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.

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Luigi Serra: A Tribute To A Great Friend In 50 Snapshot

Our unforgettable friend, who passed away on December 9, gifted us with hundreds of pictures – here is a selection of his best work.

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All of us at Ubitennis send our love to Luigi Serra’s family, including his wife Bonnie, his sons Alessandro and Gianluca, as well as the tribe of grandchildren (Isabella, Gabriella, Daniela, Lexi and Vincent) of whom he was incredibly proud and whom he loved dearly – they reciprocated their affection for a grandfather who was often as genuine as they are, always mirthful, funny, unique. Here is Ubaldo Scanagatta’s tribute to the late Luigi, and here are his best shots:

 

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Steve Flink: “Medvedev Deserved To Win, But Is This Really The Onset Of A New Era?”

A commentary of the last edition of the ATP Finals to take place in London. The Russian isn’t graceful but can do it all, whereas Thiem used the sliced backhand far too much. Were Djokovic and Zverev distracted by their off court problems?

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Daniil Medvedev (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

The 2020 season ended with Daniil Medvedev’s win at the ATP Finals, the sixth different winner in the last six editions of the event, emerging victorious at the end of three tightly contested knockout matches. The Russian dominated the last few weeks of the season, winning in Bercy as well, but was his victory in London somewhat predictable?

UbiTennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta and Mr Flink met up (remotely) to discuss the tournament and the omens for tennis in 2021. Here’s their chat: 

 

VIDEO SCHEDULE

0:58 – Medvedev swept through the ATP Finals – an expected triumph? “He beat the three best players in the world, that’s hardly predictable…” 

3:51 – “The Russian showed his mental strength, coming back to beat both Nadal and Thiem…” 

5:27 – “Djokovic had won 24 of the last 26 tie-breaks he had played, and 16 of the last 17 – how did he relinquish that 4-0 lead at 6-6 in the decider?” 

7:40 – A few words on the final: “Thiem wasted a few big chances in the second set, missing a fairly easy forehand touch near the net.” Did he employ the right strategy?  

11:46 – “The Austrian said that he would make the same choices, and we should remember that he had a tougher semifinal match…” 

14:34“Medvedev isn’t beautiful to watch, but that doesn’t seem to bother him…” 

16:54 – Is this the beginning of a new era? “We said the same thing when Zverev won the Finals in 2018 and when Tsitsipas did it last year…” Will the Australian Open take place in 2021?

20:51 – Djokovic is in the midst of a political struggle – was he distracted during the week he spent in London? 

27:24 – What about Sascha Zverev and the accusations that his former girlfriend moved against him – did those play a role in his early exit? 

29:14 – The first winner of the Finals was Stan Smith, the current president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame: “You and I have a job with the Hall of Fame now, don’t we?” 

32:08 – A final word on Daniil Medvedev – will he win a Major in 2021? “He’s definitely not winning the French Open, and I think that grass isn’t his best surface either, but he definitely has his chances on hardcourts.” 

Transcript by Lorenzo Andorlini; translated and edited by Tommaso Villa

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Steve Flink On The Decline Of American Men’s Tennis: “We Need To Start Attracting The Best Athletes Again”

UbiTennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta is back with a new video to talk about the crisis hitting the country that used to dominate the game until less than 20 years ago.

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After Mark Winters’ contribution, here is a new entry in our website’s enquiry into US tennis. This time another American, the Hall-of-Famer Steve Flink, tries to answer some recurring questions? Why are there no US players left at the top of the ATP Rankings? Could the trend be bucked? This and more in the following video:

 

00:00 – “The best American player is 35 and outside the Top 20, and the only up-and-coming standout appears to be 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima.” Is this the lowest point for US tennis?  

02:30 – “In 1973, there were 23 Americans in the world Top 100, six in the Top 20 and three in the Top 10.” What happened? Flink: “We had perhaps our greatest decade in the 1990s, and that is probably when things went awry…”

06:10 – Could this be a financial stability issue? “There aren’t many tennis players with a huge income, while in basketball, football, ice hockey or baseball the situation is different.”

07:40 – “The road to success and wealth in individual sports is certainly tougher, but Europe has the same issue vis-à-vis football, so what could be another factor in the decline?” The role of private investments: “The USTA federal programme was created in the late 1980s, but I do not think that an emphasis on public spending is the problem.” Could this be just a cyclical fluke?

14:00 – What if the issue was commitment? “You need to really want to succeed in tennis.”  

18:42 – Mark Winters’ theory revolves around this last theme, that there is no drive to reach the top of the game: “I’m not sure I agree, but he is an insider and certainly knows what he’s talking about.”

20:40 – “Tennis players now start to make real money between 23 and 25 years of age, how many can afford to wait that long while relying almost exclusively on prize money?”

24:15 – “There might be a continuity issue, because the USTA changes its president every four years, and that doesn’t allow the creation of a stable system.” The role of deputy chiefs.

27:45 – How much money is devoted to the development of youths in the US?

30:27 – “Over the years, I’ve noticed that coaches who are on a federal payroll tend to lack a little bit of that hunger…” Can a national movement rely on the investments of young players’ parents?

35:15 – Why is women’s tennis doing so much better in the US than the male counterpart? “Nobody really believed in Sampras, Agassi and their generation, so there is still hope for a sudden comeback…”

39:10 – The changing role of the college game in the US: “Does it still work as a preparation for high-level tennis, and do the players have the patience to wait before they start making money by turning pro?” Flink: “I think that the shifting towards success at an older age might help in this sense.”

42: 20 – The raging debate of American sports – should university athlete receive financial support besides scholarship money?

44:15 – “Could we interview Stacey Allaster, the USTA’s president, on these issues?”

47:00 – Is it be important for the game to have a successful player from a country hosting a Major?

48:15 – “It’s a shame that American and Australian tennis are lagging this far behind, but we need to recognise that the game wasn’t as global and globalised when they used to dominate…”

Transcript by Filippo Ambrosi; translation and editing by Tommaso Villa

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