EXCLUSIVE: Denis Istomin Doubtful 2020 Season Will Resume As He Backs Djokovic’s Vaccination Stance - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Denis Istomin Doubtful 2020 Season Will Resume As He Backs Djokovic’s Vaccination Stance

Ubitennis has spoken to the former top 40 tennis star about how he is coping during the Tour shutdown and what he thinks the future has in store for the sport.

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Many tennis fans know Denis Istomin thanks to his second-round victory at the 2017 Australian Open over the then world number 2 and defending champion Novak Djokovic. In the current ATP ranking, the 33-year-old Uzbek tennis player can be found in 156th place, but he has a best ranking of 33 achieved in 2012. 

Where have you been during the lockdown?

 

I have been spending this time in Almaty [city in Kazakhstan, Ed.] with my family.

Did you resume training and playing tennis in this period?

Tennis clubs in Almaty have just reopened again, so for now I am still focusing on fitness training. Most likely, I will start playing tennis again on May 25th.

During this time, did you have a chance to talk to any of your colleagues about the current situation? Nadal thinks that the ATP Tour will not resume in 2020. What is the other pros’ viewpoint on this? 

Indeed, I spoke with some colleagues who are also my friends about the current situation in which we are living. If you ask me and other players, professional tennis will not resume in 2020.

Do you think it is the same for the remaining two Grand Slam tournaments – the US Open and the French Open?

I would like them to take place. However, I think the chance that it happens is really, really low.

What do you think of the French tennis federation’s decision to postpone the event?

They took the most convenient decision for them, but they did not take the calendar or the players into consideration. In this situation, if the tournament takes place anyway, then surely it will benefit most players, since what they really want is to just be able to play.

Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal suggested the creation of a Player Relief fund to help players ranked outside the top 100 in the ATP ranking. What do you think of this initiative?

I think it is a great idea, because this is a very difficult time for all tennis players, especially those with low ranking who do not have a chance to play the Slams and the ATP tournaments – certainly, many of them are considering giving up professional tennis. I hope that the money pledged through the Fund will help motivate them to keep playing.

Dominic Thiem initially criticised the project, saying that some players are not really committed when playing minor tournaments like Futures. Do you agree with this statement?

I haven’t played Futures for quite some time, but anyway everyone is entitled to their own opinion! Surely, there are players who are not always 100% committed! Likewise, there are many players who work very hard and do not have enough money to travel to and play in those tournaments. Perhaps, these players do not even have a chance to be accompanied by a coach, given that the Futures prize money hasn’t increased by much in the last 20 years. I cannot say I fully agree or disagree with that statement. Both viewpoints make sense. The only thing I didn’t like much was that Dominic’s statement was public – he should have discussed the matter with the ATP or with the players beforehand.

Thiem as well as Matteo Berrettini said that everyone should be free to decide which charitable donations to make and to whom – for instance, hospitals or other organisations – and that the ATP should not force anyone to endorse the Player Relief Fund. What do you think about this?

I agree. Everyone’s own financial situation is different, and I believe that everyone should be able to contribute according to their available resources – no one should feel compelled. Each of us should be able to decide by themselves whom to help and how.

Novak Djokovic revealed that he would be against a potentially compulsory vaccine for COVID-19. This statement caused an uproar among many people who accused Novak to be against science. What is your viewpoint?

Let them accuse me too then! I agree with Novak! There cannot be a compulsory vaccine – every person should be able to decide whether they want to get vaccinated or not.

Do you have any idea of when ATP tournaments will resume on the tennis tour?

I think that the next two years will be really hard for the ATP tour! I hope we can start again soon, but we must be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Since the pandemic is not over yet, the main goal remains staying healthy.

What do you think of Patrick Mouratoglou’s initiative – the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (i.e., the exhibition tournament organised by him)?

It is an excellent idea! Tennis players need to play matches, no matter if they are exhibitions or actual tournaments. I hope that all tennis federations will follow his example and organise something similar for their own players.

Interview conducted by Silvia Aresi
Translation by Riccardo Superbo

 

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‘I Love Tennis Because Of Him’ – Argentine Football Sensation Praises Roger Federer

The forward for Juventus F.C. Speaks out about the 20-time Grand Slam champion as well as other topics concerning the world of tennis.

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Roger Federer is used to various public figures praising him for his record-breaking career with his latest compliment coming from a star of Argentinian football.

 

Paulo Dybala, who has played for Serie A club Juventus since 2015, says he always tries to watch tennis because of him. The 26-year-old spoke out about the Swiss Maestro during a video Q and A session with the Tennis Channel for whom he is currently an ‘athlete analyst’ for. When asked ‘who was the player that made you fall in love with the game?’ he replied with Federer.

“Well at home, we used to watch a lot of sports, the TV was always on, and the sport we watched the most was football, followed by tennis,” Dybala said. “I always had a lot of admiration and respect. I liked Roger Federer’s style… I believe that I and many people have him as a tennis reference. We try to watch his matches, he has a style and elegance that makes everyone want to be like him. I always tried to watch him play so I love tennis because of him.”

Although Federer isn’t the only tennis player to have drawn praise from Dybala, who was part of his country’s national football team for the 2018 World Cup. He also speaks about his ‘great relationship’ with Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman recently broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career after reaching the semi-finals of the French Open.

“I have a great relationship with Diego, I have known him for years,” he said. “We always talk and I am very happy with what he is achieving.’
“I text him after some of his matches to congratulate him for what he has done.”

It was at the French Open this year where Rafael Nadal won the tournament for a historic 13th time in his career after defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Dybala says that there are ‘no words’ to describe the latest achievement by the world No.2.

“Rafael Nadal won Roland Garros in a match in which he gave no chance to Novak Djokovic,” Dybala reflected. “I think it was more than well-deserved to win his 13th Roland Garros in his career. Something amazing. He matched Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slams. There are no words for this player, no words.”

Dybala is currently dating Oriana Sabatini who is the niece of 1990 US Open champion Gabriela Sabatini.

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Dan Evans On The Look Out For New Coach

The 30-year-old has come to a surprise decision to end his current coaching agreement despite achieving a career ranking high earlier this year.

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British No.1 Dan Evans is making a big change to his team after confirming that he will part ways with coach Mark Hilton at the end of the season.

 

The world No.35 reunited with Hilton just last year after also previously working with him prior to his drugs ban in 2017. Under his guidance Evans has achieved several wins over top 10 players, reached his first ever semi-final of an ATP 500 event in Dubai and peaked at a ranking best of 28th in March.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark for his work and efforts over the past 12 months and we are both excited for what is next for each of our respective careers,” Evans said.

Evans’ announcement came on the same day he ended his five-match losing streak on the Tour. In the first round of the European Open on Tuesday he defeated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso in three sets. Making it his first win since the US Open when he defeated Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild.

Hilton will now return to working for the British LTA. A former player himself he reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Wimbledon boys doubles championships and peaked at a ranking high of 202 on the ATP Tour in singles. His best performance at a Grand Slam occurred at Wimbledon when as a wild card he stunned Spain’s Albert Costa in the first round of the 2004 tournament. Besides Evans, he has also previously worked with the likes of Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund.

“After discussing our plans for 2021, Dan and I have made the mutual decision to part ways at the end of November,” Hilton said in a statement.
“Both of us are very proud of our collaboration this year, helping Dan achieve a career-high ranking of number 28, seven wins over top-20 players and reaching his first ATP 500 semi-final.
“I’m looking forward to taking the experience I have gained over the last three years at the highest levels of the ATP Tour and re-investing that back into the LTA’s Performance Team for the benefit of our British players and coaches.”

It is unclear as to who may step in as Evans’ next coach. The Brit will return to action on Wednesday when he plays Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

Evans’ win-loss for 2020 currently stands at 14-11 on the ATP Tour.

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Borna Coric Admits He Was Difficult To Work With As He Targets Top 10 Milestone

The Croatian No.1 believes ‘controlled aggression’ is key to rising back up the rankings.

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Croatian tennis star Borna Coric says he has become more ‘easy-going’ in recent years after working under a variety of different coaches.

 

The 23-year-old has been guided on the Tour by no fewer than eight coaches since 2014 which includes the likes of Thomas Johansson (2015) and Riccardo Piatti (2017-2019). At present, he is now working with Martin Stepanek. A former Czech player who has worked with the likes of Thomas Berdych and Ivan Dodig.

“I am not going to deny it, I was difficult to work with before, high-maintenance if you like, and now I am more easy-going. But I really have never been the type of guy that fires a coach after two first-round losses,” Coric told tennismajors.com.
“Actually, looking back at all my coaches, only with one it was entirely up to me, where I felt we weren’t working well and I decided to end it. With everyone else there were different issues – personal problems on their side, or inability to reach an agreement in regard to finances, or that the coach wasn’t able to travel enough weeks with me, things like that.”

Coric’s various changes in his team can be partly attributed to his roller-coaster journey. Growing up he was portrayed as the next big thing in the sport following a series of high-profile wins during his teenage years. At the age of 17 he defeated Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors followed by Andy Murray in Dubai the year after.

Despite his early promise, Coric is yet to scale the top of men’s tennis with his best ranking being 12th which was first achieved back in 2018. He looked on course to rise further last season but another coaching split combined with back injury problems resulted in him falling down the rankings again.

Given that the average age of professional tennis players peaking is on the rise, there is still time for Coric to get the breakthrough many have predicted for him. He is once again showing signs of a resurgence during what has been a limited 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the US Open, which was his 22nd appearance in a main draw of a Grand Slam, he reached the quarter-finals of a major for the first time in his career. More recently at the St. Petersburg Open the Croat reached the final before losing to the in-form Andrey Rublev.

As to what the key has been to Coric’s recent resurgence, he explains that it is due to what he describes as ‘controlled aggression.’

“It depends on numerous factors (whether he’ll be aggressive). The surface, my gut feeling, am I confident or not, if I am moving well and feeling fresh, have I got the right feel for the ball, the opponent’s style of play… A lot comes into it, but generally speaking, I am a far better player when I am being aggressive, not just retrieving, even though I am perhaps making a bit more errors,” he explains.
“You could see that on display in New York and me being aggressive, along with further improvement of my serve, are two of the biggest emphasis of my work with Martin. I am not there yet, but if I am healthy and able to maintain the level I had at the US Open, then I can get close to Top 10. But it’s still a long way to go.”

Coric is currently ranked 24th in what is his best ranking so far this season and has achieved a win-loss of 14-10. Out of those 14 wins, two were over top 10 players Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Coric’s 2020 season summary

  • ATP Cup – one win and two losses
  • Australian Open – lost in first round to Sam Querrey
  • Buenos Aires – granted a bye in the first round, lost in the second to Thiago Monterio
  • Rio de Janeiro – reached the semi-finals before losing to Christian Garin
  • Western and Souther Open – in first ATP tournament following a five-month break due to COVID-19, Coric reached the second round before going out to David Goffin
  • US Open: Achieved his best ever Grand Slam result by reaching the quarter-finals. He was knocked out of the tournament by Alexander Zverev
  • Rome – lost in round two to Stefano Travaglia
  • French Open – upset in the first round by Norbert Gombos
  • St. Petersburg – achieved best result of the season so far by reaching the final.

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