(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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Steve Flink: “Naomi Osaka Will Win At Least A Dozen Slams”

The American tennis writer comments on the women’s singles event at the Australian Open. Can Brady win a Major? Is there any hope left for Serena Williams’ quest to clinch her 24th title?

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Naomi Osaka has been crowned as the queen of Melbourne for the second time. The 23-year-old beat Jennifer Brady in the final, conquering her fourth Slam title (all of them on hardcourts), and looks poised to dominate women’s tennis for years. Conversely, current world N.1 Ashleigh Barty couldn’t find her best tennis when she needed it most, bowing out as soon as she met some resistance. These are some of the themes that Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta and his Hall-of-Famer colleague tackled during the second part of their chat.

 

Here’s the video: 

00:00 – “Osaka’s success was hardly a surprise…” 

01:55 – “The only time she struggled was when she had to rally from two match points and a break down against Muguruza in the fourth round – did she raise her level or was it the Spaniard who went missing in the clutch?” 

06:07 – What can the Japanese player still improve in her game? 

09:15 – “I don’t see why she shouldn’t win at the French Open or at Wimbledon as well, although she might struggle a little more on the clay.” How many Majors can she win? 

12:05 – Jen Brady had a dream run to the final despite not being able to train for two weeks prior to the Aussie Slam – can she make it in the future? 

16:34 – “Barty wasn’t able to find her rhythm again after Muchova called an MTO in the second set, that’s too bad because she could have played the final two matches in front of her home crowd.” 

18:28 – “Serena Williams was distraught after her defeat to Osaka, but she had an excellent tournament, beating both Sabalenka and Halep.” Was she perhaps too hard on her chances? 

25:30 – To get her 24th Major, Serena will need to play seven great matches in a row – can she still do it? “My dream is to see a Williams-Osaka match-up in a Wimbledon final…”

31:53 – Was Kenin the biggest letdown of the event? “She had an appendicectomy a few days after the event, and the pressure may have been too much for her, but I think she will keep being a contender for the biggest titles.” 

Transcript and translation by Gianluca Sartori; edited by Tommaso Villa

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Steve Flink: “Djokovic and Nadal will end up with more Slams than Federer”

A final word on the 2021 Australian Open. Thiem was the biggest letdown of the fortnight, but which was the best match or the biggest upset?

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The men’s singles at the Australian Open ended in the most predictable way, with Novak Djokovic clinching his ninth title. However, the road to victory was laden with difficulties, as Hall-of-Famer tennis writer Steve Flink highlights in his third video chat about the tournament with Ubitennis founder and CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta. How close is the Next Gen to pushing out the Big Three? Was this Karatsev’s one shining moment or will he keep shocking the tennis world? This and more in the following chat:

 

0:00 – The men’s final: “I wasn’t sure Djokovic would be able to pull this off after his injury against Fritz, but after he beat Zverev I knew he’d win again.” Was such a trouncing of Medvedev at all predictable though?

5:00 – The keys to the Serbian’s masterclass win.

8:10 – “Medvedev had won most of his last meetings with Djokovic, but a Major final is a different story…” Did Djokovic actually tear an abdominal muscle?

14:30 – How close is the Next Gen to actually taking over?

17:30 – What was the impact of the 2-week quarantine on the tournament? “Many players struggled with injuries throughout the fortnight, but others, like Nadal, were already ailing at the beginning of the event.”

20:40 – Can Federer make another comeback? “His serve is so good that he can win many quick points, that will help him even if his fitness level isn’t up to par.”

24:30 – The best match of the tournament was…

29:45 – Who was the outbreak star? This is an easy one…

32:20 – What about the biggest letdown?

37:20 – A look into the future: will Djokovic end up surpassing Federer and Nadal’s 20-Slam tally?  

41:30 – The Serbian is also about to break the record for the most weeks spent at the top of the rankings – will he remain the world N.1 for much longer?

Transcript by Antonio Flagiello; edited by Tommaso Villa

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Steve Flink: “Why would Djokovic fake an injury when he’s two sets up?”

A preview of the second week of the Australian Open, from the physical issues bothering Djokovic and Nadal to the Russian trio in the quarter finals. Was the Osaka vs Muguruza match-up an early final?

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We are over halfway through the 2021 Australian Open, and Ubitennis veterans Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steve Flink have met on Zoom for the usual recap of what has happened so far, as well as for a preview of what’s to come in the last few days of the Happy Slam. Here’s their friendly debate:

 

VIDEO SCHEDULE

0:00 – Fognini was beaten by Nadal – could he have poached a set away from the Spaniard?

4:30 – “Fognini staged a great comeback against Rafa in New York in 2015, but this time the French Open champion came firing out of the gate…”

7:00 – Berrettini’s retirement: the right choice? “Just like Stefan Edberg in the 1990 final against Lendl…” Will the walkover give Tsitsipas more of a chance against Nadal?

10:30 – Three Russians in the quarter finals of a Major for the first time ever – can Karatsev keep going?

14:40 – His next opponent will be Grigor Dimitrov: “He surely has more to lose in this match…” The Bulgarian just beat Dominic Thiem – did the intense Kyrgios match weigh on the Austrian?

16:20 – The Medvedev-Rublev derby: will the world N.4 have the edge once again? “He needs to keep his emotions in check – they almost cost him the match against Krajinovic…”

20:50 – Djokovic vs Zverev: what’s the status of the Serbian’s fitness?

26:10 – Predicting the men’s semi-finals…

29:00 – The women’s draw: is Barty the overwhelming favourite in the top half of the draw? The great performance of American up-and-comers like Brady and Pegula.

32:10 – The world N.1 will face Muchova, who has survived a tough draw so far – will this help the Czech?

35:30 – A look at Serena Williams’ showing against Sabalenka: “Her experience prevailed in the key moments.” Up next, a rematch against Halep, who beat her handily in the 2019 Wimbledon final – were the match to go the distance, who would come out on top?

39:00 – Naomi Osaka struggled against Muguruza, coming back from the brink of defeat – is she still the favourite to win it all?

Transcript by Antonio Flagiello; translated and edited by Tommaso Villa

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