[EXCLUSIVE] Alberto Mancini, Fognini’s New Coach: “He Called Me Because The Fire Is Still There” - UBITENNIS
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[EXCLUSIVE] Alberto Mancini, Fognini’s New Coach: “He Called Me Because The Fire Is Still There”

UbiTennis chats with the Argentine, a former world N.8 who was recently hired by the reigning Monte-Carlo champion. Mancini discusses his new protégé as well as the recent passing of Diego Armando Maradona.

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Just a few days after his partnership with Fabio Fognini was announced, I met the new head coach hired by the Ligurian tennis player, former world N.8 Alberto Mancini. 

 

During his career, he won three ATP tournaments – Bologna in 1988, Monte-Carlo (defeating  both Wilander and Becker in the process) and Rome (saving a match point against Agassi) in 1989 – and reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, his best result in a Grand Slam tournament.

He also reached the final in Rome 1991, retiring in the third set against Emilio Sanchez, and he finished as the runner-up in Key Biscayne versus Chang, in Kitzbuhel against Sampras and in Stuttgart, beaten by Stich.

As the team captain, he led the Argentine Davis Cup team to the final twice, in 2006 and 2008. After losing to Spain – then led by Lopez and Verdasco – at home, he opted to resign his position. In his career he coached Mariano Puerta, then in 2003-04 Guillermo Coria, and finally Pablo Cuevas during the past four and a half years.

THE CHAT

Mancini reminisces on his victories and some of the opponents he has beaten – especially in his best year, 1989, in Rome and Monte Carlo – but he’s all too aware that his career could have been a lot more successful if he hadn’t had so many physical struggles: “I started getting injured early on in my career. It took me one year to recover from shoulder surgery, but I was never the same player again, and retired early.” Despite these issues, he always had a good relationship with his fellow countrymen from that era, whom he knew from his early days – Davin, Perez Roldan, and Martín Jaite, the latter being a little older: “I was always close with Franco and Guillermo [Davin and Perez-Roldan], because we grew up together in the junior ranks.”

I asked him about his memories and anecdotes about Maradona, a legend who sadly died on November 25th. Mancini is a supporter of Rosario’s Newell’s Old Boys, even though he was born in Misiones, in the north of the country: “I had been playing tennis since I was 5, because of my brother and my father. My idols back then were Vilas, Clerc too, more than the football players, but he was still an icon to me.” As Davis Cup Captain, Mancini remembers when Maradona came to the locker room to encourage the team and inspired everybody with his determination and enthusiasm: “I have fond memories of Diego, when I won in Rome in 1989 he was still playing in Italy, and our matches used to happen at the same time, but he kept checking how I was faring. He sent me a video for my birthday this year recalling those days – he always followed Argentine tennis very closely and had a good rapport with David Nalbandian. He loved playing for Argentina and always passed that sentiment to our players.”

Alberto told me a little about himself and his results, then about his career as a coach, which didn’t start right away: “After I retired, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the game, but after a while I came back to it, starting with Mariano Puerta in 1998-99.” He did his best work with Coria who, under his coaching, became number 4 in the world starting from the 70th spot; the two separated in 2004, after the Australian Open and before he lost the final at Roland Garros against Gaudio: “We maintained a good rapport, we live close by and he has played many times for me in the Davis Cup. I also worked with Nicolas Lapentti and then I spent the last four years and a half with Pablo Cuevas, who is a great person and has one of the most beautiful backhands in the world.”

A NEW JOURNEY

Later on, we got to the part that obviously interests the Italian fans the most. “He (Fognini) hired because he wants to finish out his career at the same high level he has maintained for the past decade. His agent called me, then I talked a little with Fabio and we instantly connected.” Alberto’s wife and three children elected to stay home – they will occasionally follow him but by now they are used to his job, which forces him to travel around the world. “When I could, I always brought them along, it’s common practice for every coach in the world.”

His first assessment of Fognini is glowing, although not devoid of caveats: “He’s exceptionally talented, and I believe that he can still be a top player. If he retains the same drive, then he can get over the injuries he’s had and hold his own against everybody, because his game is flawless. Franco Davin coached him and so we talked about him, but I’m not telling you what he said! All I know is that hard work and motivation are the only keys to success. I am more of a strategy-and-technique guy, so that’s what we will focus on with Fabio and the personal trainer I work with, Alejandro Lacour.” 

This is an exciting time for Italian tennis – will Fognini use the rise of so many youngsters as a personal fuel? “We haven’t talked about it, but he certainly might. However, I think that his focus is his own performance and his own window of success. Berrettini is a player who has grown a lot in the last couple years, while Sinner is an incredible talent, he works very hard and generates winners with ease.” 

Switching back to Fognini, there is a lot to love in his particular brand of tennis: “His reading of the game is impeccable, and the power of his backhand is outstanding. He is not very tall, so we will work on improving his serve, particularly his ball toss.”

Training has now begun (with Covid masks!), but there’s no idea yet as to when the season in Australia will start. However, it’s always best to focus on what can be controlled: “We are currently in San Remo, but we also have training sessions planned in Bordighera at the Piatti Academy along with Sinner, as well as in Monte-Carlo with Dimitrov, Wawrinka, Djokovic and all of the other players who train there.” Quite a good foundation to build on.

Translated by Michele Brusadelli; edited by Tommaso Villa

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Alexander Zverev Ditches Federer’s TEAM8 Management Firm To Return To His ‘Roots’

Zverev speaks out about his ‘short and long term strategies going forward.’

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German tennis star Alexander Zverev has confirmed his departure from TEAM8 as he set out his coaching plans for the season ahead.

 

The world No.7 posted a statement on Instagram saying that he no longer wants to be represented by the management firm, which was co-founded by Roger Federer and his agent Tony Godsick. Zverev says part of his decision was because he wanted his family to take a greater role once again. Instead, he will be managed by his brother Misha, who is the captain of the German ATP Cup team, as well as Sergei Bubka.

“I have decided to go back to the roots and have my family help me with my coaching, as well as Mischa and Sergei Bubka with my management,” Zverev wrote.
“I want to thank TEAM8 for the great work and tremendous experience, but we both feel that it’s the right decision to have my family take on a bigger role once again.”

Zverev’s announcement comes less than two weeks after it was confirmed he will no longer be working with David Ferrer. A former world No.3 player who joined his camp last year. Ferrer confirmed that the ending of their partnership was on mutual terms and there was no conflict between the two. The Spaniard said his role as tournament director of the Barcelona Open and family commitments contributed towards his decision.

Last year the 23-year-old broke new territory in his career by reaching the final of the US Open which he lost in five sets to Dominic Thiem. Zverev also won two ATP titles in Cologne. However, his on-court success was overshadowed by events in his personal life. He has been accused of mental and physical abuse by his former girlfriend Olga Sharypova, which Zverev has denied. Meanwhile, it was revealed that another former partner of his is pregnant with his child.

Heading into the Australian Open, Zverev is likely to face more scrutiny over the domestic abuse allegations after it was confirmed that a new account from Sharypova will be published in the coming weeks. New York Times journalist and freelance writer Ben Rothenberg confirmed that a second interview will be released before the start of the Melbourne major. It is unknown as to what the interview will entail but there has been a prior reference to one ‘incident’ in China.

Zverev’s Instagram statement in full

“What a year 2020 has been, for the whole world and for myself. I reached my first Grand Slam final without my parents and brother being court-side due to them contracting COVID-19. An almost 2 year long legal dispute with my former agent finally came to a successful resolution, so I have spent a lot of time thinking about my short and long term strategies going forward. For this reason and because of the ongoing worldwide restrictions, I have decided to go back to the roots and have my family help me with my coaching, as well as Mischa and Sergei Bubka with my management. I want to thank TEAM8 for the great work and tremendous experience, but we both feel that it’s the right decision to have my family take on a bigger role once again.”

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Hubert Hurkacz Aims To Build On Delray Beach Triumph

The best way to start the season for the world No.35.

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Hubert Hurkacz (image via https://twitter.com/DelrayBeachOpen)

Poland’s Herbert Hurkacz says he hopes to play at an even higher level over the coming weeks after winning the Delray Beach Open title on Wednesday.

 

The world No.35 eased to a 6-3, 6-3, win over Sebastian Korda in the final to claim only the second title in his career after Winston Salem back in 2018. Hurkacz, who was the fourth seed in the tournament, didn’t drop a set all week en route to becoming the first Polish player in history to win the title. In the final he won 68% of his service points and broke Korda four times overall.

“It feels great. It is great to win the title and I am so happy about that. This Is a great start to the season,” Hurkacz said afterwards.
“I am happy that I am improving and we (my team) are doing good stuff with C.B (coach Craig Boynton), and things are working. So I am really pleased with this result.”

The 23-year-old is hoping to improve on what was a challenging 2020 season for him. After reaching the semi-finals of the Auckland Open in January last year, he could only win back-to-back matches in two out of his next 12 tournaments prior to Delray Beach. His best Grand Slam result was reaching the third round of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.

Seeking to break new territory in 2021, Hurkacz will today start his 24-hour journey to Australia which begins with a 5am departure from America this morning. His coach Craig Boynton also currently worked with Steve Johnson and previously mentored Jim Courier.

“It’s the beginning of the season and I still need to work on a couple of things, but I hope I can play even better in Australia,” Hurkacz stated.

Hurkacz is only the second Polish player to have won an ATP Tour title in the Open Era after Wojciech Fibak. At present he is the only player from his country ranked inside the top 100 on the Tour.

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Cristian Garin Out Of Australian Open Following Fall

The South American tennis star will not travel to Melbourne due to both injury and the travel restrictions implemented.

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Chile’s Cristian Garin has become the third top 30 player to pull out of the men’s draw at next month’s Australian Open.

 

The world No.22 has confirmed that he will not be travelling to the Grand Slam after suffering a fall in which he hurt his wrist a week ago. Announcing his decision on Instagram, Garin said the limitations in place at the tournament which wouldn’t allow him to travel with his physio played a factor. This year’s Australian Open is taking place amid strict COVID-19 rules which requires players to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and limits the number of team members they can bring. The majority of players will be spending their quarantine in Melbourne but the top names will be in Adelaide following a recent deal secured by Tennis Australia.

I am very sad to report that a week ago I suffered a fall, which left me with a lot of pain in my left wrist (sprain),” Garin wrote on his Instagram story. “It has been very difficult for me to play the last days and given the restrictions of the tour, they do not allow me to travel with my physiotherapist, which makes it impossible to find a good recovery. Unfortunately I will not be able to play this year in Australia, which is something very difficult for me to accept. I hope to return in good condition and with the best energy for the tour in South America.”

photo via – https://www.instagram.com/garincris/

Garin kicked-off his season on Saturday at the Delray Beach Open where he was the top seed. However, he lost his opening match in straight sets to Christian Harrison who went on to reach the semi-finals. It is only the second tournament he has played since the French Open in October.

The setback comes after the 24-year-old confirmed that he has started working with Franco Davin back in November. A tennis coach known best for his work with Juan Martin del Potro. Davin has also previously worked with Grigor Dimitrov and Kyle Edmund.

The withdrawal of Garin follows that of Roger Federer and John Isner. Former champion Federer has pulled out due to his ongoing recovery from a right knee injury. Although one Australian Open official believes his decision was due to another factor. Meanwhile, Isner has opted not to travel to Australia because he didn’t want to spend an extended time away from his family.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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