‘He Did Everything I did, Only Better’ - Pat Rafter Names The Toughest Rival Of His Career - UBITENNIS
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‘He Did Everything I did, Only Better’ – Pat Rafter Names The Toughest Rival Of His Career

The two-time grand slam champion opens up about his toughest rivalry as he predicts a bleak outlook for the 2020 tennis season.

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Former world No.1 Pat Rafter has named an American tennis legend as the player who he struggled the most against throughout his professional career.

The 47-year-old was a star of Australian tennis during his playing days after achieving a series of milestones. His accolades include becoming the first player from his country in 28 years to reach the top of the ATP rankings in 1999 and becoming the first man to win the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Masters and US Open within the same year. Rafter is also the last player outside of the Big Three to have won back-to-back US Open titles after triumphing in 1997 and 1998.

Despite his successes, there was one player that caused him difficulty. Rafter played Pete Sampras 16 times on the ATP Tour, but could only win four of those encounters. At one stage he lost to the 14-time grand slam champion eight times in a row.

“The toughest player I played against was definitely Pete Sampras – he did everything I did, only better.” Rafter told Eurosport.
“His record was the best so there’s no doubt about it Sampras the stand-out. I enjoyed playing Andre Agassi the most – I thought we had a really good battle, I really enjoyed playing him.”

The rivalry between the two was tense at times. Highlighted best by their encounter in the 1998 US Open semifinals. Sampras complained of a quadriceps injury following his loss to the Australian. Prompting Rafter to famously say ‘he’s becoming a bit of a crybaby.’ A few months before that comment, he admitted that his relationship with the American wasn’t solid by saying ‘We’re not the best of mates. I wouldn’t go out for a beer with him, put it that way.’

22 years on from the verbal exchange between the two, Rafter now describes it as a thing of the past. Insisting that his rival never took what he said to him ‘personally.’

“I can’t remember the exact words, but we had a run-in in Cincinnati one year – I probably told him to grow up.” He recounted.
“He cracked it when I beat him one time. But that was back in the old days, emotions were running high and don’t take it personally. It’s all good.”

No tennis in 2020

Besides reminiscing about his playing career with Eurosport, Rafter has also predicted a bleak outlook for this year’s tour. All professional tournaments have been suspended until July 13th due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time since 1945 Wimbledon has been cancelled due to the situation.

Many are now speculating as to when it will be possible for the tour to resume. The US Open is still optimistic that they can hold their tournament as scheduled later this summer. Meanwhile, the French Open is set to be played during the later part of September. However, Rafter doubts that either of those tournaments will happen.

“No, I think this (the virus) is going to be around for a long time.” Rafter commented on the chances of the 2020 season resuming. “Until they get a vaccine I can’t see how anyone is going to be playing.’
“Personally, I think it’ll be like the flu and we’ll have to get used to it.”

Potentially one solution for the tournaments would be to host matches without spectators. In order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. An approach that has already been taken by other sports such as football. However, Wimbledon refused to consider that option this year.

“I think they could. No spectators. Sure. No ball-boys – I’d love to see the players pick up the balls themselves!” he concluded.

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

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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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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