(VIDEO) Exclusive: Why Rod Laver Wanted To Kill Martin Mulligan at Wimbledon - UBITENNIS
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(VIDEO) Exclusive: Why Rod Laver Wanted To Kill Martin Mulligan at Wimbledon

Martin Mulligan, three-time champion in Rome, reminisces about the match point he had against Rod Laver in 1962, the year of Rocket’s first Grand Slam. At the end of his playing days, he became a Fila manager (after previously working for Diadora), and got to know Borg, McEnroe, Pietrangeli, Hopman. Now he advocates for changes in the calendar, for which he proposes a model akin to that of F1.

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At least two stories would be incomplete without mentioning Aussie-turned-Italian Martin (or Martino, as Gianni Clerici used to call him) Mulligan: that of the Internazionali d’Italia, which he won thrice (once every two years starting in 1963), and that of the Fila brand, picked over Diadora in 1973. He had hung up his racquet, and was working for both companies, advertising Diadora shoes and Fila outfits. After a while, both companies started to produce the missing element in their respective collections, forcing Martin to choose the latter and to move to San Francisco to monitor the American market – he still lives there, and still collaborates with the Biella sports brand, founded in 1923.   

 

However, we said that the incomplete stories would be “at least” two, since as a player (he was born in Marrickville in 1940, and will turn 80 on October 18) he earned a privileged spot in the saga of the second Grand Slam in Pre-Open tennis history, completed by Rod Laver in 1962 (he would repeat the feat in 1969, after the start of the Open Era). Not only did he play Rocket in the final of the Championships (on the very first occasion that the Queen was in the stands, no less!), but he also went less than inch from stopping Laver’s run in Paris, just a few weeks prior: up 4-5 30-40 in the fourth set, Martino countered an aggressive second serve with a passing shot down the line (as he’d done all afternoon), and could only look on as Laver hit a winning cross-court volley. Mulligan would then lose that set with a 10-8 score (no tie-breaks back then), without earning any more match points, before capitulating for 6-2 in the decider. “Oh Martin, what did you do?” is Ubaldo Scanagatta’s taunt to this day. You can watch the rest of their conversation in the video below, recorded before the cancellation of Wimbledon:

Mulligan’s maternal grandparents were born in Orsago, in the province of Treviso (near Venice), before moving to Australia at the onset of the 20th century. Martin would then take the reverse journey, coming back to his ancestral home to train and to earn a Davis Cup spot, something that he could have never achieved in Australia, where too many great players prevented him from breaking into Harry Hopman’s team. In Italy, he fulfilled his dream, starring in the 1968 team that lost the zonal tie against a Spanish team that could boast players like Gisbert, Santana, and Orantes with a score of 3-2 (Mulligan scored both points, winning a singles rubber after the tie was already decided along with the doubles, partnering Pietrangeli, who lost both singles against Santana and Gisbert, who was in turn the best player in the tie, having upset Martin too in the first rubber) – notably, Martin is the only foreign-born player to ever feature in an Italy Davis Cup team.

Throughout the interview, Mulligan recalls his early days working with Fila, when he tried to recruit a young John McEnroe for a company that already had Bjorn Borg as its showpiece. The plan was to deliver a test racquet to Martin, who would have checked it before passing it on to John, who was very faithful to his Wilson arsenal – however, “there was a delay in the delivery, and we were forced to send Mac the racquet without passing by my examination in San Francisco first.” That was the fatal error, since John’s surname was spelled with an “a” on the racquet. Not only wouldn’t McEnroe sign for Fila if his life depended on it, but, in Ubaldo’s recollection, he also yelled something along the lines of, “there’s no way they can make good racquets, they can’t even spell my name!” The original quote, which is slightly (and predictably) more colourful, can be heard in the video.

Ubaldo and Mulligan pictured together at Wimbledon

Mulligan also got quite honest while discussing today’s players – “They ace and then immediately go for their towel, there’s no need for that!” – and the game’s governing bodies: “The ITF should be in charge of tennis but their ineptitude in past years favoured the ascent of the ATP and of the WTA. There should be one big tournament per month at most. Moreover, there are far too many second-tier events.” He doesn’t hide his nostalgia for a time when life wasn’t this fretful, and yet people filled the Foro Italico to the brim anyway, cheering on their fellow countryman Martin Mulligan, who was able to defeat none other than Manuel Santana in four sets. It was 1965.

Text translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa

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French Open, Steve Flink: “The Third Set of the Semifinal Was the Best in the Djokovic-Nadal Rivalry”

A final recap on the Parisian Major. Can Djokovic clinch a calendar year Grand Slam? Krejcikova’s double win and Zverev’s shortcomings

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The 2021 French Open was one for the history books, with countless historical milestones and topics. Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steve Flink have summed it all up, touching on Novak Djokovic’s three comebacks and the interruption to Rafa Nadal’s Roland Garros reign, while keeping an eye on the upcoming Championships at Wimbledon. Here’s their chat:  

 

VIDEO SCHEDULE

1:14 – On the Djokovic-Nadal semifinal: “The third set was the best in their rivalry, and even Djokovic highlighted this match as one of the best he has played at the French Open.”

4:40 – “I thought that whoever won the third set tie-breaker would have won the match, although Nadal came out strong at the beginning of the fourth, before running out of gas…” Was the Spaniard uncharacteristically dispirited?

08:40 – Can Djokovic win all four Majors like Rod Laver did in 1969, becoming the only man in the Open Era to complete a Calendar Grand Slam?

09:40 – On the final against Tsitsipas: “That break of serve in the third set really changed the tide for good…”

11:50 – “There were two Novaks in this tournament…”

17:00 – “The Serbian will remember this win as one of his best, both because of his win against Nadal and because of his comebacks against Musetti and Tsitsipas.”

18:50 – Djokovic was criticised for his behaviour during the match against Berrettini – are the media and the fans too tough on him?

24:45 – On Zverev vs Tsitsipas: “Had the German broken in the opening game of the decider, it would have been him facing Djokovic on Sunday.”

26:00 – “Zverev can’t really expect to beat someone like Tsitsipas after failing to show up for two sets, he needs to work on the mental aspect of his game.”

28:20 – Again on Djokovic and the Grand Slam. He’s been here before, in 2016: can he go all the way this time?

34:45 – The women’s tournament: “The Krejcikova-Pavlyuchekova final was a good match, the Czech player should be proud of what she has achieved.”

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

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French Open, Steve Flink: “Nadal is the clear favourite, but Tsitsipas and Djokovic have a shot”

A recap of what’s happened in Paris so far. What will decide the 58th match between Nadal and Djokovic? Can Tsitsipas and Sakkari score a Greek brace?

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The 2021 French Open is almost over – this is the time to discuss the tournament’s key points and to make the final predictions. The men’s and women’s semifinals will offer opposite pictures – the latter has four underdogs, while the former will be contested by the players who were thought to be the main contenders all along. As usual, Steve Flink joined Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta (who is in Paris) to talk about the most momentous topics, such as Federer’s withdrawal and the lack of continuity among the stars of the WTA Tour. Here’s their video: 

 

VIDEO SCHEDULE

1:10 – The Djokovic-Berrettini match: “I was surprised with Berrettini’ level in the third and fourth set…”

3:40 – What lay behind Djokovic’s vocal celebration?

6:20 – The fans had to leave the stadium halfway through the fourth set – could have the organisers done a better scheduling job? “TV money is important, but such a big tournament should have the power to change the schedule, if necessary.”

11:15 – “I was surprised by Tsitsipas as well, he contained Medvedev’s attempted comeback very impressively.” Is he a bonafide contender? What about Zverev

16:05 – Lorenzo Musetti was a pleasant surprise before retiring in the decider against Djokovic – was he actually injured? Ubaldo Scanagatta spoke to him and his coach…

22:50 – Who will have the edge between Nadal and Djokovic?

28:15 – On Federer’s withdrawal: “He might have played his last French Open match without a crowd – it was quite sad.” Was it fair to withdraw without being injured?

36:00 – Semifinal predictions: “Djokovic needs to win the opening set more than Nadal does. As for Zverev v Tsitsipas, they are both high on confidence right now, it’s very close.”

40:20 – The women’s draw: “These semifinals feel out of place in a Slam, and they are the symbol of the crisis OF the WTA.”

45:40 – “The next two Majors will be important for women’s tennis – we need big rivalries.”

48:35 – Coco Gauff reached the quarter finals – is she going to be a contender in the next Slams?

50:30 – Jannik Sinner disappointed against Nadal – where does he need to improve?

52:20 – A prediction on the women’s tournament – can Sakkari and Tsitsipas clinch a Greek double?

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

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French Open, the women’s draw. Flink: “Osaka’s press conference boycott is a mistake”

Barty and Swiatek are the favourites, but Sabalenka could be a factor. The main object of discussion, however, is the Japanese player’s refusal to speak to the press during the event

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In the second part of their French Open preview, Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steve Flink analyse the women’s draw, with the two defending champions, Barty and Swiatek, who could face off in the semis. Naomi Osaka is in the bottom half, but her chances in Paris are being talked about far less than her decision not to hold any press conferences throughout the fortnight. Here’s their chat:

 

00:00 – “The draw is a little uneven, far more contenders ended up in the top half, such as Barty, Swiatek, Muguruza…” Will Serena Williams and Osaka be competitive?

08:02 – The Japanese star has decided to eschew press conferences throughout the tournament – a wise move? “What will happen if other players will do the same? I honestly think that to bring mental health into the issue was a little extreme…”

11:34 – Osaka will probably receive a fine – is that enough?

15:35 – She is an icon for fans and players alike, so her decision is going to have a strong impact: “What I don’t understand is that she really is a player who has always been represented in a positive way by the media!” Will she do on-court interviews?   

Transcript by Tommaso Villa

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