Benoit Paire - ‘I Was Not Mentally Ready To Play Without Fans’ - UBITENNIS
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Benoit Paire – ‘I Was Not Mentally Ready To Play Without Fans’

Ubitennis.net speaks to the world No.28 during a press conference ahead of his campaign at the Astana Open.

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Benoit Paire knows better than anybody about how much of a roller-coaster 2020 has been for players on the Tour.

 

The Frenchman looked to be on course to continue his strong form of 2019 after reaching the final of the ASB Classic in January. Although as the season progressed with the COVID-19 pandemic wrecking havoc Paire have found himself struggling on the Tour not just physically but mentally too. He has failed to win back-to-back matches at 10 consecutive tournaments with his current earnings for this season standing at just over $500,000.

This year was good at the beginning. I made the final in Auckland, felt good on the court and I was happy to play. Last year was a good year too, so I was very happy to start the season like this and then covid-19 arrived with lockdown in France,” Paire told UbiTennis during his press conference on Tuesday.
“We had to stay at home and couldn’t do anything physically.”

Following a five-month break in Tour events due to the pandemic, the hope for Paire that he would be able to get back on track during the North American swing. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way with the world No.28 testing positive for the virus on the eve of the US Open and was subsequently placed into isolation. To add to the drama, a couple weeks later in Germany he tested positive again but was allowed to play under local rules.

Although having COVID-19 wasn’t the only battle, it was adjusting to playing under the new rules concerning limiting spectators, continuous testing and restrictions as to where you can travel to. Like his rivals he embraced the changes but it was not easy.

When we started again I was not ready mentally to play like this without fans on the court. This is not easy for me but I am going to try and do my best in Kazakhstan.”

Paire is the top seed at this week’s Astana Open with him being the only top 30 player taking part. The event was a late addition to the tournament calendar in the wake of the pandemic with others being cancelled. However, the title isn’t the most important thing for the 31-year-old right now as he aims to get his momentum back.

“I have not had the best preparation for this tournament. I haven’t won a lot of matches but you never know. If I win one or two matches maybe I can go for the title,” he said.
“The confidence is not there for the moment but it will be here if I win a couple matches.’
“That is the most important thing for me in the tournament. To try to enjoy playing on the court and have fun. Even if I play bad, just try and fight. This is what I haven’t done since the Tour started again.”

Thriving on playing in front of fans in packed arenas, Paire has a somewhat traditional view of tennis as others debate modernising the game. Novak Djokovic recently suggested that the line judges should be replaced at tournaments by an electronic line calling system similar to what was used during the US Open. Although he won’t be able to count on the support of Paire.

“I don’t like this at all. I want to hear something from the crowd and a real person. The noise (from electronic line calling) I don’t really like honestly. This is not why I play tennis. I play to play in front of people. To have crowds and not fake noise,” he stated.

Paire, who has a bye in the first round, will play his opening match at the Astana Open against either Federico Delbonis or Mikhail Kukushkin.

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Kei Nishikori Issues Fitness Update Ahead Of New Season

After a difficult season where he could only win two matches, the world No.41 is hoping to get back on track next year.

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Kei Nishikori (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori says he is eager to start competing against the best in the world again after what has been a troublesome season.

 

The 30-year-old has only been able to play four tournaments this year due to a combination of injury, the pandemic and illness. Nishikori underwent surgery on his shoulder in October 2019 which subsequently resulted in him missing the start of this season. Then he was forced to pull out of his planned return at the US Open after testing positive for COVID-19. Eventually he returned to action in Kitzbuhel during September but had to close his season early a few weeks later after injuring his shoulder at the French Open.

“We had a few tournaments (due to the pandemic) and my season came to an end when I was beginning to get my feel back,” Kyodo news quoted Nishikori as saying on Friday. “I really can’t wait for next year.”

Overall, Nishikori won just two out of six matches played on the Tour in 2020. Scoring wins over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas in Rome and Britain’s Dan Evans at Roland Garros. The highest ranked player he faced was No.22 Christian Garin, who he lost 6-0, 6-3, to in Hamburg.

Despite his setbacks, the Japanese player insists that he is now back on track and his shoulder is at ‘a decent level.

“(My shoulder) has recovered to a decent level. It’ll be definitely okay for next year,” Nishikori said. “I’ll prepare (for the Olympics) assuming that they will take place.”
“I couldn’t face top-10 ranked players this season. I want to compete at that level again as soon as I can.”

One of Nishikori’s goals for next year will be the Olympic Games which are taking place in Tokyo for the first time since 1964. The Games have to be postponed until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nishikori is the only player from his country to have won an Olympic medal during the Open Era after winning bronze in 2016.

I think it’s hard for athletes and the public to think about the Olympics right now. I just want to prepare well,he said in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nishikori has been ranked as high fourth in the world but is currently in 41st position. So far in his career he has won 12 ATP titles and earned more than $24 million in prize money.

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The ATP announces the nominees for the 2020 ATP Awards

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Nominees have been announced for the ATP Awards for all player-voted categories (Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the year, Stefan Edberg Sportmanship Award) and Coach of the Year. 

 

The Fans’s Favourite Award and and the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award Award will be announced later this month. Fans can vote for their favourite singles player and doubles team through 11 December. 

Three-time winner and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be up against 2020 Rome finalist and Roland Garros semifinalist Diego Schwartzman, US Open champion Dominic Thiem and John Millman in the Sportsmanship category. 

Schwartzman is among the nominees in the Most Improved player category and will be against Ugo Humbert, five-time ATP Tour titlist Andrey Rublev and 2020 Sofia ATP Tour champion and 2019 Next Gen ATP Tour champion Jannik Sinner. The Most Improved player of the Year reached a higher ATP Ranking by year’s end and showed an increasingly improved level of performance through the year. 

The nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year are Kevin Anderson, Andrey Kuznetsov, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic. The Compeback Player of the Year has overcome a serious injury in re-establishing as one of the top players on the ATP Tour. 

The contenders for the Newcomer of the Year Award are Carlos Alcaraz (winner in three Challenger tournaments in Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante), Sebastian Korda (winner of his first Challenger title in Eckental), Lorenzo Musetti (title in Parma and third-round in Rome Masters 1000), Jurij Rodionov (first Challenger titles in Dallas and Morelos) , Emil Ruusuvuori (semifinalist in Nur Sultan) and Thiago Seyboth Wild (first title in Santiago de Chlle)

The Coach of the Year Award contenders are Juan Ignacio Chela (Diego Schwartzman), Gilles Cervara (Danil Medvedev), Nicolas Massu (Dominic Thiem), Riccardo Piatti (Jannik Sinner) and Fernando Vicente (Andrey Rublev). 

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French Legend Leconte Speaks Out On Upcoming Return Of Roger Federer

The Grand Slam finalist gives his view on Federer’s chances for 2021.

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A former star of French tennis says he is hopeful but wary that Roger Federer will be able to return to the pinnacle of sport next year.

 

Henri Leconte, who is a former French Open finalist that achieved a ranking high of No.5, admits that the Swiss Maestro may find it tough on the Tour given the rise of what he describes as the ‘younger generation.’ This season Dominic Thiem won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open at the age of 27. More recently Daniil Medvedev defeated both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to the ATP Finals title.

We want to believe it. We all want to believe it! It’s been a long and difficult year. Will the motivation still be there? Will this break, the fact of having been able to enjoy his family, have changed something or will he still have that renewed motivation that has always fascinated us?” Leconte told TennisActu.

Federer hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss at the Australian Open in January. Since then, he has been sidelined from action due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures. The second took place after the first failed to produce the desired results.

Despite the setbacks, 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer is eyeing a return to the Tour in 2021. He is currently the oldest player in the world’s top 100 and one of two to be aged 39. The other is Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

No one can say it. We all wish him, we would like him to stop on a Grand Slam title but the train (momentum) is gone with this younger generation which has put in an extra speed,” said Leconte.
“I would like to believe it. Roger has done so many things, that’s why he makes us dream, we would like to see him at the top. It will be very, very hard. ..”

It is not the first time Federer has taken a lengthy break due to injury. He missed six months of the 2017 season due to another knee issue before returning to action the following year when he won the Australian Open.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Federer will head into the new season being able to use his iconic ‘RF’ logo. He hasn’t been able to use the logo for the past two years after switching from Nike, which held the rights, to UNIQLO. However, he has managed to regain control of ownership which means he will be allowed to use it on his apparel once again.

“The RF cap is back,” Federer said in a video message to fans on Twitter.
“After a long wait and extensive fine-tuning, UNIQLO and I are extremely excited to announce the return of the RF hat in 8 fresh colours starting December 8th, 2020,” he also wrote.
“This hat has meant so much to me and to my fans over the years.
“It has given us a way to visibly connect, and I have appreciated the opportunity to thrive off this supportive energy.”

As it currently stands Federer’s first tournament is set to be the Australian Open. The tournament had been scheduled to start on January 18th but it is believed that the date has been delayed until February 8th due to travel and quarantine arrangements.

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