The head of the ATP Tour has defended the decision to organise a series of top level tournaments within a short period by arguing that it is a ‘start’ for men’s tennis to get going again.
Andrea Gaudenzi, who took over the leadership role at the ATP earlier this year, has admitted that the new calendar for 2020 is a far from ideal scenario. Within a seven week period there will be two Grand Slams, as well as three Masters 1000 tournaments taking place between August and September. Triggering some players to raise concerns that playing so many tournaments within a short period of time may lead to injury.
“Four weeks in five (in September) … I think that will pose issues for players, and I think also because a transition to a different surface (from hard to clay courts) will be very quick,” former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane.
“The thing that you really hope for is that it doesn’t create an uptick in injuries because that is quite tolling, quite a task.”
Some have argued that the Tour shouldn’t resume until the start of 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the risk it poses to players. As highlighted by the Adria Tour where a series of players, including world No.1 Novak Djokovic, tested positive for the virus. However, Gaudenzi argues that if some top-level tournaments are able to host events in safe circumstances, it is a stepping stone for the Tour to return gradually and enables players to start earning again.
“We realise that the resumption of the calendar is not perfect by any means – we would love to have more events and more playing opportunities, and more space between our marquee events to ease player scheduling,” Gaudenzi said during an interview published on the ATP website.
“The reality is that the economic impact of the crisis has meant that tournaments further down the pyramid are less able to weather the storm than those at the top. But does that mean we should hold back the whole Tour until the situation is fully back to normal? Our judgment was that we need to start somewhere and if we have tournaments at the top level that are able to run, and in a safe environment, providing earning opportunities not only for players but for the whole industry, well that’s a start.”
All professional tennis tournaments have been either suspended or cancelled since March due to the pandemic. Triggering tennis’ governing bodies to launch a multi-million door rescue package to financially support players who have been unable to earn during this period.
Gaudenzi has insisted that the Tour calendar is ‘balanced and fair for all’ despite the schedule for the lower level Challenger Tour yet to be finalised. Out of the seven ATP tournaments given the green light to take place later this year, only one is an ATP 500 and one is an ATP 250.
“The way in which we make this return balanced and fair for all, in terms of playing opportunities, including the Challenger Tour, prize money, the FedEx ATP Rankings, travel, is something that we will continue to work on,” he pledges.
“In the long term, I am optimistic that with the preventative measures developed and the unity shown by tennis’ stakeholders, tennis will be back stronger than ever and will continue to grow for years to come.”
Whilst Gaudenzi is confident that the calendar is fair, he admits that external factors linked to COVID-19 will be problematic. Including different countries having their own quarantine measures and travel restrictions. World No.2 Rafael Nadal had previously said that the sport shouldn’t start again until there is a level playing field for all in terms of travelling and attending events.
“It’s not going to be perfect from the outset and it will take some time but it’s something we will continue to work on and try and ensure as fair and balanced outcome for everyone involved in terms of playing opportunities, prize money and the fairest way possible for the rankings to resume,” Gaudenzi commented.
“We can have the most robust plans in place but collaboration and approval from local governments will be key, and we’ll continue to monitor international travel restrictions as the situation evolves weekly.” He later added.
The ATP Tour will officially resume on August 14th at the Citi Open in Washington, USA.
ATP Tour schedule
Note: The ATP have said their schedule for events taking place after the French Open will be published at some stage next month.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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