The Tournaments At Stake: Madrid Is A Go, Rome A Definitely Maybe - UBITENNIS
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The Tournaments At Stake: Madrid Is A Go, Rome A Definitely Maybe

Angelo Binaghi, the president of the Italian Tennis Federation, seeps optimism. However, there might be just one Master 1000 spot before Paris, were the French and the US Open to both take place, and in that case the Spanish event would prevail.

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Rafael Nadal - Conferenza Roma 2019 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

On Friday, Angelo Binaghi held a press conference to spread his (incautious?) optimism vis-à-vis the Internazionali d’Italia will be taking place in the latter half of September. Honestly, I don’t think he did it exclusively in order to eschew the refunding this year’s tickets, although, as a former PM used to say, to think ill of somebody is a sin, but it’s often the right thing to do.

Let me say that I dearly hope his buoyant predictions come true, for his own sake and for those of the Italian Federation, of UbiTennis, of myself, and of all tennis fans. However, it only seems right to go back to my Crystal Bald persona to obsequiously point out that:

  1. The clay season depends on the decision that will be made (collegially) by the US Open and the by the Master 1000 of Cincinnati, the apple of the USTA’s eye, as reported by L’Èquipe, the French sports newspaper, and by our own Vanni Gibertini.
  2. As of today, the Canadian Open is looking a ton shakier than Cincinnati does, and not just because it takes place a week earlier, allowing less time to gauge a potential decrease in the virus’s virulence (as many have speculated), but also because of the stance of the Canadian government on the Covid-19 situation. At the same time, though, were the US Open to be cancelled, no European standout would fly to North America to play solely in Cincinnati – a risky trip for the sake of a then senseless event.
  3. The widely held opinion is that Flushing Meadows will happen.
  4. While Binaghi is pushing to host the Italian Master 1000 event at all costs, regardless of the time of the year (maybe even moving it to Milan or Turin as an indoor tournament), the ownership of the Mutua Madrilena gig is of the unmovable opinion that the event must be played before the French Open, or else, sayonara to next year. Rumour is that there’s a chance that 50% of the usual crowd might be allowed in the Caja Magica – the futuristic building would allow for an easier adherence to the restrictions of the pandemic, something that would be a lot more complicated to pull off in Rome’s antiquated, albeit beautiful, spot.
  5. After perusing among folks with knowledge of the status of things (as I did myself), L’Equipe is reporting that the US Open will take place in the usual spot, between August 31 and September 13 – the likelihood of this happening has dramatically increased over the last 10 days. Inevitably, such punctuality and zest would open just one Master 1000 spot between New York and Paris.
  6. Think about it: how could the Flushing Meadows finalists precipitously fly to Europe to play a Master 1000 event that would begin literally the day after the North American showdown? How could they slither their way through post-match treatments and jetlag in order to play, possibly without fainting, on Wednesday at the latest?
  7. Madrid wouldn’t be game to this arrangement. Ion Tiriac’s tournament would be at the very concrete risk of not having a pair of big names, names that at that point would probably be the biggest, i.e. the US Open finalists who would have to perform a hard-clay switch over a 48-hour span. Even Rafa Nadal, who is the defending champion in New York and who would certainly struggle less than others to find his feet on the beloved red dirt, even he wouldn’t likely take such a risk only for the pleasure of playing in front of a home crowd. Needless to say, Madrid’s sponsors wouldn’t be enthusiastic of the arrangement either, were the tournament orphaned of Nadal himself or of another brace of marquee draws.

Intermission now. Thanks to a few exclusive sources from the organising team of Madrid, I’ve been told that a plan (with a current deadline set at June 15) is being developed in order to solve these logistical issues. The main points are as follows:

  • Both Madrid and Rome would axe eight main draw spots, going from 56 to 48, allowing more scheduling flexibility and allowing the 9-16 seeds to play five matches instead of six;
  • Madrid’s final would take place on Tuesday rather than on Sunday. This means that the best players (and that includes the US Open finalists) could play as late as Friday, which is still not ideal, but a great improvement in the effort to convince the players to fly in on such short notice;
  • Rome would start on the same day, albeit with no TV coverage in order to give the spotlight to the Madrid final – matches in Italy could be broadcast from Wednesday onwards;
  • Consequently, Rome’s final would take place on Monday, potentially a thorny issue, since the French Open is slated to start on Sunday. However, that overlapping would be far less problematic, because the two tournaments have different broadcasting arrangements, and could theoretically coexist on the cathode;
  • Both Madrid and Rome’s prize money would go down a cliff, understandably, seeing a 40-50% decrease, but that’s something athletes will need to get used to in all sporting domains.

what would happen if the pandemic struck again during the US Open?

A contingency plan is therefore being discussed, a very reassuring fact. However, there are a few issues that could still be problematic in this unpredictable year, so, going back to my bald-pated pessimism:

  1. Madrid’s worst fear is that New York ultimately takes place and that players, who are currently not thrilled about flying to the US (their fears are definitely not unfounded), would all end up going anyway, perhaps changing their mind halfway through July, at the latest available opportunity. Sure, the re-structuring of the calendar would work in their favour, but I think it’s fair to assume that a certain quantity of withdrawals could still happen.
  2. The challenge would then be to convince every sponsor that the best players would all play in Madrid anyway, not an easy reassuring pitch, although the current plan seems to work in that direction.
  3. What if someone were to get infected in New York though? Play would be instantly halted, and that wouldn’t be a good look for Madrid, where millions would have already been spent. As things stand, the current loss for a cancellation shouldn’t go over 4/5 million pounds, including marketing expenses and personnel. However, the real financial wormhole would get to be the amount of revenues that have already been budgeted, and the same would happen in Rome, as Binaghi laments every time he gets a mic under his nose.
  4. In the event of a single Master 1000 space becoming available between New York and Paris, Madrid’s brass is extremely confident that, when push comes to shove, ATP and WTA would favour them over Rome. This would be a no-brainer especially for the WTA, since Madrid is one of the few combined events (along with the Slams, Indian Wells, and Miami) with a “non-discriminating” prize money – in short, men and women make the same amount.
  5. At the same time, Madrid’s revenues on the men’s side far exceed those of Rome: the Italian prize money amounts to 9,243,818 euros, 5,791,280 for the men, and 3,452,538 for the women. Madrid’s own bounty is of 13,072,320. Even after the even split, Madrid would still be offering 744,880 euros more than Rome, hardly an inconsequential number – disclaimer, these are the regular amounts, which, as seen, could be heavily reduced, but, even in that case, the principle would stay the same.
  6. It should also be added that, according to Andrea Gaudenzi’s recent statements to the press, the ATP is trying to work towards a fairer distribution of income. Sure, he and ATP CEO Massimo Calvelli are Italian, but that’s actually one more reason why they should try to make a decision that couldn’t run into chauvinism accusations. Therefore, it seems extremely unlikely that the ATP would choose Rome over Madrid.
  7. Anyway, the plan is still quite a tight fit, so, if the US Open does indeed take place, it cannot be ruled out that Rome might have to take place after the French Open, thus losing quite a bit appeal-wise. Binaghi’s dream of having the Internazionali d’Italia take place right before Paris (God knows how much I wish to be wrong; it certainly wouldn’t be in UbiTennis’s best interests) could vanish.
  8. The best hope for Binaghi and the Italian Federation (whose finances would suffer grievously in the event of a cancellation, since over 60% of annual revenues come from Rome) could then be that the North American swing doesn’t happen at all, including the US Open, although that would certainly not be ideal for our readers. With no American hardcourts, the clay season could be salvaged almost in full, which means that both Madrid and Rome would be a go with no further ado. The latter point is also the ATP’s current aim, i.e. to have both Masters 1000 take place. The ATP brass has always declared that the Slams are the absolute priority for tennis – however, the US Open is managed by the USTA, not by the ATP.
  9. It would also be interesting to see what would happen to the Bercy tournament, slated for November 2: the French Open is supposed to be over by October 11, so would it make sense for the players to go back to the same city just three weeks later, when so many other places would have lost their own slots? What if Bercy’s week became the perfect week to make it up for Rome’s disappearance from the French Open’s build-up season, or, if everything goes according to plan, for some other important event? But, if that opportunity were to materialise, where would the event take place? Which Italian arena would be available?

Ubaldo

P.S. Many have noted that the Masters 1000 tournaments, rather than weep in the anguish of no revenues, should have considered putting in place a pandemic insurance like Wimbledon did. That’s all hindsight thinking though, since, throughout a 52-year-long Open Era, nothing like this had ever happened. Moreover, Wimbledon’s way of business is different, as it’s basically an LTA charity, and can afford to spend 180,000 pounds a year, whereas a private investor like Ion Tiriac would never dream of it – he even refused to spend 130,000 pounds for a terrorism insurance after Madrid was attacked.

Article translated by Tommaso Villa

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Emma Raducanu Finding Positives Ahead Of Eastbourne Return And ‘Pristine’ Wimbledon Experience

Emma Raducanu will play Eastbourne for the first time this week.

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Emma Raducanu is finding the positives as she looks forward to a big next few weeks.

The former US Open champion is preparing to play Wimbledon for the first time in two years.

Last year, Raducanu was undergoing multiple wrist surgeries but now the Brit returns to her home Grand Slam.

In an exclusive interview with Porsche Raducanu described Wimbledon as ‘Pristine’ as she prepares for a big two weeks at SW19, “I’m looking forward to competing at Wimbledon this year,” Raducanu explained.

“Obviously, Wimbledon is Wimbledon, and that speaks for itself, but I’m most looking forward to the stage which I missed last year and now I’m looking forward to coming back and being in a better place than I was in 2022!

“For me, it’s always about the rich history and traditions, like the pristine grass courts and iconic white dress code. It’s always the tournament that every player dreams of winning.

“The courts at Wimbledon are obviously pristine and look beautiful. The aesthetics and tradition that come with the tournament are unparalleled. Being a British player at Wimbledon is incredible, the atmosphere is hard to put into words.

“I particularly love court 1 because I feel the fans get more involved, that coupled with everything else that Wimbledon brings gives you extra motivation to perform well.”

Heading into Wimbledon, Raducanu enters the tournament with a semi-final in Nottingham and is now prepared to play in Eastbourne for the first time.

Ahead of Eastbourne, Raducanu admitted she is finding the positives in her preparation and is looking forward to her experience in Eastbourne, “Preparation has been going well thanks. I have had a good last few days training in London before Eastbourne this week so excited to get going,” Raducanu stated.

“Yes, I took a lot of positives from Nottingham. I performed well, and it showed me that my game is strong on the grass, so yes, it’s given me positivity heading into Wimbledon. Most importantly for me though at Wimbledon I feel in a place where I’m in love with the sport. Whatever happens this Wimbledon, I have full belief in myself for the years to come too.

“I’ve never played in Eastbourne, it’s on the water which I like, minus the wind maybe and it’s another home tournament where I get to play in front of a home crowd! That’s the best part.”

Raducanu will face fellow Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens in a blockbuster opening round match on Tuesday.

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Tommy Paul Downs Lorenzo Musetti Wins Maiden Grass Court Title At Queen’s Club

Tommy Paul is the new American number one!

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Tommy Paul has won his maiden grass court title at Queen’s Club after defeating Lorenzo Musetti 6-1 7-6(8).

The fifth seed was too good for the Italian who never really got going as Paul claimed his first title at ATP 500 level.

It was Paul’s third ATP title of his career and moves to world number 12 after an impressive week.

Heading into the final, Paul had beaten Jack Draper and Sebastian Korda and the American continued his red-hot form in the opening set.

Incredible movement on the grass as Paul played efficient counter-attacking tennis as he frustrated Musetti early on.

The American secured the early break for a 3-0 lead as the world number 13 dictated with power and touch.

Looking for a response, Musetti aimed to dictate play on the backhand and the Italian’s serve was firing in the next game as he secured his only hold of the match.

However, Paul was too consistent and solid as the American broke again and would soon win the opening set 6-1.

In the second set, Musetti started more positively as he was more proactive and aggressive as he looked to control his power more.

Paul managed to outlast Musetti’s early power to keep moving the Italian about and creating angles to hit winners into.

After a controlled start, Musetti produced a reckless seventh game as erratic unforced errors saw Paul break for a 4-3 lead.

The American was calm and collected for the majority of the match but when serving for the match Paul faltered under pressure.

Too many missed first serves saw Musetti with an opportunity to break back and the Italian didn’t need a second invitation as a crisp backhand return winner sealed the break back to level the set at 5-5.

An inspired Musetti applied pressure on Paul with some phenomenal hitting from the baseline as he secured consistent winners.

The American held his nerve to force a second set tiebreak as the American looked to overcome some jitters.

It looked like Musetti was going to cruise to the tiebreak but the Italian squandered a 4-1 lead in what was a highly entertaining tiebreak.

In the end Paul would win the tiebreak 10-8 and secure his first ATP 500 title as well as becoming the new American number one.

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Jannik Sinner Wins Maiden Grass-Court Title In Halle

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Jannik Sinner - Parigi 2024 (foto X @ATPTour_ES)

Jannik Sinner has reached another milestone in his blossoming career after claiming his first title on grass at the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle. 

The world No.1 ousted fifth seed and doubles partner Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(8), 7-6,(2), in a tightly contested encounter. Sinner was sternly tested by the big-hitting Pole who knocked French Open finalist Alexander Zverev out of the tournament on Saturday. Nevertheless, he managed to come out on top to become only the eighth player in PIF ATP ranking history to claim a trophy in his first tournament as world No.1.

“This means a lot,” Sinner told TennisTV. “It was a tough match against Hubi. I knew that I had to serve really well. You play only a couple of really important points throughout the whole set. I tried to produce in the best possible way in the important moments. 
“I’m very happy about this tournament because it’s my first time winning (a title) on a grass court. It’s a good feeling.”

Proceedings got underway with a 53-minuite opening set which saw no breaks of serves during the first 12 games played. However, each player had one opportunity to do so during the early stages. In the tiebreak, Sinner continued to be troubled by Hurkacz after failing to maintain a 5-2 lead. Then at 6-5, he was unable to convert his first set point due to an ace from his opponent. He missed a second opportunity to do so before prevailing on his third by hitting a shot deep to the baseline that his rival returned into the net. Making Sinner the first player to take a set off Hurkacz this week. 

It was a case of deja vu in the second frame with both players standing strong behind their serve. Hurkacz was unable to find a way to break but he did win over the crowd after hitting a fantastic over-the-shoulder passing shot without looking to win a point. 

Meanwhile, Sinner continued to weather the storm as he closed in on victory. The second tiebreaker saw him capitalised on back-to-back unforced errors from his rival en route to a 5-1 lead. Two points later he earned his first match point with the help of another costly mistake from across the court before closing the match out with ease.

Sinner’s latest victory is only the second time he has beaten a top 10 player on the grass with his first triumph being against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon two years ago. He is also the second player to win Halle whilst ranked No.1 in the world after Roger Federer. 

Heading into Wimbledon, the 22-year-old has won four ATP trophies so far this season on three different surfaces. He has now won 38 out of his last 41 matches played. 

“I’m looking forward to it,” Sinner said of the next Grand Slam. “Last year I made the semis and played some good tennis. So let’s see what’s coming this year. 
“For sure I’m more confident on this surface. Obviously, the grass here (in Halle) might be a bit different to Wimbledon but I have a week to prepare so hopefully it is going to be a good tournament.”

Sinner is the 17th active male player to win a tour-level title on all three surfaces. 

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