Jannik Sinner Won His First Title – What’s Next For Him And Italian Tennis? - UBITENNIS
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Jannik Sinner Won His First Title – What’s Next For Him And Italian Tennis?

Right now, Italy is a country in pain (like many others) because of the pandemic and the concomitant lockdown, but at least yesterday the sports fans got a glimpse of a degree of brilliance that might extend over the next few years, and on loftier stages.

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Jannik Sinner (image via https://twitter.com/sofiaopentennis)

Article translated from Italian by Tommaso Villa

 

Jannik Sinner’s win in Sofia will perhaps be remembered as the watershed moment that steered a middling national tennis movement towards its erstwhile 1970s glory – as a matter of fact, Italy now has four players in the men’s Top 40 for the first time since 1977. Sinner is the youngest Italian to ever win an ATP tournament at 19 years and 3 months, bagging the 68th title for his country in the Open Era. 

The teenager admitted to feeling a bit of tension before the match, as well as when he thought to have it made when he got the break early in the second set after winning the opener – as icily driven as he might look, he is still a human being on the verge of breaking new ground for himself while setting a national record.  

That moment of crisis, which already happened to him in Paris against Nadal and on other occasions, brought Pospisil back into the match, dragging the bout to a decider and causing him to drop his racquet, a rare showing of emotion. 

It seemed like there was no way out of the funk when he had to face two break points in the first game of the third set. Moreover, it would have honestly been hard to forecast him as the champion in Bulgaria before the tie-breaker, since his opponent is a doubles champion (he won Wimbledon against the Bryans in five set in 2014, partnering Jack Sock) who not only does excel in the early shots of the rally (he has a big serve but his return isn’t inconsiderable either), but has also played hundreds of tie-breaks over the course of his career, and could thus rely on experience to quell his nerves – it should be remembered, however, that he had never won a singles title either.  

What happened, instead, was an absolutely spotless performance by Sinner in the decisive game, which he won 7-3 without conceding a single mini-break. What’s more, he knew when to lunge, upping his aggression on the Canadian’s second serve while 3-2 up, hitting a few shattering forehands at 5-3, including an acutely-angled winner, and stepping in again on the next point when Pospisil’s first serve didn’t connect. Kudos.

He looked like a veteran out there, he was calm and lucid, and he found the shots that sometimes abandoned him throughout the week (the forehand especially) when he needed them most. This poise is one of the factors that lead me to believe that he will be one of the best. 

However, it’s the blessings of so many champions, both past and present, that makes me believe that there is no fluke, and that his destiny is to reach new heights in a short time span. Pospisil didn’t just project him as a Top 10 player, he stated that he could go all the way to the rankings’ pinnacle. Yesterday, he played far from his best game, but this is a sign of surefire greatness, because he found a way to scratch his way to a win.

The pressure will certainly ease up in the next final, and the same goes for the third, the fourth, and so on. He will keep improving, a more important datum than precociousness records or discussions over his potential, a dangerous word that most of the time stays on paper. 

According to the runner-up, this young man has everything that it takes – the serve, the groundstrokes, the brains, the brawns, the tactics. To these, I would add that he possesses the right personality, the drive, the focus, and the desire to improve. Sinner has already earned close to 2 million dollars in prize money, and even more in endorsements from six different international brands – Nike, Lavazza, Rolex, Parmigiano Reggiano, Alfa Romeo, Technogym – but I am sure that this isn’t what he’s in this for. 

He also knows how to put things into perspective, like when he told me: “Right now, the most important thing is that my family and my friends are okay, I know that there are things that are more important than tennis. I could have been N.20 with a full season, but I’m at peace with that, I’ll think about it next year. What’s important right now is being healthy while perhaps hoping for an easier time when it comes to travelling in 2021. I take what I can get.”

Italy is a football-centric nation, but it has also borne witness to many affairs between the general public and athletes from individual sports – Valentino Rossi and the MotoGP, Federica Pellegrini and swimming, Alberto Tomba and skiing, Luna Rossa and yachting. Perhaps Jannik Sinner will be the one to turn tennis into a major sport in the country. Yesterday’s final was broadcast for free on national television, an almost unique occurrence – will it become a habit?

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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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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