Even In The Midst Of A Tragedy, The Cancellation Of Wimbledon Is Still Shocking - UBITENNIS
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Even In The Midst Of A Tragedy, The Cancellation Of Wimbledon Is Still Shocking

After 46 consecutive Championships, from Connors-Rosewall to Djokovic-Federer, for me this feels like the interruption of a religious experience, a small trauma. I’ve spent two years of my life at SW19, with countless indelible memories.

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Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon 2019 (via Twitter. @wimbledon)

And then Wimbledon was gone too. Even the Championships, which from their 1877 onset (won by Spencer Gore) had only suffered extended hiatuses during the two World Wars, skipping the 1915-1918 and 1940-1945 editions (in 1940 the Lutwaffe released a bomb that destroyed Centre Court almost entirely). The Championships, which from 1946, when the 6-foot-5 Frenchman Ivan Petra triumphed, had taken place 74 times in a row, had to give way to the Coronavirus, in a third World War against an invisible enemy that isn’t involving just a few nations like the previous two, but rather the whole planet.

I’m fully aware that there are far worse predicaments than the cancellation of the Championship on Church Road. I’m fully aware that health is the most important thing in life, and that too many have had to relinquish it forever. I’m fully aware that too many families have lost their loved ones without even getting a chance to say goodbye or to bury them, without even getting a chance to know where their bodies were taken. I’m fully aware that these are the real tragedies. I’m fully aware that many families will keep suffering the consequences of this terrible virus, torn between the excruciating memory of the departed and the financial hardship of the present, which threaten to erase entire companies along with their employees.

I’m fully aware that I can call myself very lucky for having a home that is spacious enough to allow for seven members of my family to share the quarantine together without enduring the hardships that have gnawed at those who happen to live in narrower quarters and who have perhaps been plagued by a lack of food and medicine supplies.

I’m fully aware that so many of us, millions of us, still don’t know whether we have contracted the virus or not, or whether we have been, because we haven’t had the chance to get tested, nor do we know when we will.

I’m fully aware that just the fact of not experiencing any symptoms – so far – is a stroke of luck.

I’m also fully aware that not having lost any of my closest friends or relatives is also a stroke of luck, and an immeasurable one.

Therefore, it wouldn’t make any sense, while the pandemic is still raging and no one knows when it will be eradicated from our lives – I fear it won’t be until the science will provide us with a vaccine able to suppress potential relapses – it wouldn’t make any sense to show too much grief over the cancellation of sports in the midst of all of this, or for the disappearance of tennis from clubs and tournaments, taking away a chance for escapism from tragic daily updates.

I’m fully aware that the survival of UbiTennis isn’t a priority during this emergency, even though over 20 people risk losing a source of income.

As a matter of fact, I’m not going to complain that the about 12 years of hard work poured into making this website journalistically credible and financially self-sufficient are now slated for a major setback. I accept it, and I’m aware that many others are going to suffer a lot more – we remain optimistic, even if we were to lose the whole season, and, with it, a whole year of advertising.

I’ve fought for all the young people who have contributed with their greatest effort for the development of UbiTennis.com, UbiTennis.net, and UbiTennis.es, I’ve fought to create a future for them rather than for an aged man such as myself, especially considered that my children have taken different career paths. I’ve launched into this, and my collaborators have too, with a full awareness of the bumps we would have met on the road, without deluding ourselves too much. Now that we were about to catch a breath, with 5 million of unique users on the Italian version of the website and a more and more competent staff, this virus pretty darn wrong-footed us like a Federer tweener.

I have to say that, to my utter surprise, the website held up amazingly well in March, as we kept receiving between 30,000 and 40,000 visits per day, despite the lack of tournament play. This is why I need to thank once again those who are still contributing to the website, as we still have a stash of 30 unpublished material – I’m not talking about archive stuff, but rather of interviews to important figures of the game, a series of featured videos on all-time champions complete with data and anecdotes, didactic material, podcast plans, statistics, and feel-good tennis tales.

After this long preamble, allow me to say that yours truly – I’m so jealous of Gianni Clerici for co-opting the “Scribe” moniker for himself, I hate calling myself “yours truly” or emplying periphrases like “the author of this article” – while aware of everything that might have happened to me, is quite unsettled by the idea of staying home-bound and not going to Wimbledon after having done so for 46 editions in a row – almost a lifetime. Since 1974, from Connors’ steamrolling of Ken Rosewall to Djokovic saving two match points against Federer, I had never missed a single day, let alone an edition.

Two weeks multiplied per 46 years means 92 weeks, and when early arrivals, late departures, and rain delays to a third Monday are factored in (let’s not forget about the 2012 Olympics either), it means that two years of my life have been spent at SW19, from daylight to dusk. I can’t quite explain why, but this cancellation hit me harder than those of Monte Carlo (46 consecutive editions), Rome (48), and Roland Garros (44).

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that, when those three vanished, I was still looking ahead to Wimbledon, the tournament that takes place in the bona fide temple of tennis, the only one whose every final I recollect with no effort, and of which I treasure so many stories, so many details, so many anecdotes, so many people, so much life. I will miss it deeply. On first thought, I’d written “terribly” rather than “deeply”, but I immediately corrected myself, because, as I said, there are far more terrible things (and privations), but the fact remains that for over half of my life going to Wimbledon was just a hair below a pilgrimage for a devotee. Actually, a pilgrimage feels like an apt analogy to end on, because I would gladly get to Church Road on foot just to see it happen once more.

Translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa

 

Grand Slam

Australian Open Considering Switching Women’s Final To Sunday In Future

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The Australian Open could become the first Grand Slam to break away from the tradition of women playing their singles final first. 

According to a report from the Australian Associated Press, tournament chief Craig Tiley is open to making such a move which wouldn’t require any approval from either the WTA or ATP. However, they would likely need to consult with players first and no changes are set to be made in 2025. 

The reasoning for making such a change is due to the women’s final usually being shorter than the men’s best with it being a best-of-three set match. Compared to the men who play the best-of-five. Their thinking is that due to the length of men’s matches increasing in recent years, staging it on a Saturday would enable more people to watch the entire match compred to a Sunday when many are consious about staying up late due to the working week starting on Monday. 

This year’s Australian Open saw Jannik Sinner bounce back from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a epic encounter that lasted three hours and 46 minuites. Meanwhile, Aryna Sabalenka required an hour and 17 mnuites to beat China’s Qinwen Zheng and capture the title. 

Should such a switch take place, it is estimated that the Sunday finale would end at around 10:30pm local time instead of after midnight, which would make it more appealing to fans. Furthermore, it could throw the women’s final more into the spotlight. 

However, there will be obstacles that need to be addressed. The most significant for the Australian Open will be trying to ensure that their 48-hour recovery period between best-of-five-set men’s matches will still be followed. 

This year was the first time in history that the Melbourne major took place over 15 days with play starting on a Sunday. Organisers claimed that the move was done in order to prevent the number of late-night finishes. However, it has little effect on any matches that took place after the first round. 

It is throught that now the event is held over 15 days, it gives more room for organisers to schedule the men’s final for a Saturday. The proposal was discussed during this year’s Australian Open’s official debrief. 

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Grand Slam

It Wasn’t The Same Old Story On Sunday Down Under

Jannik Sinner won his first Grand Slam title on Sunday.

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(@janniksin - Twitter)

It’s been the same old story at the Australian Open for a long time in the men’s game.

One of the greats almost always would take the top prize Down Under. Either Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Roger Federer or even Stan Wawrinka always prevailed since 2006 at Melbourne.

And then came Jannik Sinner in 2024.

None of the other superstars were still around for Sunday’s final.

A DIFFERENT AUSTRALIAN OPEN

Yes, this time it was a different Australian Open.

But actually Sinner may have written his own story when he upended Djokovic in the semifinals. Without that experience, the slender Italian may not have been able to handle the pressure that Daniil Medvedev sent his way in the final.

Sinner was ready for the finish line after shocking Djokovic in the semifinals. It just took time to get there.

Sinner played within himself most of the last three sets of the final. A first-time Grand Slam finalist, Sinner played as if he belonged there in those three sets.

But, oh, those first two sets when Medvedev dominated play with his backhand from the middle of the court. Backhands usually are reserved for the backhand side of the court, but not with the tall Russian on the court.

SINNER DIDN’T PLAY HIS GAME AT FIRST

In a similar manner as women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka, Sinner followed up a big semifinal win with his own Australian Open title. Only, Sinner had to fight for five sets to accomplish his dream Down Under with a 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Medvedev.

Sinner appeared to play far differently from his victory over Djokovic when he controlled the court with his aggressive play and power.

This time, Sinner started things conservatively with few aggressive winners, repeatedly leaving the corners wide open for Medvedev’s crafty, but hard hit strokes. Medvedev made Sinner  pay a price with a style of play that was just the opposite.

Medvedev played close to the baseline and aggressively hopped on balls with his backhand in whip-lash fashion. He hardly had to move as he conserved energy.

THE STRATEGY ALMOST WORKED TO PERFECTION

Medvedev’s strategy worked like a charm until Sinner served the ninth game of the third set as Medvedev once needed only six points for a possible Grand Slam title. Sinner managed to overcome a deuce score to win that game.

Medvedev fell behind 30-0 serving the 10th game of the set and then Sinner got his first set point. Sinner made it stand up and it was a new game after that.

Sinner didn’t appear to be ready for Medvedev’s game the first two sets, but the Italian then came alive. He became prepared for Medvedev, even after losing the first two sets.

Of course, Sabalenka got her boost from a surprising, but solid win over talented Coco Graff in the women’s semifinals. Sabalenka then was never really challenged by Qinwen Zheng in the final.

Sinner’s final was much different.  He was somewhat lucky to escape with  a win.

Medvedev almost wrapped up the title in the ninth game, but it didn’t happen. As a result, Sinner may have started his own success story in Grand Slam finals.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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Focus

Australian Open Daily Preview: Daniil Medvedev Plays Jannik Sinner for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Daniil Medvedev during Friday’s semifinals (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The men’s singles and women’s doubles championship matches are on Sunday in Melbourne.

Across the last 10 hard court Majors, Daniil Medvedev has now advanced to six championship matches, half of which have come in Melbourne.  In those finals, Medvedev is a meek 1-4.  However, this is the first time Medvedev is looking across the net at a man not named Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, the two winningest male singles players of all-time at Grand Slam events.

And Medvedev can thank Jannik Sinner for that, who for the third time in their last four meetings, defeated Djokovic in Friday’s semifinals to reach his first Major final.  Since adding Darren Cahill to his team 18 months ago, one of tennis’s best coaches of all-time, Sinner’s game has continually and significantly improved, most evident in his three victories over Djokovic since November.  On Sunday, the most dominant male player of this fortnight looks to break more new ground in his young career.

Earlier on Sunday, in the women’s doubles championship match, it’s Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko (11) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2).  This is a first Major final for Kichenok, and a first in doubles for Ostapenko.  Su-Wei has won seven Majors in doubles, including her first mixed title earlier this week, and is 7-1 at this stage of Majors.  Mertens has won three Majors in women’s doubles, including Wimbledon in 2021 alongside Su-Wei.


Jannik Sinner (4) vs. Daniil Medvedev (3) – Not Before 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Through six rounds, Sinner has dropped just one of 19 sets, which came against Djokovic in the semis.  But even that match was a rather comfortable win for the Italian, who lost only six games in the three sets he claimed.  Jannik has not just been the best ATP player this fortnight: he’s been the best ATP player since the last Major, with a record of 26-2.  The 22-year-old is 10-4 in ATP finals, with this of course being by far the biggest of his career to date.

Medvedev endured a much more complicated path to this final, completing 25 out of a possible 30 sets, which included three five-setters.  Two of those came in the last two rounds, against Hubert Hurkacz and Sascha Zverev.  Daniil has spent six more hours on court than Jannik, and has played for over 11 hours during the second week alone.  He is 20-16 in ATP Finals, with all 20 titles coming at different events.  But Medvedev can be rather streaky in finals: after losing five in a row, he won seven of eight, yet has now lost his last three.

And those last two losses came at the hands of Sinner, who beat him in both Beijing and Vienna.  Jannik also defeated Daniil in the semifinals of the ATP Finals in November, though all three of those recent matches were tight.  Prior to that, Medvedev had dominated their head-to-head 6-0, which includes two finals earlier in 2023.  All ten of their meetings have taken place on hard courts, and this is their first at a Major.

Based on their recent history, as well as their individual form this fortnight, I favor Sinner to win his first Major on Sunday.  While he’ll surely be nervous in the biggest match of his life, and could experience an emotional letdown coming off ending Novak’s undefeated record of 20-0 in Australian Open semis and finals, Jannik will be the much fresher player on this day.  Plus, he will feel confident after those three recent wins over Daniil, who has a lot of scar tissue to overcome in Major finals.  And after facing Medvedev so much within the past year, Sinner is well-versed on how to take advantage of Daniil’s deep return position.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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