Reilly Opelka has jumped to the defence of Novak Djokovic over his decision to co-found the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) earlier this year.
The world No.39 says the 17-time Grand Slam champion has been given negative press based on incorrect information concerning the PTPA. The individual union was created to campaign for players to have a greater say in the decision making process. Although there is a division in the sport over the move with members of the ATP Players Council urging their peers not to join. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who are both members of the council, have called for a more united front.
23-year-old Opelka is one of a group of players who have already joined the organisation which was co-founded by Djokovic and Canada’s Vasek Pospisil. It was officially launched during the lead up to this year’s US Open.
“I think it’s a great move. I think that it was just frustrating for me to see a guy like Novak, that gets the negative press on things that aren’t true, right?” the 23-year-old told Racquet Mag.
“He’s a really, really friendly guy. At the US Open, he’s at the point now, every time he’s entering a Slam, he’s going for history, as the greatest of all time. And he doesn’t need to take the time to come up to me after a match, and just talk, and ask how my knee’s doing. It’s not common. It’s not like we grew up together—we’re in different generations.’
“He’s very, very aware of the younger generations. He’s very aware of a lot of the women’s players. He loves tennis. He cares about the sport.”
At present it appears that the PTPA is struggling to reach common ground with the ATP despite Djokovic previously saying he believes the two can co-exist. During the ATP Finals in November the Serbian said he was barred from elections for the council due to a new rule change which prohibits somebody to join if they are a member of another organisation.
“This rule is a strong message from the ATP that they don’t want the PTPA at all or any player involved. It’s very clear.” He said.
“It’s unfortunate to see the ATP position is such as the rule they have voted on.‘
“Now we know where we stand and now we have to consider other strategic positions, and our next move in a different way.”
Jurgen Melzer, who is a current member on the ATP council, has hit back at those comments by describing them as ‘utter nonsense.’ He argues that statues surrounding eligibility have been in existence since 2006 and it was only logical that players can’t be part of two organisations. Although it is believed that by-laws have recently been adjusted.
Opelka hopes the PTPA will help address the issue of gambling in tennis after revealing that he has received numerous death threats from online bettors. He would like to see a push for gambling to become regulated which will lead to an increase in money being invested into tennis. In recent years Tennis’ governing bodies have clamped down on the issue following an extensive independent investigation into match-fixing.
“If you regulate the gambling—which is going to happen no matter what—and they make a lot of money. I know, because every time I lose, I get all these death threats. And tennis is a very bet-upon sport and it goes on all year,” he said.
“Gambling companies, I’m sure they want write-offs, and want to throw money into it. At the Challenger level—I think every single one should be played for $30,000. And you have guys from 75 to 200 playing for 30 grand at the Challenger level each week, expenses covered, that would be great. I think they’d be really happy about that.”
The PTPA is yet to publicly comment on this issue. They currently only have male backers but it is believed that they will open up to female members at some stage in the new year.
Daniil Medvedev Backs Djokovic’s Refusal To Disclose Vaccination Status
The Russian shares his view about comments made by Djokovic to a Serbian newspaper earlier this week.
US Open champion Daniil Medvedev says he agrees with Novak Djokovic that players shouldn’t be forced to disclose information about their medical history amid speculation over the vaccination status of the world No.1.
During a recent interview with Blic newspaper Djokovic refused to reveal whether or not he had been jabbed against COVID-19 which has raised questions over his ability to participate in next year’s Australian Open. According to a government minister, It is expected that only fully vaccinated players will be allowed to enter the country but an official confirmation is yet to be issued. The 20-time Grand Slam champion has hit out at the media over what he believes has been an unfair portrayal of those who have some reservations about the vaccine. Djokovic, who contracted COVID-19 last year, had previously said he didn’t want to be in a situation where he would be forced to have a vaccination.
“There is a lot of division in the society, not only in sports, but in the whole society, between those who have not been vaccinated and have been vaccinated. And that’s really scary. That we fell for discriminating against someone if he wants to decide for himself one way or another, whether he wants to be vaccinated or not,” he told Blic.
“It’s really…I am very disappointed with the world society at this moment and the way in which the media transmit and put pressure on all people. There is too much ambiguity, too much information that is not valid, so it turns out that it is, so it is not, everything changes a lot.”
Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in this year’s US Open final, says ‘likes’ the view of his peer. Speaking to reporters at the Kremlin Cup on Thursday, the world No.2 also said he would not be disclosing his vaccination status publicly. Medvedev was due to Moscow this week but withdrew due to fatigue.
“I liked what Novak said about this. He said the vaccination was a personal matter and he would not be making it public. And I also decided not to disclose medical things,” he said.
“As for Australia: there everyone will see who is vaccinated and who is not. Of course, the players can say that they are injured, but this will be a play on words.’
“I want to play in Australia, that’s all I can say.” He added.
According to Djokovic, Tennis Australia are set to confirm their rules for players wanting to play at the Australian Open at some stage next month.
So far this season Medvedev has won 50 matches and four trophies on the ATP Tour. Besides the US Open, he was also victorious at Marseille, Mallorca and Canada. Earlier this year he became the first player outside of the Big Four to crack the world’s top two since Lleyton Hewitt back in 2005.
The next couple of weeks will be a challenge for the Russian who will be aiming to defend his title at both the Paris Masters and ATP Finals. Looking further ahead, he hopes to one day dethrone Djokovic at the top of the rankings.
“The goal is to win more Slams, become world №1 and be in the top for many more years. For this I train and will continue to do it with even greater dedication,” Medvedev stated. “But again, the main goal is to improve and be demanding of yourself. It’s impossible to win everything, no one won 60 matches in a row, but if you play well, there will be victories.”
However, one obstacle in Medvedev’s way continues to be the Big Three who are a trio made up of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer that has dominated the men’s Tour in recent years.
“Like everything in life, their dominance will also pass,” he commented. “Roger and Rafa finished the season early, they had injuries, they didn’t play the US Open, that’s a fact. But still, out of the last 20 “slams” 17 or 18 were taken by those three guys. The three of them are the greatest tennis players in history. Due to the fact that they are getting old, it became a little easier for us to play with them, in this regard we were lucky.”
Medvedev is currently 1800 points behind Djokovic in the ATP rankings.
Andy Murray Blasts Own Performance Following Antwerp Exit
The Brit was far from happy about his latest match in Austria.
Former world No.1 Andy Murray said he had a ‘poor attitude’ during his second round defeat at the European Open on Thursday.
The three-time Grand Slam champion was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by second seed Diego Schwartzman who prevailed 6-4, 7-6(6). Murray started the match on good footing by opening up a 4-1 lead before losing five games in a row. The second set was a closer encounter between the two as they exchanged breaks before the Agretianian edged his way to the victory in the tiebreak.
“Mentally, today (Thursday) I was poor,” Murray told reporters after the match. “My attitude was poor on the court and those are two things you can control. If they’re not there, that also will make the decision-making harder.
“You’re not going to get every single one (decision) right in the match, but you also have to be present enough to acknowledge what is actually happening in the points and why you are winning and losing points.”
It was in Antwerp two years ago where Murray won his last Tour title by defeating Stan Wawrinka in the final. Since then it has been a frustrating journey for the Brit who now plays with a metal hip and has also been troubled by other issues over the past year. His win-loss for the season currently stands at 12-11 and he has only reached the quarter-final stage at one event which was in Metz. Murray also reached the third round at both Wimbledon and Indian Wells.
Outlining his plans for the rest of the year, Murray has confirmed that he will play in both Vienna and Stockholm. He also has his sight set on the Paris Masters where he could enter into the qualifying draw if he doesn’t receive a wildcard. Murray is currently ranked 172nd in the world.
“There’ll be a decision on the final Paris wildcard on Monday, but I might even play the qualis there,” he said. “Sport is a results business. Play well or poorly doesn’t really matter if you lose matches. You need to be winning. That’s what I want in the last few tournaments. They are really strong tournaments and there are no guarantees the results will come, but I want to win more matches.”
Meanwhile, Schwartzman will take on America’s Brandon Nakashima in the quarter-finals on Friday. This week the 29-year-old is seeking only his second Tour title on a hardcourt and his first since the 2019 Los Cabos Open in Mexico.
“It was a pleasure to play against Andy,” Schwartzman said in his on-court interview. “We had not played before and he is coming back and every week he is playing better and moving better. I have a lot of respect because when I grew up playing tennis, I was watching Roger [Federer], Rafa [Nadal], Andy and Novak [Djokovic] and right now playing against him, is a pleasure for me.”
Schwartzman is one of only three seeded players to make it through to the last eight along with Jannik Sinner and Lloyd Harris.
New British No.1 Cameron Norrie Inspired By Compatriot Raducanu
The Indian Wells champion believes Raducanu’s triumph will trigger a new generation of players in the country.
Cameron Norrie says he drew inspiration from Emma Raducanu prior to winning the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.
The world No.16 stunned the men’s field at the tournament where he had never won a main draw match prior to this year. Norrie defeated Diego Schwartzman, Grigor Dimitrov and Nikoloz Basilashvili to become the first player from his country to win the prestigious title. The run has resulted in him achieving a series of career milestones. After claiming his maiden Masters 1000 title, Norrie has broken into the world’s top 20 for the first time this week and has overtaken Dan Evans to become British No.1.
Norrie credits Raducanu’s US Open run for inspiring him and believes her success is ‘huge for British tennis.’ The 18-year-old became the first qualifier in history to win a major title in New York as she won 10 matches in a row without dropping a set. Her victories include wins over top 20 players Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari.
“That was utterly incredible what she did in New York. To come through qualifying and then to go out and just whack every opponent that she had,” he told Sky Sports.
“She won in straight sets and to do that at such a young age. To do it with that kind of confidence and come out and own every match was extremely impressive.
“It will definitely give the girls around her ranking where she was before the US Open a lot of confidence and a lot of belief.
“I was inspired by her triumph in New York. It’s huge for British tennis. I think for sure it’s going to put a lot of rackets in hand for the next generation of younger boys and girls to start playing tennis at home in the UK.”
Norrie himself is currently in the midst of what has been a breakout season for the 26-year-old who was a former top-ranked player in the US during his college years. He ties Novak Djokovic for most appearances in a Tour final this season at six. Three of those finals were on a hardcourt, two on the clay and one on grass. He won his maiden Tour title in July at the Los Cabos Open. Norrie has also scored multiple wins over top 10 players this season for the first time in his career – beating Dominic Thiem in Lyon and Andrey Rublev in San Diego.
“I want to get to world No 1, that’s the ultimate goal. Everyone on my team has the same target. Clearly it’s extremely difficult to do, and there’s a long road ahead. But we set high expectations and we’re going to strive towards them.” Norrie told The Telegraph earlier this week.
Norrie enters the final stretch of the 2021 season with 47 match wins to his name and is within contention of qualifying for the ATP Finals. To put that into perspective, since its inception in 1970 only three British players has ever participated in the event.
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