In the eyes of Novak Djokovic this year’s Olympic Games is at the top of his goals along with adding to his Grand Slam tally on the Tour.
The four-year event is set to get underway later this year in Tokyo after being delayed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Making it the first time the event has been delayed since it’s birth in 1896. In the Open Era tennis has been part of the Games since 1988 with some of the sports greats previously winning gold. Including both of the Williams sisters, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi.
Considering the already packed schedule players have in the sport, as well as the ongoing pandemic, so may be put off of going to the Games. Although for many they see it as a duty to play and represent their country.
“Every athlete feels a special part to represent their country. The Olympic Games are every four years,” world No.1 Djokovic said during a special ceremony in Belgrade earlier this week.
“I felt the strongest emotions playing for the national team. I enjoy it and will tell it to my children tomorrow.”
Despite his various milestones in the sport, Djokovic hasn’t had the most successful time at the Olympic Games. The only medal he has won so far was a bronze in the singles back in 2008. In 2012 he finished fourth followed by a shock first round loss to Juan Martin del Potro four years later.
Rival Roger Federer has faired better at the event with a silver medal in the singles, as well as a gold in the doubles which he won alongside Stan Wawrinka. The 39-year-old Swiss Maestro has also set out his intention to play in Tokyo which will mark the 21st anniversary of his Olympic Debut. Federer is returning to competition this week following a 13-month hiatus due to a knee injury.
“Participation in the Olympics is part of my plan although my main goal was everything from today until Wimbledon, the tournament that precedes the Olympics,” Federer told beIN Sports.
“I hope that I will be fully in (shape) by then and that questions about my knee will stop.
“The Olympics is a major goal for me… Unfortunately, I missed the Rio Olympics (in 2016) because of a left knee injury. I hope I will return to the Tokyo Olympics.”
Andy Murray is the only player in history to have defended an Olympic title in singles competition. Later this year he will be bidding for a third consecutive titles but faces a tall order following a series of injury setbacks he has suffered in recent time.
“This year, my main focus is the Olympics,” Murray said during an interview with Sportskeeda. “I’m very proud of my gold medals, so it would be great to get the opportunity to defend those. I’m training hard to be in Tokyo for whatever format the Games ends up taking.”
Organisers in Tokyo are still planning for the upcoming event amid high speculation that international spectators will not be allowed to attend due to the pandemic. Although no formal announcement has been made yet. Organizing committee president Hashimoto Seiko has previously indicated that a decision will be made before the torch relay starts on March 25.
The Tennis competition will be held at the Ariake Coliseum which is the venue of the women’s Pan Pacific Open. It will take place between 24 July – 1 August 2021.
No Change To Olympic Qualifying Criteria Despite Updated ATP Ranking System
UbiTennis also finds out why women can take part in the Olympics at a younger age than men!
The International Tennis Federation has confirmed to UbiTennis that the qualifying criteria for the Olympic Games will not be adjusted following a recent announcement from the governing body of the men’s Tour.
Earlier in the week the ATP announced that they will be using their revised ranking system until the week of August 9th to support players during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the rules a player’s position will take into account tournaments played between March 4 – August 5th 2019. The reason is because all of those events did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic. Although the ‘Best of’ period from 2019 will only be counted at 50% until 2022. For example, Roger Federer won 1000 points at the 2019 Miami Open and can therefore keep 500 points even though he is not playing the event this year. Furthermore, the same tournament can’t be used twice in the calculations so players will keep either 50% of points from what they earned in 2019 or the full value of this year depending on which one is the highest.
Whilst the move has been made to support those during the pandemic, some critics have argued that it could have a negative impact on players trying to climb the rankings. It is possible that a player who has won a series of matches in recent weeks may not be able to overtake somebody who produced a strong run of results 12 months or so ago.
One event this could affect is the Olympic Games which partly determine a player’s entry based on their rankings, as well as other factors. Although the International Tennis Federation confirms that they will not be making any changes to their system.
“The ITF has no plans to change its current Olympic Qualification System which has been approved by the IOC for the Olympic Tennis Event,” a spokesperson told UbiTennis. “Tour Rankings only form one element of the entry and eligibility requirements for the Olympic Games and have been updated to provide for the disruption to the tournament calendar caused by the pandemic.”
The only adjustment that has been made is that if a player hasn’t met the minimum entry criteria regarding Davis Cup or Fed Cup ties. If any ties they were set to play in was cancelled due to issues related to COVID-19 is classed as a ‘special circumstance.’
One confusing part of the criteria is the minimum age of eligibility. Despite tennis being one of the top sports for equality the rules state that WTA players are eligible to play the games if they have reached the age of 14 by the opening day of the Olympic Tennis event. This is a year younger than their male counterparts.
“These ages have been determined in consultation with the ATP and WTA, respectively,” the ITF explained.
“Age eligibility is an extremely important topic. The WTA has done much research in this area and have an established policy determined by data.”
The Olympic Tennis event will start on July 24th.
Davis Cup Finals To Be Extended To 11 Days But With Fewer Teams
One of the oldest tennis events in the world will be changed once again.
The International Tennis Federation has approved a series of changes for the prestigious Davis Cup competition with the option of a multi-city finale on the cards.
In a bid to ‘ease the burden on players’ the ITF Board has extended the length of the Davis Cup finals from seven to 11 days. The move comes following the inaugural competition in 2019 when some ties went on until as late as 4am due to the scheduling. As a result of the change, this year’s finale is set to take place between November 25th – December 5th. Meaning that the competition will eat more into the off-season which players use to train for the following year.
Furthermore, from 2022 the number of teams playing in the finals will be reduced from 18 to 16. This year’s field will remain unchanged as the teams have already been decided. Both of these proposals were put forward by Kosmos, who is the main financial backer of the competition.
“We recognise that the most successful tournaments adapt and evolve over time, and while the inaugural Davis Cup Finals delivered fantastic tennis, it also provided some learnings,” tournament director Albert Costa said in a statement.
“We are committed to a long-term vision for this historic competition and are confident these adjustments will enhance the experience for players and fans.”
Discussions are also underway over the possibility of making the end-of-season team showdown a multi-city event. Kosmos wants to expand the number of hosts from one to three. Although details about how this will be done have not been disclosed and the ITF are yet to approve it. Supporters of the idea argue that it will make the event appeal to a wider audience.
“With large stadiums providing show courts for all ties, the introduction of a multi-city event will bring the competition to the widest possible audience, while we will also be able to ease the burden on players with improvements to the scheduling. Crucially, a revised schedule will allow us to avoid late finishes while providing more rest for players,” Costa commented.
Should the multi-city idea get the green light, Madrid will still host both the semi-finals and final of the event. Meanwhile the other two cities would each stage two group stages and one quarter-final. Interestingly Kosmos Tennis has already launched a bid to find cities despite their proposal not being approved yet.
The Davis Cup Finals will return later this year after the 2020 edition was forced to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain are the reigning champions.
Viktor Troicki Set For Key Davis Cup Role
The 34-year-old will continue his playing career in 2021 but is also likely to take on a top coaching position in his country.
Former world No.12 Viktor Troicki is likely to become the new captain of the Serbian Davis Cup team next year, according to various news sources.
Kurir newspaper has reported that the 34-year-old is set to take on the role when Nenad Zimonjic’s term as captain expires next year. Troicki is still an active player and is currently ranked 201st in the world following what has been a disappointing season for him. He has only managed to win one main draw match on the ATP Tour this season which was in January at the Pune Open in India.
“I am aware that the time is slowly coming when I am finishing my professional career. Now my priority is to prepare as well as possible for the new season,” Troicki recently told 24sedam.rs.
“I give myself about five or six months to see how I would feel, but also what results I would achieve. My plans also depend on that a lot. If it goes well, that’s great, but if I see that it’s not going and I’m struggling, I think that I will most likely stop playing actively.”
At the height of his career, Troicki was ranked 12th in the world rankings back in 2011. He has won three ATP titles with two of those occurring in Australia at the Sydney International in 2015 and 2016. He also won the 2010 Kremlin Cup in Moscow. In the Davis Cup he has played in 24 ties, including the 2010 final where Serbia won the team competition for the first time in history. Overall, he has won 24 out of 40 matches played at the event.
There has been no official confirmation yet of Troicki’s appointment but he has previously stated that he hopes to stay working in the sport after retiring. Should he take the role as captain, his term is set to continue until after the 2024 Olympic Games.
“As for my future plans, of course I will stay in tennis. I have been in it all my life and I think that I will give the most in where I am the best,” he said.
“I have some plans, but I don’t want to talk about them yet. Slowly, all in good time. My focus is on the beginning of preparations, and to do them as well as possible.”
Whilst he is staying coy about his future plans, another player has already praised his appointment as coach. During a recent TV interview on Nova S Filip Krajinović hinted that the appointment is already a done deal.
“First of all, we are friends, Ziki (Zimonjic) did an amazing job, Viktor is now the coach, we all supported him and we can’t wait to play for the national team again. We couldn’t play this year because of this situation, I hope there will be opportunities,” Krajinović commented.
The first glimpse of Troicki as a coach could occur earlier than Serbia’s next Davis Cup tie. Blic has reported that should the ATP Cup go ahead, he could be their team captain. Although this has not been confirmed.
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