Emilio Sanchez Exclusive: One Loss That Destroyed His ‘Winning Will’ And The Match That Could Have Changed Roger Federer’s career - UBITENNIS
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Emilio Sanchez Exclusive: One Loss That Destroyed His ‘Winning Will’ And The Match That Could Have Changed Roger Federer’s career

In an exclusive video interview the two-time French Open doubles champion believes the Federer-Nadal rivalry could have been a lot different if one particular match had gone another way.

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Emilio Sánchez (photo Barbara Crimaudo)

‘I never had a chance like that to excel in a grand slam’ was the words that came from the mouth of Emilio Sanchez as he looks back on one of his hardest losses. The Spanish tennis star turned coach speaks to Ubitennis about his career and the current state of the game.

 

54-year-old Sanchez, who is the brother of former world No.1 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, was a top player throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In singles he peaked at a high of seventh in the world and won 15 titles with the most prestigious being at the 1991 Italian Open. In doubles he reached the top of the rankings back in 1989 and was best known for his collaboration with Sergio Casal with whom he won 45 out of his 50 Tour titles with. Overall, he scored eight wins over No.1 players, but it was the losses Sanchez remembers the most. Especially one that occurred in the fourth round of the Australian Open.

“As a player you always have this mindset where you always think you are going to play them again and beat them again. The win in Rome against (Mats) Wilander or other big wins that I had were very good,” he told Ubitennis.
“But you don’t remember so much the wins. You remember more the important losses. I played a match against (John) McEnroe at the Australian Open. I was two sets up and then he came back. I was then 6-5, 40-15, up (in the final set) and at that moment I made my first double fault of the match. I lost 8-6.’
“I remember that match because it destroyed my winning will. I said to my coach that I should quit. He asked me why and I said because I will not win a grand slam.’
“I never had a chance like that to excel in a grand slam.”

Sanchez is not the first player to have missed a golden opportunity and he will not be the last. Another is Roger Federer, who failed to convert two match points against Novak Djokovic in last year’s Wimbledon final. Although the Spaniard believes it is another match that had a massive impact on the Swiss Maestro’s career.

During the 2006 Italian Open, Federer looked on course to victory and was a point away from holding a 5-2 lead in the decider before nemesis Rafael Nadal broke back. Then the former world No.1 saw two match points come and go before losing to his rival, who was just 19 at the time.

“In that match the type of game he played was perfect for him to adapt his game to the clay. So he did everything perfectly on the physical, tactical, technical and mental side but when that key moment arrived he tried to overdo it and on the clay it doesn’t allow you to do that,” Sanchez reflected on Federer’s loss.
“He tried to overplay those two match points and then Rafa came out from that and had the confidence. He (Rafa) also went on to beat him in Paris (French Open). If Federer made one of those points, what happened after could have changed things completely in his career because after that it took him a while before he was challenging Nadal on clay again.”

The two players along with Novak Djokovic form the prestigious Big Three of the sport. A trio who dominance includes at least one of them winning 52 out of the past 60 grand slam tournaments. According to Sanchez, there is one key thing to their reign in the sport.

“The important points for those players are the return because normally they hold their serve very easily. Where they are better is that they are able to break their opponent once every three or four games,” he explains. “On top of returning well what they do is take away the initiative (from their rivals). With Nadal when he takes away the initiative he is the one who is not going to allow you to do anything. With that he is the best.”

After stepping away from the Tour, Sanchez remains involved in tennis through his work at the prestigious ASC Sanchez-Casal academy. Which he co-founded with his former doubles partner back in 1998. It has been a training base for some of the world’s best players including Andy Murray, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Grigor Dimitrov. The academy operates in Barcelona as well as both America and China.

“When I put the academy in place I realised that we had to make this like a system. I wrote all the exercises and videos about how we became players and through time I made that system much broader.” He explains.
“The thing I like about my academy is that when I ask players like Andy Murray or Grigor Dimitrov what they remember they don’t remember the forehand or the serve. They remember the hard work, effort and respect. You can’t ask for more.’
“I think this is the biggest legacy of our academy. We left some of the most intrinsic and important values for them (our students) to become whatever they do.”

The former Davis Cup captain also discusses the current state of American tennis. A country that once had 40 top 100 players on the ATP Tour when he began his career, but now struggles to have more than 10. What has led to this dramatic change?

Ubitennis’ full interview with Sanchez can be watched below.

Grand Slam

US Open, Steve Flink: “Djokovic’s loss had more to do with fatigue than pressure”

A recap of the last Major of 2021, from Raducanu’s triumphant journey to Berrettini and Zverev’s improvements. What was Rod Laver’s prediction for the men’s finals?

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The 2021 US Open was historical from many points of view, starting with the full-capacity crowd coming back to Flushing Meadows. On court, we witnessed Djokovic’s bid for a Calendar Year Grand Slam fall short against Daniil Medvedev in the final, while Emma Raducanu took the tennis world by storm, winning as a qualifier and without dropping a set. These were just some of the topics of the tournament recap by Hall-of-Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta. Here’s their chat:

 

00:00 – Emma Raducanu’s historical feat: “She had an easier draw than Fernandez, who had to defeat many great players, but she was very impressive nonetheless!”

06:18 – Barty and Osaka’s premature exits: “Hadn’t she lost to Rogers, Barty would have won the whole thing…”

09:35 – Was Fernandez too tired during the final?

20:17 – The Canadian defeated Aryna Sabalenka, who once again missed out on a big chance: “She seems to have a split personality…”

25:24 – The men’s final – how distant was Djokovic from his best form?

28:59 – “Djokovic is the best at handling the pressure, I don’t think that was the main reason behind his defeat…”

35:05 – Was the crowd actually on Nole’s side or did they just want to witness history being made?

39:16 – What was the secret behind Medvedev’s winning tactics?

41:50 – Djokovic fell short of the Grand Slam in a similar way to Serena Williams – how similar are their performances?

50:16 – Rod Laver’s prediction for the final…

52:25 – Who is the best claycourt player, Djokovic or Federer?

55:05 – Carlos Alcaraz won over the hearts of the crowd – how quickly will he reach the Top 10?

56:29 – Is Zverev on the right track to win a Major? What about Berrettini and Sinner?

62:48 – The Canadians: who will have a better career between Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime?

Transcript by Giuseppe Di Paola; translated and edited by Tommaso Villa

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Grand Slam

US Open, Steve Flink on the Murray-Tsitsipas Controversy

A recap of the first week of the last Major of 2021: will Djokovic clinch the Grand Slam? Who will win the women’s title with Barty and Osaka out of the picture?

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The 2021 US Open has reached its halfway point, with many wonderful five-setters and a few upsets. Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta discussed the events of the first week with Hall-of-Fame tennis writer Steve Flink, from the elimination of Barty and Osaka to the toilet break controversy involving Stefanos Tsitsipas, from Alcaraz’s breakout performance to the chances of Novak Djokovic to complete a Calendar Year Grand Slam. Here’s their chat:

 

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US Open, Steve Flink: “Djokovic will defeat Tsitsipas in the final”

A preview of the last Major of 2021. Will Zverev and Osaka be able to withstand the pressure? Barty appears to be the favourite in the women’s draw.

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The 2021 US Open is less than two hours away, with Novak Djokovic on the brink of making history – the Serbian could surpass the number of Slam titles of Federer and Nadal, while at the same time clinching the first Calendar Year Grand Slam in the men’s singles since 1969 and the first in the singles since 1988.

 

These two lofty objectives were the first subjects tackled by Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta and Hall-of-Famer tennis writer Steve Flink in their usual tournament preview, although they touched on many other themes such as the chances of Berrettini and Medvedev, the women’s draw, and the debate on whether COVID vaccines should be mandatory for the players. Here’s their chat:

00:00 – Djokovic is close to a Calendar Year Grand Slam – will he be able to hold up physically after picking up an injury in Tokyo?

07:40 – Matteo Berrettini couldn’t go to the Olympics at all because of muscle injury, and has only played a couple matches before the US Open – could he give Djokovic a run for his money in the quarter finals?

13:20 – On Zverev: “He won in Tokyo and in Cincinnati, so he has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. In the past he tended to cave when people put him among the favourites for a Major win…”

15:50 – Zverev could play Jannik Sinner in the fourth round – could the Next Gen pull off an upset?

20:30 – “Denis Shapovalov could also beat Zverev in the quarter finals, but he’s had a disappointing summer so far after doing great at Wimbledon.”

23:45 – On the weather and Djokovic’s activism: “Sometimes we should accept that he is someone who will always give an honest opinion and take a stance, even when we disagree with him.” Should the vaccine be mandatory for the players, and will the top brass in the tennis world make a decision about it?

32:25 – Stefanos Tsitsipas will face Andy Murray in the first round – can the Brit still beat a top player in a best-of-five encounter?

33:35 – Could we be in for an all-Russian semifinal between Medvedev and Rublev? “I think Medvedev wouldn’t be happy to play Diego Schwartzman in the quarter finals, he doesn’t like to have to go on the offensive.”

39:45 – A final prediction on the men’s tournament’s outcome.

43:20 – The women’s draw: “Barty has just played one of her best tournaments ever in Cincinnati, she is by far the most reliable player in the WTA Tour!”

49:00 – “Svitolina has just won a title and did well in Tokyo, she could take on Osaka in the quarter finals, although Gauff, Kerber, Halep and Giorgi are also in that section of the draw.”

52:00 – Will Osaka’s mental health be a factor throughout the New York fortnight? “If she’s fine, then she’s still the best hardcourt player in the world.”

1:00:40 – Camila Giorgi won in Canada – can she be a dark horse in New York? “She appears to have developed a Plan B now…”

Transcript by Giuseppe Di Paola; translated and edited by Tommaso Villa

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