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

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.



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

‘He Could Become An Excellent Player’ – Remember Roger Federer’s Grand Slam Debut 21 Years Later

More than two decades ago on this day was the start of where it all began for the former world No.1. But what did he and his opponent think about his first match played at a major?



Roger Federer at the 1999 French Open

On this day 21 years ago the most decorated grand slam champion in the history of men’s tennis began his major career.


Roger Federer embarked upon the 1999 French Open as the youngest player in the field and yet to break into the world’s top 100. Aged 17, the Swiss player was yet to play in the final of an ATP Tournament and only managed to enter the Roland Garros main draw thanks to a wild card. His opponent was third seed Pat Rafter who at the time was at the peak of his career. The Australian had won back-to-back US Open titles leading up to the tournament.

Undoubtedly the odds were piled heavily against a young and inexperienced Federer, but he still managed to make his mark. Surprisingly taking the first set before Rafter fought back to eventually win 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.

“The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,” the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote at the time.

Rafter echoed a similar view to L’Equipe during his post-match media engagements. He went on to become one of the few players to have a perfect winning record against Federer of 3-0. Also defeating him twice during the 2001 season.

“The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.”

Rafter’s prediction came true but even he at the time didn’t expect the 17-year-old to go on and become one of the greatest. Now Federer holds the records for most grand slam titles (20), most weeks as world No.1 (310) and has won more ATP Awards than anybody else (37). Approaching the age of 39, he remains a prominent fixture in the world’s top 10 18 years on from his debut.

Federer has spoken about his first taste of a grand slam a few times in the past. One of his most notable observations was during a conversation he had with Rafter at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. When speaking about losing his one set lead, the Swiss maestro said it was partly to do with his mental weakness and showing too much respect to the top guns at the time.

”I was up a set and I was just 17 years old and I wasn’t expected to win,” Federer recounted. ”I think I got broken in the second set and I was like ‘Oh, God, what am I doing?’
”Next thing you know I’m losing 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. It was very mental. I had a lot of respect for the older generation who were already accomplished. Obviously stars like Pat were, for me, people I really looked up to, even though I knew I could beat them. Mentally I was not so solid.”

Rafter has also admitted that his 1999 victory was partly down to the mental weakness of his rival during a 2018 interview with Blick newspaper. However, he blames losing the first set on never playing Federer before.

“I met Roger for the first time at the French Open in 1999. It was his grand slam debut. Since I did not know his game at the time, it took me some time to adjust to him. That’s why I lost the first set,” he said.
“Roger’s biggest handicap was his mental maturity, he was only 17 years old. That was one of the reasons why I came back and win in four sets.”

Whilst the French Open was where it all began for Federer, his record in the major is the worst out of the four grand slams. It is the only one he has failed to win multiple times, claiming his sole title back in 2009. Overall, he has played in the main draw 18 times with a win-loss of 70-17.

How old was the current top 10 when Federer made his grand slam debut?

  1. Novak Djokovic – 12
  2. Rafael Nadal – 12
  3. Dominic Thiem – 5
  4. Roger Federer – 17
  5. Daniil Medvedev – 3
  6. Stefanos Tsitsipas – 9 months
  7. Alexander Zverev – 2
  8. Matteo Berrettini – 3
  9. Gael Monfils – 12
  10. David Goffin – 8

(numbers in years unless otherwise stated)

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Grand Slam

‘Global Announcement’ Regarding Revised 2020 Calendar In The Works, Says French Open Chief

Guy Forget has issued an update regarding the current status of the clay-court major.



The governing bodies of tennis are hoping to announce their plans for the remainder of the 2020 season in unison, according to the tournament director of the French Open.


Guy Forget has told French radio station Europe 1 that he is working with the ITF, ATP and WTA on a ‘global announcement’ regarding what the rest of the tennis season would look like when it resumes. All professional events have been either cancelled or suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hopes that the sport could resume in August, however, there is still uncertainty around the US Open with a final decision set to be made in June.

The uncertainty surrounding Flushing Meadows is also problematic for the French Open, which is set to take just two weeks after the event concludes. Forget has stated that he is working with the USTA to ensure that the two major events do not collide. The French Open had originally planned to start on May 24th before being delayed due to the pandemic.

“The official announcement has not been made yet. It (the French Open) will probably be between the end of September and the beginning of October,” Forget told Europe 1.
“We’ve been working closely with the ATP, the WTA and the ITF to make a global announcement on what the circuit will be like until the end of the year.
“There are so many question marks. The city of New York is more affected by the coronavirus than France. They also have a lot of organisation problems, they will make an announcement mid-June to say how it’s going to be like for the US Open.”

Whilst the USTA is contemplating taking place behind closed doors, Forget is confident that his event will be able to welcome fans in some capacity. At present, France has banned all events that involve 5000 or more people. More than 500,000 tickets were sold for the tournament last year.

“We’ll see how the situation is in a couple of months. We will adapt to what the government will say. We have to be ambitious and optimistic,” he said.

The French Open is scheduled to be held from September 20th until October 4th. Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty are the defending champions in the men’s and women’s draws.

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Grand Slam

Chances Of Fan-Less US Open Rising Amid Warning From Former Champion Marin Cilic

The former world No.3 believes such a move would devalue the tournament, but it is the best option the USTA has?



The last player outside of the Big Four to win the US Open title believes the motion to play the event behind closed doors will feel like playing practice matches instead of a grand slam.


2014 champion Marin Cilic has voiced his concerns as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) continues to ponder what to do with the major event. All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with officials hoping to restart the Tour in August. However, there are concerns about the chances of the US Open taking place as originally planned due to New York being one of the most affected states in America by Coronavirus. More than 20,000 people have died in New York from the virus.

One option under consideration is hosting the event without any fans due to fears that the venue could become a COVID-19 hotspot with many people gathering in one place. Last year a record 737,872 fans visited the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center over two weeks. Such a move would be a huge financial loss for the organisers, but the event would still be able to go ahead. However, Cilic isn’t convinced that it would be the right move.

“I just feel that it’s going to more or less feel like practice matches,” he said during an interview with Reuters.
“It’s always going to be … in the years to come, ‘oh, you know that guy won a U.S. Open in 2020 without fans’. I don’t think it’s going to have that weight…
“It wouldn’t be the best scenario.”

Whilst it may not be the best scenario in the eyes of Cilic, it does appear that the USTA will be heading in that direction. Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo posted a message on Twitter in which he said he is willing to partner with sports teams who will play events without fans. A possible lifeline for the US Open.

“New York State is ready and willing to partner with major sports teams that are interested in playing games safely, without fans. If our professional sports teams can make it work (and be safe) on their end, we’re supportive,” he wrote.

Originally the CEO of the USTA, Mike Dose, said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the tournament would be played behind closed doors. However, that view has since significantly changed with more now leaning in favour of that option.

Lew Sherr is the Chief Revenue Officer of the USTA. Speaking to The Sports Business Journal, he said he has been surprised by the reception he has received from sponsors over the idea of a no-fan US Open with many viewing it as an historic event.

“Two months ago, it just didn’t feel like you could stage the celebration or the spectacle that is the U.S. Open in a no-fan scenario and have it be what we think of as the U.S. Open,” Sherr said.
“As we’ve gone forward, I’ve come around to recognizing what an achievement it would be to play, and how much our fans are missing the game and would be excited to see the competition, and that you need to think about it differently. It’s a different event. It would be broadcast differently, it would be consumed differently, it’s not just playing the U.S. Open as you know it, with empty seats.”

A final decision on the US Open will be made next month.

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