Uncertainty Over Start To 2021 Season Fails To Dampen Spirits At ATP Finals - UBITENNIS
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Uncertainty Over Start To 2021 Season Fails To Dampen Spirits At ATP Finals

Players reacts to news that they will not be allowed to travel to Australia in December.

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Novak Djokovic (image via https://twitter.com/ESPNtenis)

At the season-ending ATP Finals the focus of players is usually on the event but this year they have to contend with the unwanted extra of trying to work out what to do during their off-season.

 

Earlier this week the local government in the Australian state of Victoria refused to approve a plan that would have welcomed an estimated 550 players to the area next month. The decision has sent ripples throughout the sport with unanswered questions left over what tournaments will be played, if any, outside of the Australian Open in January. The issue isn’t the players arriving in the country on January 1st. It is the fact they will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

“I’m planning to play Australian Open for sure. I would like to go there and I’m ready to quarantine for two weeks and whatever is necessary for me to be able to play,” reigning Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic said after his loss to Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Finals on Wednesday.
“I hope that there is going to be support and understanding from the Victorian and Australian government for the players and for Tennis Australia and that they will allow players to compete in the second week of quarantine.”

It has been reported by Australian sources that at present officials have said no to allowing players to participate in competitive matches whilst in quarantine. Although they are allowed to practice during that period. Should this prove to be the case, there will be just four days between quarantine ending and the first Grand Slam of 2021 starting. Leading to some thinking that a slight delay to the Australian Open appears to be the most logical solution.

“I just hope the Australian Open happens because right now everything is so unsure that we don’t know. Australia is definitely one of my favourite slams, and I would love to go there next year,” Alexander Zverev commented.
“Credit to Tennis Australia and to Craig Tiley. I think they are doing the best they can. I think the Australian government is being very cautious about it,” he added.

Diego Schwartzman believes the best approach to the situation is a case of wait and see. After the ATP Finals he will return back to his native Argentina where there are currently no direct flights to Australia. The French Open semi-finalist points out that travel to the region during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be better for some than others.

“I think it depends on where you are from and what your plans are for the start of the year. So every single case, every single player is going to be a different scenario, so I will see what we do.” He said.

Bruno Soares, who is from Brazil and is a member of the ATP players Council, is another to speak out about the potential travel complexities. Although he has played down any serious concerns by pledging his full confidence in the tennis Authorities.

“I trust what they are doing, how they work,” he said. “They have always been very supportive in helping players, so I think we’ve got to be patient.’
“It’s crazy times. I think Australia even has managed to control the virus, and we know they don’t want any other foreign people maybe bringing something. So I guess it’s time to be patient and let them do the work and hope the government helps us to have a good summer.”

There are ongoing discussions going on behind the scene with Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, who had initially planned for Victoria to host a series of tennis tournaments at the start of next year. Although it is unclear as to what the final verdict will be.

Unfortunately for Tiley, he will not be the one who has the ultimate say – it will be the government. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has reiterated that his main focus is on the safety of those he is in charge of. Although he has shown support for the creation of a ‘players bubble’ which is a major aspect of Tennis Australia’s plan.

“Whilst I mean no disrespect … I think the safety of Victorians is my priority. There’ll be some inconvenience for tennis players and their support teams for a little while longer while we finalise these detailed, detailed arrangements,” Andrews stated.

The Australian Open is set to start on January 18th.

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Andy Murray Skips French Open To Focus On The Grass

The decision has been made after the Brit experienced some ‘discomfort’ during his time in Rome.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has delayed his return to competitive tennis after deciding to not play any more tournaments on the clay this year.

 

The former world No.1 has confirmed that he will not be playing at the French Open, according to multiple British media sources. Murray’s decision comes less than a week after he was in Rome training with some of the Tour’s top players. During one of his practice sessions in the Italian capital, he had a hit with world No.1 Novak Djokovic who said afterwards he was impressed by the current form of the Brit.

“I was very happy to see him. I haven’t seen him in a while, and it was great to hit with him. I thought he played very well on the court,” Djokovic told reporters last week.
“He moves well considering it’s clay which is not the best surface for his hips. But considering what he has been through lately, I think it seems like he’s been feeling well on the court. That’s what he’s saying, and that’s what it appears on the court itself.”

It is understood that Murray experienced some discomfort in Rome where he participated in the doubles tournament with Liam Broady after receiving a last-minute entry. It is unclear as to where the pain is located and how serious it is. Although it has been deemed significant enough for him to decline a wildcard into next week’s Geneva Open and pass on the French Open where he would have possibly had to play in the qualifying draw.

Murray will now switch his focus to the grass ahead of Wimbledon. He is currently scheduled to next play at The Queen’s Club where he has a contract to play there for the rest of his career. The tournament will start on June 14th with Murray saying he is looking forward to playing in front of a British crowd again. Under current restrictions, Queen’s will welcome 25% of its 9000-spectator capacity.

“It’s been such a difficult time for everyone and it will be great to play in front of home fans in Britain again,” said five-time champion Murray. “The tournament at Queen’s has always meant a lot to me – it’s where I won my first ATP match, I’ve won the singles at Queen’s more than any other in my career, and I’ll never forget our doubles title in 2019. I can’t wait to get back out there.”

34-year-old Murray has played just 11 Tour matches since winning the European Open in Antwerp back in 2019. He is currently ranked 123rd in the world.

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Novak Djokovic Outlasts Tsitsipas To Reach Rome Semis

Novak Djokovic survived a brutal test from Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the semi-finals in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic survived Stefanos Tsitsipas over two days as a 4-6 7-5 7-5 win ensured his place in the last four of Rome.

 

The world number one came back from a set and a break down to ensure his place in the semi-finals in Rome.

It’s the second time in the space of a few weeks that Tsitsipas has lost to Djokovic and Nadal in three hour epic matches.

Next for Djokovic will be Lorenzo Sonego who beat Andrey Rublev 3-6 6-4 6-3 in his delayed quarter-final.

It was a bright start from Tsitsipas who was aggressive from the first ball and took the match to the world number one.

An early break helped settle the Greek down who was producing tennis of the highest from the baseline and at the net as he rushed Djokovic into errors.

That became a double break as the Serb was distracted by the rainy conditions as he couldn’t hit through Tsitsipas’s consistent defence.

After breaking back and consolidating after some nice combinational patterns of play, rain halted play for a few hours.

Once they came back it was Tsitsipas who continued to dictate the points to his favour and with accurate serving was able to close out the first set in in 51 minutes.

The start of the second set was no different, after both players held serve to love Tsitsipas grinded out a crucial break taking advantage of a lack of concentration from Djokovic.

However once again rain halted play and Djokovic had a whole night to figure out how to turn the match around as play was abandoned for the day.

As play resumed the next morning, Tsitsipas continued where he left off from yesterday as he was the aggressor dictating points and putting Djokovic under pressure.

That was until the eighth game as Djokovic raised his level and managed to make a lot of deep returns to cause Tsitsipas trouble.

Tsitsipas managed to save four break points with some clutch tactical serving and bold high-margin play.

On the fifth break point Djokovic finally punched a hole through Tsitsipas’ defence to level the set at 4-4 as he let out a huge roar.

The Greek remained valiant and produced a higher level of base play throughout the rest of the set as he earned two opportunities to break back.

However this time it was Djokovic’s turn to produce clutch serves and unlike Tsitsipas, the Serb held for 5-4.

Big moments were meant for big players and you can always rely on the world number one to produce those. A big final return game from Djokovic sealed with clever tactical played allowed him to break and let out another huge roar as he levelled this match at one set all.

In the final set, there was ball-striking of the highest quality as both players looked to out manoeuvre and out-hit each other.

The first break of the set went to Tsitsipas as Djokovic’s shot failed to reach the other side of the net as the Serb smashed his racket into the side barrier of the court.

After holding for a 3-1 lead, Tsitsipas looked to finish the match out as he had four opportunities for a double break lead.

A combination of erratic decisions and clutch serving from the world number one saw them saved as the Serb would hold on.

In typical Djokovic fashion he would break in the next game comfortably as this was turning out to be one of the best final sets of the season.

Tsitsipas would have the chance to close out the match after breaking for a 5-4 lead but the Serb’s court coverage was too good and he continued to hit insane returns for 5-5.

After 3 hours and 15 minutes of play over two days, Djokovic produced a near-perfect final game to deny Tsitsipas the win as he made his way into the semi-finals.

Next for the world number one will be Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday evening for a place in the final.

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French Open Chief: Roger Federer Would have Won Multiple French Open Titles If It Wasn’t For Nadal

Guy Forget also predicts how far the 39-year-old could go in the draw this year.

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The decision by Roger Federer to play at the French Open is the most logical step ahead of Wimbledon, according to tournament director Guy Forget.

 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion hasn’t played a competitive match on the surface since June 2019. Last year he missed most the season due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. So far this year he has only played in one tournament which was at the Qatar Open where he reached the semi-finals.

Federer will return to the court next week at the Geneva Open in his native Switzerland. It is the only event he will play before heading to Roland Garros. An event he had only played in once out of the past five editions. Forget, who is a former top 10 player himself, believes the match play is exactly what Federer needs.

“That Roger comes to play Roland Garros seems logical to me. This will allow him to play, and especially to test himself. Clay is a surface that requires you to be precise in your movements. The better Federer is at Roland Garros, the better he will be at Wimbledon,” he told reporters earlier this week.

The Swiss Maestro has only won the French Open once in his career which was back in 2009. Although he has reached the final on four other occasions. It was at the 1999 French Open where he made his main draw debut in a major at the age of 17. Overall, 11 out of Federer’s 103 ATP titles have been won on the clay.

However, Forget believes Federer would have won many more French Open titles if it wasn’t for the formidable Rafael Nadal. A player who has won more ATP trophies on the dirt than any other player in history, including 13 at the French Open alone.

“If Rafael Nadal hadn’t existed Federer would have had at least 5 or 6 titles at Roland, I’m sure of that.” Forget commented.
“Regarding this edition, I think it can happen that he could go into the second week.” He added.

Federer has lost to Nadal in all six of their meetings at the French Open – four times in the final and twice in the semi-finals. He trails their overall head-to-head 16-24.

The French Open will get underway on May 30th.

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