week off, but he never even considered a break. He wants to play again, you know? He loves the challenge. I like that he has that attitude because I think it’s special. Even when he’s not feeling 100%, he doesn’t look for excuses; he wants to compete. He wants to train; he wants to push. We just have to make sure he doesn’t push too hard”.

UBITENNIS: So, in terms of competitive spirit, you’ve never seen him be scared. For example, when he started college in the USA, did you ever see him be scared of some big player, or was he always like “Ok, go for it and let’s do our best”?

BRYAN: “I think he’s unique in that sense because he looks forward to those moments. Especially the more people watching, the better he plays. For me, it was the opposite. I’d see the big stadium and play a bit scared. One thing’s for sure; I know he’s very different from me. So my goal is not to set limits on him. To say everything is possible. And you just have to keep working hard. You need to keep learning from every experience, whether you win or lose. Both are positives. A win gives you confidence. A loss lets you learn more about yourself and your game and what you need to do to keep improving. So everything is positive, nothing is negative, I think that’s the mindset I want him to have every day; it’s like he always has something to gain. And if you think you have something to gain, then you’re not scared. For sure”.

UBITENNIS: Talking perhaps about the most important match of his career so far, the one against Djokovic at the US Open. After that game, how did he feel? Was it like, “I’m sorry I lost. I’m sorry I didn’t do this or that” or was it more like “I stuck to my plan. I did my best, and next time will be better”?

BRYAN: “I think it was the latter. He felt really good about the tournament. He accomplished some things there. Especially after a season where he wasn’t winning many matches. Coming there and winning all those matches (five) gave him confidence. And playing against Djokovic with confidence, I think was fantastic. He lost the match against a great champion. So I think he just learned from the match, went back to watch the video, really took time after the US Open to reflect on what he needs to do to keep improving so he can someday win that kind of match. Identifying things he can do better. And then get back to work.”

UBITENNIS: What do you think of Sinner this year? Because in my opinion, he’s really improving, starting to put something different in his game. He’s not just a big hitter, but sometimes he comes to the net, varies with drop shots, and is showing various new solutions.

BRYAN: “Yes, I think he’s an extraordinary player. An extraordinary person, you know, genuine. When you see him off the court, he’s always ready to greet you, to smile at you, and you have to admire his kindness, so we appreciate that. And then the tennis, for me, he’s definitely one of the top 5 in the world. He’s serving well, playing well from the baseline, returning well, and now he’s starting to come forward and execute at the net. I love seeing this in players because I want the same for Ben. I want him to continue developing to become a complete player. He’s a good example for Ben, someone young who’s also working to become complete. It’s a great opportunity, again, to play against one of the best.”

UBITENNIS: Last question: in a sport as competitive and individualistic as tennis, it’s hard to get along with other players and have friends. Because once you step onto the court, that’s your enemy. Which players does Ben get along best with? Does he have friends here? He’s relatively new on the circuit. He’s like a freshman.

BRYAN: “Oh, it’s funny. He has friends everywhere, you know. And I think his closest friends are the ones he knows best, like Maki McDonald, Tommy Paul, Taylor Fritz. These guys have really welcomed him into the American tennis fraternity, and also Francis Tiafoe. All these guys have been very, very kind to him, welcoming him. So it’s been nice to see; then he has friends like Dan Evans, who treat him a bit like a little brother, you know. They put him in his place sometimes, but you know, in a playful and fun way. We’ve also met some nice coaches out here. For us, it’s essential to enjoy the time off the court as well as on it. It’s important to wear a smile, greet people, get to know them and learn more about them. I want him to go beyond just tennis.”

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