The tennis world celebrates the 87th birthday of Rino Tommasi - UBITENNIS
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The tennis world celebrates the 87th birthday of Rino Tommasi

The legendary Italian tennis writer was greeted by heavyweights of the game such as ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi and Hall-of-Famer Steve Flink

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Rino Tommasi

Journalist Rino Tommasi turned 87 on Tuesday, and so Ubitennis decided to ask the members of the ITWA (International Tennis Writers Association) to send their birthday wishes to a professional who spear-headed the use of statistics in the game.

A recipient of the ATP Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award in 1993, Tommasi was voted as the “Tennis writer of the year” twice by the players (in 1982 and 1991), and was rewarded by the IOC in 2012 for his extensive coverage of 11 editions of the Olympics – he is also a great boxing expert. Furthermore, for several years he wrote the official US Open match previews, and his broadcasting partnership with Hall-of-Famer Gianni Clerici was the subject of a Sports Illustrated feature article.

Here are some of the messages we received celebrating him (other contributors include Doris Henkel, Marco Keller, Simon Cambers, Mike Dickson, Guillermo Salatino, René Stauffer, Eduardo Puppo, Sandra Harwitt, Tom Tebbutt, Serge Fayat, Paolo Bertolucci, Andrea Scanzi, Marco Gilardelli, Bill Scott, Federico Ferrero, Sebastian Fest, and Craig Gabriel):

Andrea Gaudenzi

Dear Rino,

Wishing you many happy returns on your 87th birthday! As an iconic figure in Italian tennis journalism, you were always at the forefront of statistics and data in our sport, and that is something that I personally always admired and respected throughout my playing career. While your presence on the Tour is missed, your contributions to our sport are certainly not forgotten. Happy birthday and wishing you all the best,

Andrea


Steve Flink

Rino,

Ubaldo tells me that today you are 87, which is hard to believe. The years pass so quickly. In my mind I see you when you are 45 or 50, but 87? That’s impossible.

I have so many memories of our interaction through the years. Let me share just a few. We were all in Palm Springs in 1978. One morning before the matches we played some tennis in the hard courts. You gave me a 30-0 lead in every game. I soon realized why you did that because you were so much better than me.

The rallies were long but you beat me 6-1, 6-2. I was a bit embarrassed but you said, “Steve, you played much better than I thought you would!”. We both laughed and you said something you repeated to me many times over the years. You said, “I am not going to be modest because I have no reason to be modest.” Then you broke into that laugh that belonged only to you. No one could laugh like you. No one.

I am thinking now of a very amusing moment in the Wimbledon press room in 2009. You were sitting in your usual desk one or two seats away from Ubaldo. I came by and said, “It’s so great to see the best Italian writer there has ever been”.

You smiled, Rino, assuming I was talking about you and getting ready to thank me. Then I turned to Ubaldo,  patted him on the back and said,”I am talking, of course, about the great Ubaldo Scanagatta!”

Ubaldo laughed heartily and so did I. You grimaced, Rino, But then you smiled and shook your head and looked at us as if we were a couple of helpless fools—which we probably were. You then put your arms around Ubaldo and me and said, “You both have so much to learn and so far to go, but I will get you there.”

Once again you had shown us your superiority. We did not know whether to say, “Game, set, match, Rino” or “Check Mate!”

I have so many other recollections  but I will leave you with this one. Sampras and Rafter were playing the Wimbledon final in 2000 and I was running back and forth between the media room and the Centre Court because I was reporting on the match for CBS Radio.

I was running  up those steps in the Centre Court press section with Rafter having won the first set in a tiebreaker and the second set on serve at 6-5. You saw me standing there looking serious and said, “Steve, don’t look so depressed.”

You knew that I was hoping for Sampras to win and get his 13th major to pass Roy Emerson, which of course he did in four sets. When you told me not to be depressed you did it with sensitivity and not sarcasm. I liked the fact that you knew when to be sarcastic and when to be understanding of your friend’s feelings. That is a great trait.

You also once gave me good advise in your typically candid manner about my writing. You said, “Steve, you should write more  the way you talk.” I took that to heart.

So, Rino, I raise a glass to you now to celebrate your birthday. I do have good reasons to be modest, so I will simply say none of us could ever measure up to your standards.

Happy Birthday my friend!

All the best,
Steve Flink


Kaoru Takeda

When I went to the Rolland [sic] Garros for the first time in 1985, he was there, I remember. I don’t remember you, sorry. Whenever the late Eiichi Kawatei talked me about the tennis of his days, the name of Rino always came up, with JP, Bud Collins, Richard Evans or Russ Adams. Eiichi also was a good friend of Ken Rosewall, and almost the same age as Rino(1933, Dec.).  “Never spoil a good story with the truth” is really a good saying of his. Story telling is the very joy of our job, and I believe that with good tennis telling in Italy, you have good young players now.Tell him and his family A Happy Birthday and I hope to see him somewhere in the near future. […]

Kaoru Takeda

PS: Do you know the Feb.23rd is the birthday of the present Emperor, the grandson of Hirohito. So it was a holiday here in Japan.


George Homsi

Amico Rino! 

I wish you a fantastic 87th birthday and many more to come. I cherish old memories from our meetings and discussions in press rooms and I miss your friendly expert opinions and your presence. Keep strong as i know you are, and I hope to be able to see you again sometime and share a plate of spaghetti! Aldentissimo of course.

Georges Homsi


Richard Evans

My earliest memories of covering the Foro Italico in the the 1960’s are of his kindness to me, coupled with the invitation to write articles for his excellent Tennis Club magazine. […] Rino was a huge presence on the tennis tour for the following decades and, statistically, he was supreme! He gave the early days of technology in tennis a human face – something we must remember not to lose. With very best wishes, 

Richard


Mark Winters and Cheryl Jones

Dear Rino:

When I learn it was your birthday, I began to remember some of our interactions over so many years.  The first thing that came to mind was talking with you late one afternoon after you had finished your tennis writing and were about leave the tournament site to catch a flight to Las Vegas to cover a fight…and how excited you were about making trip. I don’t remember who fought, but I can still recall seeing you sitting at your desk the next day, and how please you were about successfully completing a “tennis-boxing” double.

I look back on the countless times you greeted me, as I walked to my desk in a media room, with a “knowing” Rino smile that always made me think that you knew something about what I would encounter that day…and didn’t want to let me know what I was facing because you wanted me to be surprised.

More to the point, you were my tennis Google before the application had been invented. You always had the statical information I needed for a story. More important, I never had to check its validity because…Rino always provided the appropriate details.

Like Hoad and Rosewall, you and Gianni Clerici are unique. He has always had Lew’s flair, while you always provided Ken’s steadiness. This was certainly the case when Gianni did his nude US Open broadcast in the sweatbox broadcast booth at Armstrong Stadium and you patiently handled all the visitors who dropped by to see “what was taking place”.

You are one of a kind and I am fortunate to have you as a friend.

Have a memorable and Happy Birthday,

Mark (Winters) and Cheryl (Jones)

ATP

World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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“It’s Purely Psychological” – Maria Sakkari Berates ‘Unacceptable’ French Open Defeat

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Maria Sakkari - Roma 2023 (foto Francesca Micheli, Ubitennis)

Greece’s Maria Sakkari said she felt ‘intense anxiety’ before her first round match at the French Open after crashing out of the draw on Monday.  

The sixth seed suffered a shock 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, loss to Varvara Gracheva who is currently ranked 88th in the world. Sakkari produced a costly 39 unforced errors and dropped serve five times in her latest match. It is the first time she has lost her opening match at a tournament since February.  

Heading into Paris, the 28-year-old had produced encouraging results on the Tour after reaching the semi-finals in Charleston before making fourth round appearances at WTA 1000 events in Madrid and Rome. 

 “It’s the first time I don’t know what to say…” Sakkari told SDNA
“I’ve been very well these days. It was very sudden for me too, I started feeling intense anxiety before the match. I would really like to give the right answers, but all I have to say is that I have been very well these days. No matter what set I played, no matter what practice I did, everyone could see that I was fine. It’s definitely psychological, purely. It’s nothing else.” 

Since appearing in two Grand Slam semi-finals in 2021, Sakkari has struggled to make an impact at the major events. Her defeat to Gracheva makes it the fourth time she has lost in the first round of a Grand Slam since the start of last year. Overall, she has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of her nine most recent appearances at these tournaments. 

 “I won the first set and I kept getting nervous. My pulse was very high throughout the match, especially until the middle of the third set,” she said of her latest performance.
“I was feeling a panic, it’s not like I won the first set and relaxed. Maybe if I had broken the first game of the second set things would have been different. But what can we say now?’  
“It’s purely psychological, I’m not hiding. I will not look for excuses. I put too much pressure on myself, not to lose another game in the first or second round of a Grand Slam. Everyone around me tries to tell me that it happened in New York too, but then I recovered. However, it is not the same. I’ve recovered and I’m playing well in the other tournaments, but it’s proven that I’m not playing well in the Grand Slams. I feel it’s one thing, another thing.” 

Whilst praising her opponent, Sakkari describes her defeat as ‘unacceptable’ and hopes it will serve as a wake-up call for her.  

She now heads to the grass season with a win-loss record of 19-10 so far this year.

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