More top names in this year’s French Open will have a ‘bigger chance’ to win the men’s title than before, according to former world No.1 Boris Becker.
The six-time Grand Slam champion says Rafael Nadal is yet to reach his top form and a lack of match play could have an effect on the Spaniard’s chances. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nadal has only been able to play three competitive matches on the clay which was last week in Rome. At the Masters 1000 event he was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. It was the first time Nadal had played in an ATP Tournament since the first week of March.
Speaking to reporters at the Hamburg European Open on Tuesday, Becker explains that the world No.2 still remains the favourite to win given his record at Roland Garros. Nadal has won the title a record 12 times and has only lost two out of 95 matches played at the event since his debut back in 2005. Although the five-month break in the Tour this year due to the pandemic could play a factor.
“In principle you always go for the 12-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, but life and tennis are different this year,” said Becker.
“I watched his performance in Rome and obviously he is not at 100 percent yet. He only played six matches in three months. Whoever played in America, Rome and Hamburg will have an advantage, as players are looking for matches at the moment.’
“You can only get better in matches, not in practice. That’s even the case for Rafael Nadal. He always had his rhythm by playing Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome. Four big tournaments, which gave him enough match toughness to be the best player he can be at the French. That’s missing this year.”
Elaborating further the 52-year-old says the likes of Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem may have a bigger chance of winning compared to previous years. Besides the number of matches played, he says the conditions will also be different due to the time of year it is taking place. Djokovic’s only triumph at the tournament occurred back in 2016. Meanwhile, Thiem is a two-time finalist and recently won his first major title at the US Open.
“At early October, Paris won’t be as bouncy, won’t be as hot but Rafa is still my No. 1 pick. Nonetheless, there are a few players out there with a bigger chance this time than in previous years, including Thiem and Djokovic. Just to name two.” Becker explained.
After winning his 36th Masters title at the Italian Open on Monday, world No.1 Djokovic played down being labelled the frontrunner for the Roland Garros title. Naming Nadal as the bookies favourite. The only way the two could play each other in Paris would be if they both reached the final.
“It’s Nadal. Even though he lost this week, I still think a lot of people will agree, he’s the No. 1 favourite. The record that he has there and the history of his results you just can’t put anybody in front of him,” said Djokovic.
“But Diego (Schwartzman) definitely showed that Nadal is beatable on clay. The conditions that they played on, obviously heavy clay, not much bounce, humid, night session, we are going to have that, as well, in Paris.”
The French Open main draw will get underway on Sunday.
Injury-Hit Borna Coric Reacts To First Grand Slam Win In 16 Months
The Croat admits he was unsure how his shoulder would hold up in his opening match at Roland Garros.
Borna Coric said he is relieved that his body managed to hold up during his opening win at the French Open on Sunday.
The former world No.12 spent almost three hours on the court before defeating Spain’s Carlos Taberner 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1, in what was his first Grand Slam match of any kind since the 2021 Australian Open. Paris is only the seventh tournament Coric has played in since returning to the Tour following a year-long absence due to shoulder surgery. The 25-year-old is yet to win back-to-back matches this season.
“It does feel great. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of my shoulder because I’ve never been in the fourth set, fifth set (of a match) for one-and-a-half years,” said Coric.
“So it was also kind of worrying for me, I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how I’m going to feel and how my whole body is going to behave in those later sets. Obviously I’ve been practicing it, but it’s really never the same.”
Impressively the Croat produced a total of 54 winners against 39 unforced errors in his latest match in the French capital. Furthermore, he won 76% of his first service points and 53% of his second.
“The last few weeks haven’t been very easy, I lost many tight matches. I mean, I was also quite happy with my tennis, but I was just losing,” he reflected.
Coric was once tipped to be the future of men’s tennis after rising quickly up the ranks at a young age. In 2014 he was the youngest player to end the season in the top 100 and a year last he was the youngest to do so in the top 50. He has recorded a total of nine wins over top five players, including Roger Federer, as well as winning two Tour titles.
In the second round at Roland Garros Coric will take on the formidable Grigor Dimitrov who has been ranked as high as third in the world. He will enter the clash as the underdog given his ongoing comeback from injury. At present Coric’s principal focus is on his body but that will change in the coming weeks.
“Until Wimbledon my health needs to come first and after Wimbledon I can kind of try to switch in my mind so I can start playing more and more tournaments. I can train more and I can focus more on the tennis rather than on my shoulder,” he explains.
Coric has reached the third round of the French Open on four previous occasions.
Roger Federer’s Team8 Considering Bid To Buy Cincinnati Masters Rights From USTA
The potential move has gained support from one former world No.1 player who says ‘it is nice to see responsible names’ in the mix to buy the prestigious event.
It is understood that sports and entertainment company Team8 which was co-founded by Roger Federer is looking into potentially submitting an application for ownership of the Cincinnati Masters, according to two sources.
Sports business publication Sportico and Steve Weissman from The Tennis Channel have both reported that the business is among a number of interested parties who want to buy the event that is best known as the Western and Southern Open. In February this year it was confirmed that the USTA is selling their 93.8% stake in the tournament for a ‘nine-figure sum.’ It is understood that the organization doesn’t want the event to be relocated from Cincinnati in part of any deal.
“The USTA’s Board of Directors believes now is the right time to explore potential strategic options and alternatives in order to optimize the long-term growth of the tournament and take the tournament to the next level,” the USTA said in a statement published by tennis.com.
The USTA brought the rights to the men’s event back in 2009 for $12.5M and has since spent an additional $65M. Whilst Cincinnati is a combined tournament, the ongoing negotiations only apply to the men’s section. The women’s tournament is overseen by Octagon management.
Neither Federer or a member of Team8 have commented on the reported plans. The company was founded by the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his agent Tony Godsick back in 2013. Since then they have been involved in the creation of the Laver Cup, became a ‘major investor’ in the Universal Tennis system and are a ‘strategic investor and partner’ to On Running.
Should Team8 become the new owners, questions may arise about conflicts of interest with Federer still being an active player on Tour. The 40-year-old is currently sidelined from action due to a knee injury but is aiming to stage a comeback at the Swiss Open later this year. However, former world No.1 Andy Roddick has given his full backing to the possible takeover.
“In the world of tennis, where conflicts of interest know no bounds at all, Roger can do this. He has, obviously, been a great steward for the game and has created an incredible relationship with the fans in the city of Cincinnati. You’d like to see it stay in the tennis family with someone who actually knows and loves our sport.” Roddick told The Tennis Channel.
Federer has won the Cincinnati Masters a record seven times in his career.
Daniil Medvedev ‘Happy To Play Wimbledon’ If Ban Is Lifted
The world No.2 says he is willing to speak with other players about the situation ahead of his return to action following surgery.
Daniil Medvedev says he is still hopeful that he might be able to play at this year’s Wimbledon Championships should officials at The All England Club decide to change their stance.
At present the reigning US Open champion will not be allowed to play at the grass court major due to his nationality. Officials at the Grand Slam have confirmed that Russian and Belarussian players have been banned from the event due to the war in Ukraine. Ian Hewitt, who is the chairman of The AELTC, said the action was taken in order to prevent ‘the propaganda machine of the Russian regime’ from potentially benefiting from their players’ success.
The ban is a controversial move for the sport which until now had a united approach when it came to allowing those players participate in tournaments but only as neutral athletes. Former Wimbledon champions Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokopvic and Andy Murray have all expressed some degree of opposition to the decision. Meanwhile, the ATP and WTA are considering the possibility of removing the allocation of ranking points at the event.
Speaking about the ban ahead of this week’s Geneva Open, Medvedev acknowledges that it is a ‘tricky situation’ but is still hopeful that a u-turn could occur which would allow him to play. The 26-year-old has made four main draw appearances at Wimbledon with his best result being a run to the fourth round last year.
“There has been a lot of talk around it. I just tried to follow what’s happening because I don’t have any decisions to make. It’s right now about Wimbledon itself, the ATP, maybe the British government is involved,” news agency AFP quoted Medvedev as telling reporters in Switzerland.
“It’s a tricky situation and like every situation in life, you ask 100 players, everybody’s going to give a different opinion.
“I can play: I’m going to be happy to play in Wimbledon. I love this tournament.
“I cannot play: well, I’m going to try to play other tournaments and prepare well for next year if I have the chance to play.”
The former world No.1 has been among a group of Russian players who have previously called for peace in the region. Although none of them have gone as far as publicly condemning the actions of their government. Something which has drawn criticism from Ukraine’s Elina Svitoliva.
“I had some time to follow what is happening, yeah, it’s very upsetting,” Medvedev commented on the war.
Geneva will be the first event Medvedev has played in since reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. He took time away from the Tour to undergo hernia surgery but has confirmed he intends to play at next week’s French Open despite his lack of match play on the clay.
During his time at those events, the tennis star says he is more than happy to speak with other players about the Wimbledon ban should they want to.
“Since I haven’t been on the tour, I haven’t talked to any of them face to face. It was the first time when I came here on Saturday when I can talk to players, and if they start talking about this, we can discuss,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly what’s happening, what’s going to happen, if there are going to be more decisions made.
“Same about Wimbledon. I don’t know if this decision is 100 percent, and it’s over.”
Granted a bye in the first round, Medvedev will start his Geneva campaign against either Richard Gasquet or John Millman.
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