Will the ATP and WTA Retaliate Against The French Open? - UBITENNIS
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Will the ATP and WTA Retaliate Against The French Open?

The French Federation is at fault, but not too much. Was Rafa Nadal selfish? What about Roger Federer? This isn’t the first civil war in tennis history.

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Roger Federer (@usopen - Twitter)

The French Open’s surprise move was bound to instigate a long streak of reactions, after postponing the tournament to September while stomping on over ten ATP and WTA events plus the Laver Cup. The president of the FFT, Giudicelli (who’s from Corsica like Napoleon), must have foreseen this backlash, and the same goes for tournament director Guy Forget. They decided to reserve the first available dates at all costs, and therefore went straight to their goal, thinking that the many powers-that-be in tennis wouldn’t like it, but that many players perhaps would, because those who aren’t invited to Boston’s Laver Cup would hardly give up a Slam’s prize money – the Slams are the only Slams that guarantee at least £35,000 to first-round losers.

 

THE USUAL SCHEDULING ISSUES

As I wrote a few minutes after learning about this shocking piece of news, this was a selfish decision, announced in a very arrogant and typically French way. I also agreed with Vasek Pospisil’s wording for it, although he was wrong in saying that nobody had been notified beforehand. It was also a sort of war declaration on the tennis establishment, or – at the very least – a clear provocation meant to cause a re-structuring of the season’s schedule. Such re-structuring has been invoked for years by those same governing bodies that rule the game, ma each of them would like to give it a shape that suits exclusively their own interests – of course, an accord was never reached.

POSSIBLE PLAYER RETALIATION

Maybe the challenge that the FFT has posed to the ATP, the WTA, Tennis Australia, and the USTA – not so much to Wimbledon, which always maintains some kind of detachment, embodying the French phrase “noblesse oblige” – will backfire, coming back to bite them like a boomerang, a weapon that the Aussies know very well. There are various forms of retaliation that the players could put into practice (either ATP or WTA members).

Number one: a full French Open boycott come September. Number two (which would materialise after they realise that unanimity cannot be reached in the union like it happened at the 1973 Championships, since many players would be bent on playing after so many cancellations, as Andrey Rublev clearly said: “It’s better to play in a Slam than not. We have no wages – if you don’t play, you don’t make a living”): let the tournament be played with no ATP points at stake. Number three: threaten to take away these points from the 2021 edition as well (the other Slams would probably enjoy that). Number four: cancel the Paris Masters, which also belongs to the FFT and gives another marquee event to the Ville Lumière.

PARIS’S ALLIES

On the other hand, the FFT could receive some unexpected aid from those clay events that were cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak, events that could experience a resurgence should the Olympic Games and the whole North American summer swing be postponed – who knows what shape the Big Apple will be in come late August? This would be the ultimate embodiment of the Latin phrase-turned-zero-sum-game, mors tua vita mea. And that would mean that Rome – if yet out of the lockdown – and the other clay capitals could get back in play, more than happy to function as a prologue for the autumnal French Open, even after having thought the worst things about Forget and Giudicelli’s move.

On a side note for Italy, it looks a lot less likely that Turin or Milan could take the place of Bercy in November, cancelling the ATP Next Gen Finals in concert with the ATP… Today the Italian Federation is having a conference call, and I would bet on a neutral stance on the matter. I don’t expect any condemnation for the behaviour of the French, due to the fact that if the Italian management will see an opening for later play (may it be August, September, or October), before or after the Paris Slam, they will certainly not throw it away by souring the relationship with the FFT.

NADAL’S SILENT ASSENT

Rafael Nadal (@atptour – Twitter)

Going back to the French revolutionary move – after all, who has more rights than the French to spark a revolution? – there’s no doubt that it appeared as a unilateral move at a time when this pandemic should suggest more solidarity. They obviously got the assent of their king, Rafa Nadal, that’s almost a due act. If Rafa had said no from the get-go, their stance would have looked a whole lot weaker. Forget and Giudicelli told the world that Nadal said yes, and his silence is looking like a confirmation. Can we therefore criticise Rafa’s selfishness (for instance, he supports the Davis Cup, organised by the ITF and Gerard Piqué, only as long as it takes place in Madrid)? Of course we can, but on the other hand what should we say about Federer and of his brainchild, the Laver Cup, which from nowhere has snatched up a week of the ATP season (a week that would have been useful to the Davis Cup, which was so crammed that if forced crazy finishing time throughout the whole week last year)?

THE CHOICES OF THE ATP: BRAVO TO GAUDENZI AND CALVELLI

I can only imagine how happy can be Andrea Gaudenzi and Massimo Calvelli, the new ATP top dogs, to find themselves in the midst of a melee that involves two of the three best players in the world along with every other party – we can only express our sympathy for these unlucky men. To have to deal with this virus-induced mess in your first year in charge, with the conflicting interests of the tournaments and the selfishness of everybody, wasn’t even remotely imaginable. It’s something that literally could not be wished on your worst enemy. They’ve been brave, they’ve taken well-pondered decisions, and for the time being I applaud them, for what it’s worth. Perhaps American, French, or British CEOs wouldn’t have taken such decisive action against the Coronavirus. The examples set by Trump, Macron, and Johnson – I apologise for the momentary field invasion – lead me to believe that this would have been the case. As for the Germans… well, I apologise for this too, but they sure have a much more cryptic way to release their death toll, and a much trickier one for that matter, perhaps in a cunning attempt to save their own economy.

LAVER CUP, ATP CUP, AND WIMBLEDON’S STRENGTH: MAYBE THE FRENCH OPEN IS AT FAULT, BUT NOT TOO MUCH 

Now, going back to stuff I’m definitely more knowledgeable about… if I were the FFT’s attorney – pretty tough gig these days – I would claim that the Australian Open and the US Open have always promoted their own interests above all else, more or less jointly, de facto co-opting the organising of the Laver Cup even before they were slated for play in Chicago and Boston, thus establishing an exclusive partnership with Tony Godsick and Roger Federer. Tennis Australia, moreover, has pretty much created the ATP Cup, an event that has the firepower to kill the Davis Cup forever, both in its original and in its Piqué format. So, glass houses…

Wimbledon, thanks to its prestige and tradition, has always managed to be considered the biggest Slam, despite being played on a seldom-utilised surface like grass. If the AELTC had acted like the FFT did, I think it would have drawn much less cornering criticism. As things stand, the French Open is becoming the weakest among the Slams, after many years in which the Australian Open was the smallest child at the table, and this will inexorably happen if everybody else will turn against them – the possibility that Indian Wells and Miami took over those dates was real, as they can count on the support of the US Open, of IGM, of the USTA, and of several American management companies. After Brexit, the French Open is pretty much the last European stronghold, and all European clay events rely on its prestige, which has been thinning year in and year out in favour of the hardcourt swings that Americans and Aussies love so much.

Brad Stine, who coached Jim Courier at his peak, told the New York Times: “In such a wretched year, the possibility of playing two Slams, even if just a week apart from each other, would be like a gift from the heavens!”

THE GAME’S POWER STRUGGLES

So, after our website has reported all sorts of opinions on the matter (even diverging ones within the FFT), I’d like to conclude on the same ideas as the other day. It could very well be that there’s a silver lining in every cloud. Power struggles have always happened in tennis: I remember the WCT v ATP and ITF kerfuffle in the early 70s, the one between ITF and the Team Tennis league organized by Larry King and Billie Jean King in various American cities (Jimmy Connors wasn’t allowed to play the 1974 French Open because of it, which prevented him from going for the Grand Slam), and I can even remember, further back, the conflict between Jack Kramer’s professional tour and the ITF-supported shamateurism… which prevented Ken Rosewall from playing in 44 Slams over 11 years!

If there was just one governing body, things would certainly be better off, but no one will ever want to give up even the tiniest claim to power, and this is the real problem in tennis – after that, much more heinous, of Covid-19.

 

 

 

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Five Ideas To Improve Tennis

From the rule of the fifth set in the Slams to the controversial medical time out, passing through the distribution of ATP points: how can tennis be improved? Let’s discuss it together.

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BY DAVIDE ORIOLI (translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa)

 

With the sport still stuck in the pits for who knows how long, the moment seems suitable to discuss how to change tennis in order to make it more palatable, televised, popular. Or even simply more coherent. Indeed, there are still aspects of the rules of tennis that are controversial and on which not only fans, but also tennis players and directors themselves, debate. In this article we want to go straight to the point proposing five aspects of the rules that could be improved.

All the institutions that govern tennis in recent years have attempted experiments, already implemented in some tournaments. The ATP for example, as everyone knows, is using the NextGen Finals to test some ideas such as the Fast4 (short sets for those who arrive first in four games, with tie-breaks on 3-3), the NoAd with a killer point on the 40 even, the No Let that plans to play the exchange even if the ball touches the net on the service, and so on, up to free coaching and towel management. These changes have already been experienced and therefore we will not deal with them in this article. Instead, we are going to propose five still little (or not at all) debated ideas, listing them to go from least to most significant.

5 – Change of sides during Super tie-breaks

As said, it is a minutia idea that will not change the history of tennis, but during the Super tie-breaks you should not change sides every six points. The rule makes sense in classic tie-breaks: change the side after the sixth point to make sure that both tennis players play at least one point on each side. For example, we think of conditions of low sun on the horizon that can disadvantage those who play against the sun, or wind against or in favor. Turning every six points guarantees at least one change of course during the tie-break, and further if (and only if) one proceeds to the bitter end. The rule is logical and correct, but for this reason in the Super tie-break it should be adapted to the length of the latter, therefore changing every nine points.

With the change at the sixth and twelfth point, in fact, there are two problems. The first is that the pace of the game becomes extremely fragmented, just at the height of the meeting. Super tie-breaks in which 12 points or less are played are very rare, below one percent, which means almost always having two field changes, one of which is perfectly avoidable. The second problem is the very regularity of the Super tie-break. Being the average duration of these around 17 points, in the end each tennis player will normally have played 11 exchanges on one side of the court and six on the other. A particularly marked discrepancy.

To explain it better, suppose absurdly that atmospheric events make one side so advantageous that those who play on that side of the net win the point 100% of the time. The system with which the changes are built at the moment ensures that up to 6 even, and even during the tie-break, nobody can win the set by exploiting that condition. It will proceed indefinitely on a level playing field, as corrected. With the current system used for the Super tie-break instead, this condition of fair balance is interrupted, and the player who is lucky enough to serve first on the favorable side of the court, will win the game for 10-6. Obviously this is an exaggeration to better explain the principle, but even if the advantage of playing on the one hand was minimal, it is still correct that both players take the same advantage of it. Also because the Super tie-breaks decide the result of the entire match.

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Why It Is Right To Criticise Novak Djokovic Over His Chat With Chervin Jafarieh

The world No.1 is entitled to his beliefs, but there is a fine line.

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Novak Djokovic is undoubtedly one of the greatest tennis players of all time given his record-breaking career that has seen him claim 17 grand slam titles and win more prize money than any other player in history. He is an idol of thousands and is one of the most influential people in Serbia. The position is a great honour, but it is also one that places him under strict scrutiny at times.

 

This scrutiny opens him up for criticism. Just earlier this week he posted a video on his Instagram account of him training at a facility in Mallorca. Prompting accusations that he broke lockdown rules before it was later confirmed that the mistake lied with the owners of the venue. It could be argued that Djokovic gets a more hostile reception from the tennis community compared to his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Just look at last year’s Wimbledon final. With all of this in mind, there is fresh uproar over a recent chat he held and quite rightly so.

The world No.1 recently held a discussion with Chervin Jafarieh, who is known for his holistic approach to health. The purpose of their Instagram Live talk was to explain what Djokovic describes as the ‘natural detoxification process of the body.’ During one part of their discussion, they touched on the belief that the molecular structure of water can be changed by simply meditating or thinking. Basically, if you have bad thoughts, it will make bad water.

“I know some people that, through energetical transformation, through the power of prayer, through the power of gratitude, they managed to turn the most toxic food, or maybe most polluted water into the most healing water, because water reacts. Scientists have proven that in experiment, that molecules in the water react to our emotions to what has been said,” Djokovic said.
“I truly believe that we should continuously every single day remind ourselves when we sit, that we sit without cameras, without phones, without watching things and stuff. Or even worse, having nervous [and] conflicting discussions at the table with your close ones during your meal.”

The concept is based on research conducted by pseudo-scientist Masaru Emoto. However, the reason why Djokovic has come under fire for endorsing this view is because of the many questions surrounding it. First of all, it lacks scientific validity. In one article written by professor William Reville, he points out that Emoto was never a scientist (he was a doctor of alternative medicine) and conducted a triple blind study that actually disproved this theory which Djokovic has publicly promoted. Furthermore, EU-funded Germany water company mitte.co, says mainstream science has been unable to replicate Emoto’s findings because of the ‘unspecified techniques” used. It is also interesting to note that Emoto was offered to take part in the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge where he could prove his theory but declined.

Of course, people have their own beliefs and should never be criticised for them. Although Djokovic finds himself in a tough box. Due to his status, he has the ability to inspire and influence many. A lot of which he has already done for the good with his love and respect for everybody.

But in this case he should be held to account for giving such a high profile platform to Jafarieh. A person who has minimal information online.

Jafarieh is the mastermind behind wellness brand CYMBIOTIKA, which is a leading dietary supplement that is known for ‘creating pure, clinically-backed supplements.’ Looking at the website, it may appeal to many for numerous reasons. The products are said to help reduce anxiety, boost your immune system and calms the central nervous system. This sounds like a bunch of great products until you do look beneath the surface.

“We are not responsible if information made available on this site is not accurate, complete or current. The material on this website is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting primary, more accurate, more complete or more timely sources of information.” The terms and conditions of the website read.

Researching further the Frequently Asked Questions of the CYMBIOTIKA website states that ‘results are not guaranteed.’

Despite these issues, there will likely be a surge of interest around these products. After all, if a top athlete like Djokovic has been taking similar health remedies, it must have positive effects? A perfectly justifiable reasoning, but also one that shows Djokovic’s responsibility concerning these matters.

It is not for me to say what he should or shouldn’t express. Djokovic is renowned for his mental strength on the court and standing up for what he believes in. As Mary Carillo from The Tennis Channel notes he is not one who doesn’t like change.

“It’s not a surprise Novak speaks in these ways. This I find particularly dangerous. He’s not the kind of guy whose favourite music changes in every room he moves in… I’m very disturbed that Djokovic and that other guy are saying you can change toxic water to drinking water.” She said.

Djokovic is a sporting icon and nothing changes that. His controversial chat has already gained more than 500,00 views and not necessarily all of it was bad. However, to give a platform to somebody who sells questionable products is one that should be concerning. After all, if they were perfectly fine, why would the company advise the public to look at other sources of information beforehand?

This is why I think it is right to criticise Djokovic.

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Of Novak Djokovic, A Champion And Above All A Great Man

The Serbian donated one million euros to the hospitals in Bergamo, and did so without publicity. This is a great example of the great person he is, despite the crowd abuse he had to endure at Wimbledon against Federer. His authenticity has always been there, all the way since those Players Parties in Monte Carlo.

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Novak Djokovic did something amazing, and the unprompted nature of his act did all but magnify his gallantry.

 

I’ve met him a few times, for instance when I was invited to the Players Party in Monte Carlo as either a comedic advisor or even as an actor, and I have to say that, whether one can like his brand of tennis which is – perfunctory to say – extraordinary, to be able to witness the charm, the spontaneity, and the effort he put in his duties as dancer, singer, and all-around showman, reinforced my first impression of him as a genuinely decent guy, not a conceited persona. This is why I always thought the attitude of the crowd during the last Wimbledon final against Federer to be utterly disgraceful to say the least. It’s one thing to choose a champion to cheer for, and another to disrespect his opponent, to the point of taking away from him the joys of victory and celebration. And as a matter of fact, Nole barely acknowledged his success. Sure, he will have thoroughly enjoyed it in his heart, but some bitterness must have crept in – and this is just unfair.

Many have said that Novak is constantly hurt by the greater popularity of Federer and Nadal, who had a head start in seizing the love of tennis fans, and then could live off it as with a trust fund. I don’t think Nole is jealous of his rivals. However, it is only human that he wishes for his humane side to be acknowledged a little more, as it happens in Serbia, where he is second to none in the estimation of his people. This happens in Italy as well, for the most part, thanks to his fluency in the language that allows him to fully be himself wherever he goes, be it in stand-up comedy skits, at music festivals, or simply among the crowd. When he says that Italy is his second home, he says it sincerely, and that is true for his wife Jelena too, since she studied in Milan. When he says it, he’s not pandering to Roger and Rafa’s fans, he knows that they won’t switch sides. He has no obligation to say it, he does because he means it. Every single tournament winner thanks the organisers and the crowd, claiming that it’s the best event that could possibly be, we know it, it’s part of the game. But Djokovic, who loves Rome and its tournament, and is loved by the city in return, doesn’t mince words when he says that some things could and should be improved, especially in terms of court maintenance – his honesty should be appreciated.

We should also be more accepting of the diplomacy that his political role in the ATP Council entails at times, leading him to leave some questions unanswered. I don’t always agree with what Novak says, such as during the Gimelstob affair, at least initially. At the same time, though, it can’t be easy for a man in his position to pick a side during a quarrel like the one happening between the ATP Cup (backed by Tennis Australia) and the Davis Cup, a competition he has an unbreakable bond with, because of what it meant for him and for Serbia when they won it in 2010, changing the trajectory of his career for good, and for the better.

He’s stated publicly that he’s in favour of the creation of a single team event, but he knows very well that the interests at stake – involving multi-year contracts signed by Tennis Australia on one side, and by the ITF, Piqué, and Rakuten on the other – are not easily reconcilable, and thus he knows very well that his statement might sound hypocritical or utopian. However, being a “politician” of tennis, he’s aware that what he said is what the fans who do not have any economic agendas wish for, namely one competition that wouldn’t betray too much the storied past of the Davis Cup.

Well, I got caught up in the writing as usual, even if I was doing it on my phone with the idea of putting on paper just a couple lines (!) to commend Novak on his incredible gesture, and this is even more noticeable since I can only use one finger while writing on my phone (my children write at supersonic speed, and I have no idea how). All I wanted to do was to thank Novak Djokovic for being such a great champion, and even more for being such a great man. All that’s left to say is… NOT TOO BAD! To Nole,

Ubaldo

P.S. I’ll always regret missing the chance to play with him in Australia, when he told me, “Bring your racquet tomorrow!” Just one minute of that heinous spectacle of personal embarrassment would have been enough for me to be contented with myself! Alas, the temperature reached 40 degrees and the humidity was such that all outdoors play was suspended, and naturally I had no way to get onto the indoors ones between matches. That night Nole all but apologized and said: “We’ll do it in Rome then!”

Article translated from ubitennis.com by Tommaso Villa

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