Former Mixed Doubles Slam Champion and Author Gordon Forbes Passes Away Due to Covid-19 - UBITENNIS
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Former Mixed Doubles Slam Champion and Author Gordon Forbes Passes Away Due to Covid-19

The South African is the third champion mourned by fans in a few days, following Dennis Ralston and Alex Olmedo. What follows is a tribute written by a close friend and one-time opponent, Joseph B. Stahl.

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Forbes died on December 9, at age 86. He won the 1955 French Open (partnering Darlene Hard) and reached another final at Roland Garros in 1963, this time in the men’s doubles partnering Abe Segal, his long-time on-court companion. After retiring, he wrote several books, including “A handful of summer” and “Too soon too panic”, published in 1979 and 1995, respectively. In 1959, Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta was on scoreboard duty as a teenager during the Davis Cup tie between Italy and South Africa in which Forbes played both singles and doubles. What follows is a rememberance written by Gordon’s friend Joseph B. Stahl (also the author of the drawing above), whereas here can be found the tributes to Ralston and Olmedo.

 

Gordon L. Forbes of South Africa, an Inadequate Memoir of a Master Raconteur and a Helluva Tennis Player by Joe Stahl

I first met Gordon in August 1962 when we both played in the grasscourt Meadow Club Invitational Tennis Tournament at Southampton, Long Island, N.Y.; it was a lead-in event to the U.S. Nationals at Forest Hills.  I really wasn’t good enough to be in that tournament, but somehow Grenville Walker, who ran it, let me in the draw.  I was paired against Gordon in the first round and really had no idea who he was, although he’d reached the third round at Wimbledon only a few weeks earlier. 

On the morning of the Monday on which the tournament began, I was practicing on the Meadow Club’s grass with Arthur Ashe when Arthur called me to the net and, pointing to a tall fellow three courts down the way, told me, “That’s your first-round opponent.”  Gordon was practicing with a skinny kid who looked like Gordon had taken him out of his pocket and unfolded him; it was Cliff Drysdale. 

Gordon didn’t look like much to me—mind you, I didn’t think I could beat him, but I thought we’d have a reasonably competitive match.  Unfortunately, however, I made the dreadful mistake of practicing so long and so hard with Arthur the whole morning (at one point Arthur told me, “If your forehand were as good as your backhand, you’d be great”—you see, it was the one day a year that I could hit a backhand), that by the time my match with Gordon began that afternoon I was exhausted, and Gordon beat me -love and -love. 

The diminutive but very famous New York Times tennis reporter Allison Danzig was in the stands—he had come all the way out to Southampton from Manhattan to cover the match—, and I remember his withdrawing a small notebook from his pocket when it began, but after only a few games, he put it back into his pocket and never took it out again.  As Gordon and I shook hands at the net at the end of the match, I said to him, “Damn, Gord-o, I thought you were a gentleman.  Don’t you know that a gentleman always lets an overmatched opponent win at least a courtesy game?  It’s like it says in the Bible, never punish a man with more than 40 stripes ‘lest thy brother seem vile in thy sight.’ ”

Gordon thought reflectively for a moment and in one of those great philosophical inspirations he often had, he gently instructed me, “Joseph, that is all very well for religion, but tennis is different:  In tennis it is a law that you should always beat your opponent as badly as you can.”  And that generously imparted wisdom was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for decades.

We corresponded after that, and in 1979 when I read his book A Handful of Summers, I saw that, in it, he claimed he had lost in the first round of that Meadow Club Tournament in 1962 to Roger Werksman—not beaten me!—because he’d just gotten off an international airline flight at JFK Airport and driven all the way out to Southampton and was tired.  So I sat down and wrote Gordon a letter on my legal stationery (I conducted a long masquerade as an attorney at law, 1963-2004) in which I told him I was going to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against him for prematurely canceling me out of existence, and I enclosed a copy of the Meadow Club draw showing that he’d beaten me in the first round, “6-0, 6-0.”  I ended the letter, however, by telling him that all would be forgiven if he would buy me a drink whenever we might meet at Wimbledon, this was agreed between us, and for a long time he would invite me into the Last Eight Club at Wimbledon every year, “Gord-o” would buy me a drink, and we would have a lot of amusing chit-chat with the other characters hanging around in the Last Eight.

At the time I read his book, I was so taken with the comedy, the charm and the sense of it that I decided to buy seven copies of it to distribute to friends as Christmas presents.  At that time, Russell Seymour, who had played on the South African Davis Cup team with Gordon, was the tennis professional at the New Orleans Lawn Tennis Club, and I asked Russell where I could find copies of the book.  He told me that Gordon’s sister Jean, who lived in Texas, had a supply of them, he gave me her phone number and address, and after speaking with her by phone, I sent her a check and she sent me the seven books accompanied by a charmingly reminiscent letter about tennis people we both knew. 

“A handful of summer” by Gordon Forbes (Photo by Ubaldo Scanagatta)

It was so shortly after that, only a day or so, that the news broke that Jean had died, that I thought her letter to me might be the last one she’d ever written, so, after photocopying it, I sent the original to Gordon in South Africa, knowing he would like to have it.  Gordon’s second book, Too Soon to Panic, which of course I also read, was really an extended letter to Jean in her afterlife, and not long after its publication, Radio Wimbledon, the All England Club’s radio station for which I worked as a commentator, interviewer and talk-show participant, asked me to interview Gordon about the book, which I did.  It is one of the best interviews I ever conducted, because I knew Gordon so well from his books and from personal acquaintance, so I knew what cues to give him to enable him to say everything he wanted to air.

Another incident about A Handful of Summers comes to mind.  In, oh I guess, about the mid-1980s, I was visiting a doctor friend in Miami who took me on his hospital rounds with him one day.  As we were navigating the hospital’s halls, a doctor stopped us and told my friend that if he wanted to see the most gorgeous collection of women ever assembled, to go to such-and-such a room, because there was an endless procession of beauties constantly coming there to visit a particular patient.  So we went, and the patient turned out to be the French tennis player Jean-Noël Grinda, who was there for a coronary angioplasty.

None of the fabled women were there, but I asked Jean-Noël if he had read Gordon’s book A Handful of Summers, at which he groaned and said, “Ohhh, I have terrible memories of Gordon Forbes!”  “Why is that?”, I asked him.  “Because,” he said, “Gordon beat me 7-5 in the fifth set at Bournemouth one year after I led him 5-1, 40-15 in that set.”  So I told him, “Listen, I am going to send you this book Gordon has written, and I swear that when you read it, you will actually like Gordon Forbes.” 

The upshot of it was that I sent Jean-Noël the book at the French address he gave me, and Jean-Noël wrote back to me telling me he enjoyed the book and appreciated my sending it to him so much that he was reconciled to Gordon, and Jean-Noël invited me to stay at the Hotel Westminster Concorde on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, which Jean-Noël owned, any time I wanted, for free.  Alas, I never had a chance to take him up on it, but that is a tribute to how good the book is.       

One thing that struck people about Gordon, not least me, was that he never seemed to age.  Decades would go by, yet Gordon still looked exactly the same as he always had.  One day in 1989 I was playing tennis at Lew Hoad’s Campo de Tenis on the Costa del Sol in Spain with Heather Brewer Segal, who had been married to Gordon’s doubles partner Abe Segal.  Gordon at that time was in his mid-50s.  Well, the subject of Gordon came up, and Heather said, “You know something, it just isn’t fair!  Gordon still looks like he’s 28 years old!”  And it was true.  I told Heather, “Maybe he read The Picture of Dorian Gray, and he has a portrait of himself growing old for him in an attic.”

Lew Hoad sold Gordon’s Handful book in the shop at the Campo de Tenis, and Lew used to pontificate that it was, as Lew put it in his Australian lilt, “the grytist book on tinnis evah writtin.” 

Of course the real hero of Gordon’s Handful is Abe Segal, the Abe Segal, that is, that Gordon portrayed him to be, an author of zany antics who was constantly poking fun at the foibles of mankind.  And that portrayal is a testimonial to how creative Gordon could be.  For the “Abie,” as Gordon always referred to him, of that book is more a figment of Gordon’s lively imagination than an authentic representation of the real Abe Segal.  I say that because Abie published a memoir in 2008 called Hey, Big Boy! that destroyed the entire marvelous impression of him Gordon had created in HandfulHey, Big Boy! is so terribly written in such atrociously illiterate English and reveals Abie to be such a clumsy oaf of a character, that I wrote to Gordon telling him this and how disappointed I was in Abie’s book.  Gordon, who at that point did not even know Abie had written a book, wrote back to me lamenting that “He just had to have a book.”  Had Abie not written that book, he would have lived forever as the grand Falstaffian hero Gordon had painted him as.                    

One of Gordon’s greatest bravura performances of wit was the after-dinner speech he gave at the annual pre-Wimbledon International Lawn Tennis Club of Great Britain Ball—“the IC Ball”—at the Dorchester Hotel in London, I guess in about the mid-1990s.  Gordon’s talk was so loaded with his cleverness and hilarious witticisms, tempered by his wry take on the humor of things, and it delighted his audience, including me, so much that when he stopped talking I wanted to cry because I wanted him to continue talking forever.  From the moment he spoke his first sentence he had people laughing in hysterics, he was so funny, and I wished I had said the things he came up with.  It was the champagne and caviar of entertainment. 

But besides being a sage observer of and reporter on life, Gordon was also a helluva tennis player, for he did have wins over Hoad, Laver and Drobny.

I have a bad habit of making pictures of things that strike my fancy, and in 1962 I did a pencil drawing of Gordon from a photo of him that appeared in World Tennis magazine that shows Gordon hitting a backhand.  When I showed the drawing to Russell Seymour, he took one look at it and said, “That’s Forbsey’s backhand alright.”  Here it is:

Joe Stahl, by his own confession, masqueraded as an attorney at law for 41 years, retiring in 2004, since which, he has done three things very badly:  write; paint; and play tennis.  He is hoping to get into the Tennis Hall of Fame as the worst player in the history of the sport.  He and Gordon Forbes were friends for many years, exchanging good-natured insults the whole time.  Joe was a commentator at Wimbledon and an editor and contributor at Tennis Week magazine.

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If Rafael Nadal Can Struggle With Self-Confidence, So Can You!

Ubitennis spoke to sport psychology consultant Adam Blicher about the role of believing in oneself in tennis.

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The best tennis players look and act very self-confident, but we forget that what they are experiencing might be completely different from what we are able to see from the outside. They too are experiencing uncertainty and doubt. Just like you and I. Some days, you feel like you move effortlessly, and it almost seem like you can’t miss the court with your forehand. Other days you doubt if you can even put your forehand into the court.

 

20-time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal talked in press conferences about his lack of self-confidence in 2015. He expressed how he did not experience the feeling of self-confidence despite the fact that he will go down in the history books as one of the best players the world has ever seen.

So if you sometimes get the thought that you are the only one struggling with confidence, remember that even the best players in the world struggle. The best players in the world are not super-humans who only have positive thoughts, are always motivated and feel very self-confident.

Also remember that more self-confidence is not always better. There is a very fine line between having high self-confidence and having too big of an ego. If you are having too big of an ego, it often leads to not preparing well enough, or you might get a little bit too cocky in the way that you are going about your performance.

That said, it can also be problematic to not experience any self-confidence at all which might then lead you to dwell and to struggle with quick decision-making on the court. You might find yourself accepting to hit too many backhands instead of covering more of the court with your forehand; or, instead of stepping up close to the baseline, you find yourself playing more defensive a meter behind the baseline.

We need to redefine our understanding of self-confidence. We cannot let out emotional state dictate our performances as our emotions are fleeting and very hard to control. If you try to control your emotions all of your focus and energy will be occupied fighting an internal battle instead of having full awareness on your gameplan and executing your shots fighting the outside battle against the player on the other side of the court.

The act of self-confidence comes before the feeling.

When Rafael Nadal talks about his lack of self-confidence, he is talking about the feeling of self-confidence. Rafael understands that he can’t control the feeling, but what he can control is his actions. He understands that the antidote to the doubt, and the worries that is creeping in on him, is courage. The courage to step up to the line, covering two thirds of the court with his weapon and keep following his gameplan despite the feeling of self-confidence not being present at all times.

Rafael understands that the feeling of self-confidence is a bonus that comes after the good performances. Not the other way around as many tend to think. Many are stuck in the belief that we need to feel or think in a certain way before we are able to perform well. That “if I only had more self-confidence, then I would perform better.” Maybe in reality it’s about having the courage to act like you already had the confidence in order to provide yourself with the opportunity of performing well. Then, after the good performance, the nice feeling of self-confidence might arise as a bonus making it easier to be courageous in your actions for the next match.

Remember that the act of self-confidence comes before the feeling.

Adam Blicher
Danish Sport Psychologist Consultant Adam Blicher is a member of the International Sport Mental Coach Association

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EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: Does Tennis Have A LGBT Inclusivity Problem?

Is it just a coincidence that there are no out players on the men’s Tour or is there a more significant reason that the sport needs to be aware of?

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Tennis has an illustrious reputation when it comes to LGBT representation compared to some other sports.

Billie Jean King, who was first outed by the media in 1981, played an instrumental role in the formation of the WTA Tour and the campaign for equal pay highlighted by her infamous Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs. It was also during 1981 when Martina Navratilova came out as gay for the first time. Despite being one of the sports biggest stars, the multiple Grand Slam champion admits that she lost endorsement deals due to her sexuality. Nowadays the treatment and promotion of LGBT players have improved for the better, but does more need to be done?

In recent years tennis has dabbled in and out of the Rainbow Laces campaign with the British Lawn Tennis Association throwing their weight behind it. The initiative was created by LGBT charity Stonewall and initially marketed specifically towards football’s Premier League. The idea is to get players to wear rainbow laces in order to raise awareness of LGBT representation within sport. As for its effectiveness in combating homophobia, it is debatable.

“In the UK, sports teams have also been holding Rainbow Laces for the past seven years, yet homophobic language also remains common. Two-thirds of teenage football players and nearly half of male rugby players admit to recently using homophobic language with teammates (for example, fag), which is generally part of their banter and humour. At the amateur level, gay and bisexual males remain invisible,” Erik Denison from Monash’s Behavioural Sciences Research Laboratory wrote in a 2020 report.
“However, recent research suggests that refocusing the current Rainbow Laces campaign, which is underway, away from professional teams and strongly towards amateur sport settings could help fix these problems. We also need to change the education that is being delivered.”

It is important to take Denison’s conclusion with a pinch of salt as his assessment focused solely on team sports and not tennis. Inevitably, some of his findings might be also applicable to tennis, but it is unclear as to what extent.

If the rainbow laces approach does help the LGBT community to some degree and therefore any potential closeted player, should tennis bosses do more to promote it?  UbiTennis has approached three governing bodies to generate their view with all of them saying they would be in favour of allowing players to participate.  

“The work Premier League and Stonewall are doing to drive awareness around LGBT inclusion sets a great example, and we would absolutely support any ATP player that wishes to support such an initiative, or personally express themselves,” an ATP Spokesman told UbiTennis.
“We believe that tennis has an important role to play in promoting inclusivity in sport, and across wider society, and earlier this year Tennis United served as a platform for ATP to amplify voices around this important topic. The ATP has directed efforts for positive change across many causes via the ATP Aces For Charity programme, and we are currently reviewing our overall approach in this space.”


Unlike their female counterparts, there is currently no openly LGBT player on the ATP Tour and few historically. Bill Tilden, who won 10 Grand Slam titles throughout the 1920s, struggled with his sexuality during a time where gay sex was illegal and not accepted by society. More recently, America’s Brian Vahaly was a former top 100 player during the early 2000s, but chose to come out after retiring from the sport.

The WTA points out that they have been working with the ATP last season and addressed LGBT topics during their ‘Tennis United’ chat shows which was broadcast online.

“The WTA was founded on the principles of equality and opportunity, along with positivity and progress, and wholeheartedly supports and encourages players, staff, partners and fans’ commitment to LGBT+ initiatives,” a statement reads.
“The WTA supports tournament and Grand Slam LGBT+ projects both logistically and financially, amplifies our athletes’ voices on this topic through the Tour’s global platforms, and increased awareness by incorporating the LGBT+ spirit  into our corporate identity in June across our digital platforms.
“Despite the challenges 2020 has presented, this year saw the WTA mark Pride month with a series of podcasts and web articles, interview guests on the WTA & ATP digital show Tennis United from the LGBT+ community, and through WTA Charities collaboration with You Can Play, offer equipment and financial donations and players participate in a virtual panel discussion.”


The International Tennis Federation is responsible for overseeing the running of the junior Tour, Davis Cup, Billie Jean King Cup (previously known as Fed Cup) and the Olympic Tennis tournament. A spokesperson said they would endorse any campaign which would support an equal playing field in the sport. Making reference to their Advantage All campaign which aims to ‘develop and maintain tennis as an equal advantage sport.’

“Tennis has a proud history of its athletes being at the forefront as advocates of positive social change, using their voice and platforms to raise awareness. We would be supportive of initiatives that reinforce the positive message that tennis is an equal advantage sport which is open to all,” UbiTennis was told.

 
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Post-lockdown performance: Djokovic leads the way

Thiem won the most ATP points in the Grand Slams, while Rublev won the most matches. Nole had a more traditional schedule, while Nadal played fewer events but won big – whose approach was better?

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It’s been written countless times, but a few days before the start of a new tennis year the truism needs to be busted out once more: the 2020 season was unique in the history of the game, and in some ways it was not one season but rather two, given the five-month chasm blasted by the coronavirus between March and August. The hiatus has caused a temporary ranking reform, which has ensured the permanence at the top even to those who, for various reasons, elected not to play at the restart or underperformed, stifling the rise of newcomers and partially obscuring the competitive nature and meritocracy of the rankings – disclaimer: this is not a criticism, the chosen system was the best possible under such trying circumstances.

 

For this reason, it is interesting to look at who has done better between August and November, in order to see what the current hierarchies of the game may be and if the results of the last few months can have a predictive value for 2021, especially in terms of reliability. To do so, three metrics ​​were chosen: percentage of wins, total wins and total points.

THE DATA

What follows is a list of the 15 players with the highest winning percentage on the ATP Tour from August to November, with tournaments in which they have won more than half of the games played in brackets:

·   Djokovic 82.14 (Cincinnati, US Open, Rome, Roland Garros)
·   Rublev 78.79 (US Open, Hamburg, Roland Garros, St. Petersburg, Vienna)
·   Zverev 78.57 (US Open, Roland Garros, Cologne 1, Cologne 2, Bercy)
·   Nadal 77.78 (Rome, Roland Garros, Bercy)
·   Medvedev 76.92 (Cincinnati, US Open, Vienna, Bercy, Finals)
·   Thiem (US Open, Roland Garros, Vienna, Finals) and Raonic (Cincinnati, US Open, St. Petersburg, Antwerp, Bercy) 76.19
·    Sinner 72.73 (Rome, Roland Garros, Cologne 2, Sofia)
·    Hanfmann 70 (Kitzbuhel)
·    Bautista Agut 68.75 (Cincinnati, US Open, Hamburg, Roland Garros, Cologne 1)
·    Humbert (Rome, Hamburg, Antwerp, Bercy) and Carreno Busta (US Open, Roland Garros, Bercy) 66.67
·    Davidovich Fokina (US Open, Cologne 1, Cologne 2, Bercy) and Dimitrov (Rome, Roland Garros, Vienna) 64.7
·    Tsitsipas 64 (Cincinnati, US Open, Hamburg, Roland Garros)

Continuity is the main theme here. As you can see, in fact, the six leaders are all part of the Top 8 of the actual ranking, a sign that the best have substantially continued to amass victories, including Rublev, who earned his place in the Finals from August onwards but at the same time had already won two tournaments (Doha and Adelaide) at the beginning of the year – the fact that these players would keep pacing the competition isn’t to be overlooked or taken for granted, as it indicates a constructive approach to the months of the tour’s hiatus.

The only intruders at over 70 percent are Milos Raonic, who if healthy proved to be still competitive at the highest level (he did well particularly at Cincinnati/New York and Bercy), Yannick Hanfmann, buoyed by the great tournament played in Kitzbuhel but still a solid performer even when the match sample extends to qualifiers and Challenger (he won two thirds of the total matches he played) and Jannik Sinner. The Italian finished the season by winning 13 of his last 16 bouts (one of the defeats was a retirement, while the others came against Nadal and Zverev) and demonstrated a great continuity that bodes well for the future, especially considering that, after a slow start in New York, the South Tyrolean has begun his rise on his least favourite surface, clay, and this is perhaps the most comforting element for him.

His ascent is even more evident when looking at the 15 players who have won the most matches on the ATP Tour, in which he comes up in fifth place:

·   Rublev 26
·   Djokovic 23
·   Zverev 22
·   Medvedev 20
·   Thiem, Tsitsipas, Raonic, Schwartzman and Sinner 16
·   Nadal, Humbert and Carreno Busta 14
·   Shapovalov 13
·   Mannarino and Coric 12

Sinner is not the only Next Gen player to appear in one of these standings (two names of up-and-coming standouts but perhaps not yet too well known, and whose presence in these lists can therefore somewhat surprise, are those of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Ugo Humbert), while the presence of players over 30 years old (other than Nadal and Djokovic, ça va sans dire) is beginning to peter out – the only additional names are those of Bautista Agut and Mannarino.

To summarise, in any case, the relationship between the two data is represented in the following graph, which includes those who have won at least 60 percent of their matches:

The first thing that stands out is that the same players occupy the podium in the two categories, with Djokovic and Rublev taking the lead in one list each and Zverev right behind them in both. However, while Nole plays and wins almost exclusively at the top tournaments (Masters 1000 events, the Slams and the ATP Finals), the Russian and the German have diversified a little more: Rublev has won 15 games (out of 15) in the three 500 tournaments he’s entered, more of half of his grand total of 26, while Sascha (who nonetheless reached two big finals at Flushing Meadows and Bercy) pumped up his tally with eight consecutive victories in the Cologne fortnight, a double tournament created almost exclusively for his benefit.  

By virtue of this bottom-up and more subdued approach of the two, things change when looking at the 15 leaders for total points, with Zverev slipping to fifth and Rublev to sixth:  

·  Djokovic 3870
·  Medvedev 3545
·  Thiem 3260
·  Nadal 2940
·  Zverev 2690
·  Rublev 2565
·  Schwartzman 1750
·  Tsitsipas 1735
·  Carreno Busta 1360
·  Raonic 1275
·  Shapovalov 990
·  Sinner 865
·  Coric 850
·  Ruud 740
·  Humbert and Bautista Agut 720  

What is striking in such a temporally circumscribed ranking is that the two Grand Slam winners (who thus received 2000 points each) do not occupy the top two places, something that tells us a lot about how physically costly it is to clinch those seven, three-out-of-five matches. After winning the US Open, Thiem (who led in both the second half of 2020 as well as in the season as a whole for ATP points notched at the Grand Slams) missed Rome, ran out of steam in the fifth set against Schwartzman in Paris, played Vienna while smarting from a foot issue, missed Bercy, and played his best again only at the O2 Arena over two months later; Nadal, on the other hand, chose (rightly) to focus on his favourite Grand Slam, winning a relatively small number of matches but clearly getting what he wanted from his scheduling philosophy – except perhaps getting a big indoor title after 15 years.

Both are surpassed by Medvedev, who had a performance in some ways opposite to that of his compatriot Rublev: in 500-point events, he had a record of just three wins and as many defeats, while he won 17 matches out of 20 in the Masters 1000, the Slams and the ATP Finals (10 out of 15 for Andrey).  

That said, it can be noticed how Djokovic leads both in percentage of wins and in total points. It is therefore funny that some might consider the post-lockdown campaign as a failure for Nole, because, while it is true that he has not managed to get closer to Federer for total Slams won (indeed losing ground to Nadal) nor to equal the Swiss’s wins at the ATP Finals, he has still won two Masters 1000 (in major events he has won 21 matches, more than everybody else, and is second only to Medvedev in terms of winning percentage, 85 percent to 84) and has secured his sixth year-end N.1 crown, equalling Sampras’s Open Era record and getting closer and closer to the record for the most weeks spent at the top. Nevertheless, the question naturally arises as to which approach was better, whether the more traditional one of the Serbian or the more calibrated one of Nadal, who decided to pace himself by playing (and winning) only one Grand Slam – the answer can only be subjective in this case…  

Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Finals

CONCLUSIONS

But let’s go back to the initial questions: are the rankings of these three months a faithful representation of the hierarchies ​​of men’s tennis? Can they give us indications for the future? As always, the answer is not Manichean. On the one hand, the manifest superiority of the top players who played was mentioned, validating their position of pre-eminence, and this would seem to suggest that the status quo of the elite of the game is consolidated, and it probably is.  

On the other hand, however, there are equally obvious caveats, represented by the absence of many great players and by the psycho-physical conditions of others, which was so underwhelming that it cannot objectively be considered as a long-term trend. Since August, four top 100 players have never played: Federer, Kyrgios, Tsonga and Pouille. Others have not won a single match: Basilashvili (zero out of nine!), Monfils and Querrey haven’t gotten on the board at all, while those who have won matches but not on the main tour are Chardy, Sousa, Ymer, Kohlschreiber and Mager.  

In the ATP Top 50, moreover, several players remained far below their standards, often for specific reasons: among them Fognini (recovering from a double ankle surgery), Paire (whose lack of effort during the lockdown was never in doubt), Edmund, and to a lesser extent Goffin, the only other Top 25 in addition to Fognini and La Monf to win less than half of his matches – in his case, wedding preparation and the subsequent positivity to Covid-19 are the probable causes.  

In summary, therefore, many players have had to take this phase (in spite of themselves) as a transitional period in which to solve their physical issues with the comfort of the new ranking, while for many others it is possible that the motivations have languished, both for the security provided by the rankings and for the absence of the public – for others, their conduct during the hiatus may not have been professional enough. In addition, the distribution of tournaments in terms of surfaces was a little different than usual, with no grass events, a much lower percentage of outdoor hardcourt tournaments and likely unique conditions on clay – players who did well especially indoor, such as Mannarino, or on the “heavy” red clay of last autumn, may not be able to repeat the same results in 2021.  

The sum of these factors therefore suggests that the decline of the underperformers can only be temporary, even if it should be emphasized that many of the players listed among the inactive or among those with a negative performance are most likely in the twilight of their careers, and as mentioned the players over 30 who have been doing well since August are not many – it is possible that the long break spelt doom on most of the ATP Tour’s veterans.  

CHALLENGER AND QUALIFICATIONS

Finally, let’s take a brief look at who has been particularly solid in the ancillary areas to the main tour. Below is a graph that correlates total wins and percentage of those who, including qualifiers and Challengers, have achieved 60 percent wins: 

With the exception of Stan Wawrinka, who decided to play the two Prague Challengers instead of travelling to New York, ending up facing opponents well below his level, and Ricardas Berankis (too few matches to make an evaluation), the others (Cecchinato and Martinez in particular) have all won consistently, often finding exploits in the major circuit as well. And in 2021, having clinched so many matches could push them to rise further in the standings, because a win’s a win at any level, and finding continuity and self-esteem in a phase with so few tournaments could give them an advantage, even if, it is urgent to repeat it, conditions could be very different in 2021.

Article translated by Andrea Ferrero; edited by Tommaso Villa

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