Will This Be A French Open Unlike Any Other Before, As Nadal Claims? - UBITENNIS
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Will This Be A French Open Unlike Any Other Before, As Nadal Claims?

The balls and the weather seem to point in this direction. Will this help Thiem’s game? The strenuous defensive game of Djokovic will probably suffer. What about the women’s draw?

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Rafa Nadal - Roland Garros 2020 (via Twitter, @rolandgarros)

Article translated by Tommaso Villa

 

In Paris, the talk of the tennis town is the pandemic, obviously, closely followed by the low temperatures of this French Open, the rain, the heavy courts, the even heavier balls, and the struggle to end the points quickly, although not all matches last as long as Giustino vs Moutet, which took six hours and five minutes to complete, albeit spread over two days.

THE MEN’S TOURNAMENT – Factor in that many athletes arrived in Paris with little or no familiarity with the clay, since many have played close to no matches and have struggled to train as well – such tangents are upset harbingers.

Rafa Nadal has been complaining about the new Wilson balls – a great indirect ad for Babolat (I’m not stating he did it because he has played with Babolat racquets his whole life, before the hate mail and the trolling begin; there are so many other good manufacturers, starting with Dunlop) – and he is the hands down favourite to win the tournament, so it can be imagined how everybody else, not as muscular as he, might be feeling about them. It is indeed true that the lower bounce hinders his game, but how many players can boast biceps as big as Rafa’s to keep up their baseline aggression with no drops in their performance?

Does Djokovic have that sheer power? Maybe not. Does Thiem have it? Maybe so. Few players seem able to charge their shots like the Austrian who reached two finals and two semi-finals in the last four editions. Djokovic is the N.1 returner and an extraordinarily grinding counterpuncher, but a defensive style is often unsustainable if the balls are heavy – could he suffer from it?  

It seems to me that Mats Wilander is right – I have attended close to 160 consecutive Majors, so I had never watched so much Game, Schett & Mats content on Eurosport as I have this last month… – when he says that there is no clear-cut favourite, but that the potential winners are these three (Nadal, Djokovic, Thiem) while everyone else lags far behind, particularly in the bottom half of the draw, where whoever might be harbouring finalist ambitions would have to beat both Nadal and Thiem before facing Nole on the third Sunday, much like the last of the Horatians had to do slay the three Curiatians in the ancient Roman legend.

Who else has a powerful game that isn’t utterly serve-dependant, since it won’t be easy to win many free points with the first shot? Matteo Berrettini has the forehand to do it, but his serve (the least renounceable weapon in his arsenal) will be blunted by the surface. However, his excellent drop shot will be even more important in these conditions. If a player has a good touch, it is pretty hard for an opponent to get the ball off the ground and instil some pace once it’s landed on the soaked surface. Berrettini’s greatest hurdle will be the need not to lose his focus when the serve won’t fetch him the usual bountiful of points. However, the shot might still set up many quick wins for him anyway, in the event of high percentages with the first serve. After today’s debut with Pospisil, his draw isn’t easy (he could face Struff, a player with similar qualities, in the third round) but he could still make it to the quarter finals showdown with Djokovic, unless the Serbian loses along the way, but against whom? Khachanov, maybe? Well, the Russian has tons of power, and he reached the final eight in Paris last year as well as getting to the third round as a youngster in the two editions before the last one. Karen occasionally lacks in patience and always lacks in mobility, given his Gargantuan frame.

Medvedev is already out, as I thought after seeing the draw – I even wrote it. This is his fourth consecutive loss in the first round of the French Open, so it’s not a matter of heavy courts or heavy balls for him. Daniil even lives in France, so he should be able to find some time to train on the clay a bit more. Behind the three favourites, I would point to Tsitsipas, although the Greek, alas, has developed the bottling habit, losing a couple matches he’d already won, against Coric at Flushing Meadows after wasting six match points and against Rublev in the Hamburg final, when he got broken at 5-3 in the third while serving for the title. At the same time, Tsitsipas can really play on the dirt, despite the no show in Rome against Sinner; he’s reached a final in Madrid and a semifinal in Rome, so let’s not count him out. Especially as an underdog.

Zverev is another guy who is capable of reaching the highest highs and lowest lows, and he could be more dangerous than Berrettini and of Monfils, who’s already been knocked out. The question mark with him pertains the scars that he might still have due to those 15 double faults in the Flushing Meadows final. We cannot know how he’s coping, but a player who has won in Madrid and Rome and reached the quarters twice in Paris is certainly able to upset anybody as well, before perhaps losing against a less gifted opponent in the next round. The years go by, and Wawrinka isn’t the same player he used to be, as was fully on display in Rome, but if there is a player who can thrive in these conditions, that’s Stan the Man. He’s admitted it himself, as he’s never lacked the power to hit through a wild boar. To summarise, the court-and-ball factor can’t be overlooked, as it might upend technical assumptions that would be valid everywhere else.

THE WOMEN’S DRAW – The same goes for the ladies. How are the skinnier ones going to spice their shots up? I thought that Muguruza would be at home with these balls (balls that are not good enough “to play with your dog,” according to Dan Evans), and instead she had to scratch her way out of her first round match against Zidansek – 8-6 in the decider. Serena Williams struggled but then shrugged off Kristie Ahn without dropping sets, while last year’s runner-up Vondrousova got steamrolled and Zavatska broke her strings thrice, having to borrow her coach’s racquet to conclude her losing effort against Bertens! We are indeed witnessing a strange tournament.

In both draws, a considerable number of seeds already bowed out, a phenomenon that I once more attribute to the peculiar environment. The women’s draw had a losing K factor, since yesterday Keys, Kerber and Kuznetsova got eliminated (the day before it was Konta, Kontaveit, Kovinic and Korpatsch… Kenin would better keep her guard up today!), but the defeats of other strong athletes like Vondrousova, Yastremska and Muchova lead me to believe that Nadal is right, even though he might just being superstitious about his chase for his 13th French Open (not a good number then…) and for his 20th Major. 

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Emma Raducanu Looking For Experience After Splitting With Coach

Emma Raducanu revealed her post-US Open plans as she prepares for life on the main WTA tour.

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Emma Raducanu (@CambridgeAwe - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu is looking for more experience in her team after splitting from her short-term coach Andrew Richardson.

 

The US Open champion revealed the news at the ‘homecoming party’ set up at the National Tennis Centre in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was present.

Speaking at the event Raducanu said that she needed more experience as she will now play on the main tour on a regular basis, “At this stage of my career I really need someone that has had that WTA Tour experience at that high level,” Raducanu was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“Especially right now as I’m so new to it, I think I really need someone just to guide me who has already been through that themselves. “Never did I even dream of winning the US Open and now I’m ranked 22 in the world, which is pretty crazy to me.”

Richardson was always a short-term arrangement with him now committed to improving his 10 year-old son.

As for Raducanu she is now 22 in the world and faces unfamiliar territory in playing a full-time schedule.

After winning the US Open as a qualifier, Raducanu has received unlimited amount of attention and expectation which is something she will need guidance with.

Now Raducanu will set out a schedule in the next few days with the Brit set to return as early as Indian Wells which starts on the 6th of October, “I got back on court a few days ago, and yesterday I did a full training day,” she explained.

“I was feeling pretty good about myself and my game, and I am very excited to compete again. All the opportunities I am getting have been very fun, but where I really want to be is on the tennis court, as I’m just thriving out there.

“I haven’t decided on my schedule yet – I will decide in the next few days where I am going to go to – but wherever I play next, I’m going to make sure I’m ready. I don’t want to jump into things too early.”

Should the 18 year-old make a strong end to the season then she could make the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

Although she is 14th in the race, players such as Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka could miss the event and it’s something that is on the back of the mind of Raducanu, “The WTA Finals I would never even dream of before, because it was just so far out of reach and out of sight, but coming reasonably close to it now, I think it would be great if I qualified,” she admitted.

“But if not, it’s a complete bonus, because my priority is just putting in the best possible pre-season that I can, so I can start strong next year and next season.”

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Berrettini pulls off comeback win over Auger Aliassime at Laver Cup

Matteo Berrettini contributed to a 3-1 overall scoreline for Team Europe over Team World after day one of the Laver Cup.

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Matteo Berrettini (@LaverCup - Twitter)

The Italian fought back from a set down to beat the Canadian and give team Europe a commanding lead.

 

In the longest match in Laver Cup history so far Matteo Berrettini needed a match tiebreak to beat the world number 11 and good friend Felix Auger Aliassime 6-7, 7-5, 10-8 in a match that lasted two hours and 52 minutes.

The Italian hit 15 winners and served seven aces while the Montreal native hit 37 unforced errors in the loss.

“I was fighting and I felt the match was really hard and Felix (Auger-Aliassime) was playing well and he didn’t give me anything and he made no mistakes and he was serving really well and I felt a different energy because we are playing for a team, not just myself and they helped me a lot”.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Italian with the first two breakpoints of the match but the Canadian was able to save both and hold serve.

The next game was a rollercoaster and the Montreal native responded by earning four chances to break and after 13 minutes finally made the breakthrough to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3, the world number 11 found himself with two set points but failed to convert and the Italian fought back and got the break back and at 6-5 the Canadian had five more set points but again the Italian saved all five and the set was decided by a tiebreaker.

Auger Aliassime got the early break to take a 2-0 lead and that break was enough for him to finally serve out the first set and take a 1-0 set lead. The world number seven was keen to bounce back and had two early chances to break at 1-1 but the Canadian saved both and held serve once again.

The very next game it was the Montreal native turn to apply the pressure on the Berrettini serve but the Italian managed to save both breakpoints he faced and held serve.

At 5-5, the Canadian kept pushing earning two more break points but couldn’t get the breakthrough, and the very next game the Rome native pounced and managed to get the crucial break to win the second set and force a match tiebreak.

The breaker was extremely tight until 3-3 when the Canadian managed to get the break and jumped out to a 5-3 lead before losing two straight points and the breaker was even at five.

Once again the world number 11 got the break again and was up 7-5 but again lost two straight points and we were even at seven and then at 9-8 Berrettini with the rally of the match sealed the win with a great passing shot.

After the match in his post-match interview, the Italian was asked about being selected to play doubles in the night session.

“I am going to be honest when they told me I would be playing singles and doubles I didn’t expect to play a match that long so I spoke with the captain and we will see but I am still young”.

Day 1 results

Casper Ruud got the ball rolling for Team Europe as he beat the American Rielly Opelka in the first match of the day in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 to give his team the first point of the tournament.

In the first match of the night session Andrey Rublev gave Team Europe a convincing 3-0 lead as he came back to beat the Argentine Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 in the match tiebreaker.

Finally in the last match of the day Team World got their first point as the duo of John Isner and Denis Shapovalov came back from a set down to beat the doubles pairing of Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev 4-6, 7-6, 10-1.

Day 2 preview:

Day 2 features some amazing matchups in both the day and night session with Stefanos Tsitsipas starting the day against the Aussie Nick Krygios before John Isner takes on Alexander Zverev.

In the night session Denis Shapovalov takes on the US Open champion from Russia Danil Medvedev with another doubles match wrapping things up as the team of Andrey Rublev and Tsitispas will take on John Isner and Nick Kyrgios.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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