During what has been an extraordinary weekend in men’s tennis few are talking about the upcoming US Open that will get underway on Monday.
Instead the focus is on the newly formed Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) co-founded by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil which has divided the men’s Tour. Described best as a union, supporters say its aim is to speak up for players and campaign for them to be given more power when it comes to decision-making. On Friday Djokovic issued a lengthy letter to his peers, which UbiTennis has obtained, urging them to join him.
Less than a day after Djokovic’s plea members of the ATP Players Council, which includes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, issued a statement opposing the move, as well as the Grand Slam board. Djokovic was the president of the Council but has now reportedly resigned. Their argument is that there are a lot of unanswered questions concerning the PTPA which has been formed with the help of legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright and its chairman Walied Soliman.
“The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) did not emerge to be combative, to disrupt, or to cause any issues within or outside the tennis tour. Simply to unify the players, have our voices heard and have an impact on decisions being made that effect our lives and livelihoods,” Pospisil wrote on Twitter.
In what is a rapidly developing situation, the first series of players signed up to be members of the Association on Saturday night. Which includes top 20 stars Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwzrtzman, as well as Canada’s top guns Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Whilst it is a promising start, others have voiced their caution. Three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray has said he would not be signing up at present but ‘is not against’ the idea of a players union. The Brit is also one of the very few players to question as to why women have been omitted from the PTPA.
“I won’t be signing it today. I’m not totally against a player union, player association, but right now there’s a couple of things,” Murray told reporters via zoom on Saturday.
“One is I feel like the current management that are in place should be given some time to implement their vision. Whether that works out or not would potentially influence me in the future as to which way I would go.
“Also the fact that the women aren’t part of it, I feel like that would send a significantly – well, just a much more powerful message personally if the WTA were onboard with it, as well. That’s not currently the case.”
Daniil Medvedev has confirmed that he will seek more clarity from both Djokovic and Pospisil before making his decision. The candidly-speaking Russian says he is not sure if he is happy with the current ATP structure due to his inexperience on the Tour and never being a member of the ATP Council.
“I decided myself to think more about it after the US Open. I’ll definitely ask for more information from Vasek and Novak to decide for myself. That’s all I can say right now because I cannot say more,” he said.
“As I say, I have no decision made up for myself. I don’t know which way I’m leaning, but I need more info, that’s for sure.”
As for Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas, he appears to be blind to the whole situation at present after saying to Reporters that he ‘doesn’t even know what they’re talking about’ and he has ‘nothing to do with it (the PTPA).‘
In another development that hasn’t been publicly confirmed yet, it appears that Sam Querrey has changed his position on the ongoing situation. The American was one of the co-signatures on a letter issued by the ATP Council opposing the PTPA and urging others not to join. Although one top European national tennis official has confirmed that Querrey has now quit the Council and joined the association. It is not clear as to what led to this sudden change.
Who has joined the players association?
- Novak Djokovic
- Vasek Pospisil
- Casper Ruud
- Diego Schwartzman
- Matteo Berrettini
- Oliver Marach
- Rryan Harrison
- Christian Harrison
- Ivo Karlovic
- Nikola Mektic
- Andrej Martin
- Franko Skugor
- Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi
- Mate Pavic
- Ivan Dodig
- Hugo Dellien
- Guido Pella
- Rohan Boppana
- Aljaz Bedene
- Filip Krajinovic
- Damir Dzumhur
- Taylor Fritz
- Hubert Hurkacz
- Christian Garín
- Sumit Nagal
- Jozef Kovalik
- Leonardo Mayer
- Taro Daniel
- Marton Fucsovics
- Corentin Moutet
- Tommy Paul
Note: list of names obtained via journalist Jose Morgado and based on a photo uploaded on Saturday evening of players signing up. Querrey not included as there is no public confirmation yet.
Alexander Zverev Powers Past Erratic Nadal To Set Thiem Showdown
Alexander Zverev secured his best win of his career on a clay court by beating Rafael Nadal in Madrid.
Alexander Zverev powered past an erratic Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals in Madrid.
After a slow start Zverev produced some stunning tennis to knock out the five-time champion Nadal, who had an error-prone day at the office.
The German will now play Dominic Thiem in the last four in a rematch from the 2018 final.
It was the 20-time grand slam champion who started off the fastest as he looked to target the Zverev forehand early with uncomfortable spins and heights.
Eventually Nadal would get his rewards for an accurate tactical game-plan as a Zverev double fault handed him the break.
However that advantage was to be short-lived as the first point of the seventh game would change the momentum of the match with Nadal putting in simple unforced errors especially on the forehand side.
The German took advantage as he used his backhand to dictate points from the baseline. Furthermore, Zverev used his superior net play to his advantage by shortening the points and creating a faster tempo.
An unusual first set from Nadal’s perspective was complete as the fifth seed reeled off four games in a row to seal the opening set 6-4.
At the start of the second set, the Spaniard tried to up his level and intensity as he used some drop-shots at unexpected moments and attempted to bring the crowd into the match.
Despite this Nadal’s return game was lacking its usual ferocity as he couldn’t capitalise on Zverev’s second serves.
There was a lack of confidence in the Spaniard when implementing effective patterns of play as Zverev had a lot of success dictating play and winning the baseline and net rallies.
Another break in the fifth game ensured that Zverev’s dominance was being rewarded.
Although a double break advantage was denied, Nadal couldn’t deny victory for Zverev as the German sealed his first clay court victory over the ‘King of Clay.’
After the match Zverev admitted it was one of the biggest wins of his career, “Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said in an on-court interview.
“Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”
Lots to ponder for Nadal as an error-prone performance sees him looking to improve in Rome next week.
As for the German, he sets up a 2018 final rematch with Dominic Thiem in the last four as he secured his best victory on this surface of his career.
Dominic Them reaches semifinal in Madrid after three-set battle with Isner
Dominic Thiem is into the Madrid semi-finals after an impressive three set win over John Isner.
The Austrian booked his spot in the semifinals after coming back to beat the American in three sets.
Dominic Thiem needed one hour and 55 minutes to beat the world number 39 John Isner in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 hitting 20 winners in the win while his opponent hit 26 unforced errors.
“We all know that he is one of the best servers in history and this altitude in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve but I was a little bit surprised by his return games, I think he attacked both my first and second serves and it took me a while to get used to it and I think the match changed when I saved those three breakpoints in the second set”.
It was the American who got off to the faster start holding his opening service game and then going on the offensive earning a breakpoint the following game and taking an early 2-0 lead.
The Greensboro, North Carolina native had a chance to go up a double break but the world number four saved both breakpoints he faced and managed to hold his first service game of the match.
That break was enough for the American to serve out the first set and he was one set away from the semifinals.
The second set stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Dallas, Texas resident had four breakpoints but failed to convert and the match was starting to turn with the American looking gassed.
In the next game the Austrian had three breakpoint and converted for his first break of the match as he served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.
Isner was put under pressure early in the third set facing a breakpoint in the first game of the set but managed to save it and hold serve and it stayed on serve until 4-4.
That’s when the world number four earned two chances to break and on the second time of asking he would break and served out the match to book a date with either Alexander Zverev or Rafael Nadal.
After his match in an on court interview he gave this thoughts on a potential matchup with either Nadal or Zverev.
“It’s going to be a good one, I’ve played two big matches here against Rafa ( Nadal) and one big match against Sascha ( Zverev), and against either one of them it’s going to be an incredible challenge and it’s going to be exciting tomorrow”.
With the loss today by Isner when the new rankings come out on Monday it will be the first time in the open era and since the rankings came out that an American will not feature in the top 30 players in the world.
Past Cancellation Of Clay Events ‘Double Motivation’ For Norway’s Casper Ruud
The 22-year-old is on a roll after scoring his biggest win yet over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open.
Last year’s decision to scrap a series of clay events due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to the world of tennis but at the same time a blessing in disguise for Casper Ruud.
The world No.22 is enjoying a surge in his form on the Tour after reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters and Munich Open. Furthermore, this week at the Madrid Open Ruud achieved the biggest win of his career on Thursday after stunning Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4. Registering his first ever win over a top five player on the Tour. He is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
Ruud partly credits his success on the clay to events that happened 12 months ago when he was unable to play on his favourite surface due to the pandemic. The French Open did take place but later in the year where he reached the third round.
“It was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely forward to. I felt it was taken a bit away from not me but all the players when everything got postponed, some of the tournaments were cancelled,” Ruud said after his win over Tsitsipas.
“I think I just kept my motivation for a year and have double the motivation to be here this year luckily.’
“This (Madrid) was one of the tournaments that we didn’t get to play last year. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get.”
Growing up, the youngster trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and says his time there has shaped how he plays today. Toni Nadal, who is the former mentor of Rafael Nadal, remains ‘involved’ in his tennis. Although the 60-year-old is now switching his focus to working with Felix Auger-Aliassime. Pedro Clar, who he met at the academy, is still a member of his team.
“Pedro Clar is the one that travels more often with me. We have a very good relationship. He’s here (in Madrid) this week,” said Ruud.
“He’s been with me at some of my biggest tournaments and wins. When I won my first tournament in Buenos Aires, my first semifinal in Rome last year, Pedro was with me. I think it’s helped me a lot.’
“Also getting help from Toni. Now Toni is helping Felix more personally. But he’s always involved with my tennis at some point in my career. Also Rafa, of course, he helped me a lot the last years.”
The next test for Ruud in Madrid will be Alexander Bublik who he beat in three sets in their only previous meeting back in 2019. Should he win again, the world No.22 would be through to his third consecutive Masters semi-final on the clay after Rome (2020) and Monte Carlo.
At the age of 22, Ruud has already become the highest ranked Norwegian player in ATP Tour history. Coincidentally the record was previously held by his father Christian who now his head coach. Following his latest win, he is set to break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday.
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