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.
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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