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Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage

Writer and former diplomat Dave Seminara comments on Roger Federer’s absence from the Miami Open and his new book book about the Swiss Maestro in a guest post for UbiTennis.

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Is the Miami Open tennis’ most dysfunctional tennis tournament or does it just seem that way? I live a few hours away from the tournament, in St. Petersburg, and was excited when I read that Roger Federer would be playing in the event this year. I haven’t seen Roger, who is by far my favorite athlete in the world, play since October 2019, when he won his 10th Swiss Indoors title in Basel. I was there to research my new book, Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts.

 

My Swiss Federer pilgrimage was a treat to myself after a long illness that prevented me from playing tennis for a few years. The trip I intended to take to see Roger in Miami was to be a celebration for the release of my book. But then I looked into the ticket prices and realized that my book would have to be a mega bestseller for me to even think about attending.

Attendance at the tournament is to be limited to 750 fans per day and there are no single session tickets available. Fans must buy passes for the entire tournament. The grandstand court (Roger would play on this court because they aren’t playing in the large stadium court this year) passes start at $5,150. I knew I couldn’t afford that but I hoped that perhaps there might be tickets available on the resale market.

A media release on the tournament website dated February 25—the same day tickets went on sale— confirmed that Federer would play the event. It read, “Federer, the 2019 Miami Open champion, and Djokovic, a six-time winner in the Sunshine state, lead a men’s field that includes 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.”

But I checked Federer’s social media channels and saw no indication from him that he’d play, and four days later, his agent, Tony Godsick, told the Associated Press that Federer wasn’t playing in Miami.

After Doha and maybe Dubai, Federer will go back and do a training block to continue to slowly work his way back out on tour,” Godsick said in an e-mail to the AP.

I don’t blame Roger for not wanting to make the long trip to Florida at a time like this. And I realize that the Miami Open and other tournaments are in a very tricky position, trying to balance the competing needs for safety and profit. But I don’t like the way the Miami Open and other tournaments handle these kinds of situations.

The cover of “Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts”

While it’s true that Roger’s name was on the ATP’s entry list for the tournament, that didn’t mean he was going to play. James Blake, the tournament director, obviously could have reached out to Roger’s people to see if he planned to play before announcing that he would on the same day tickets went on sale. But they had no incentive to do so and other tournaments routinely do the same thing.

I reached out to a media representative for the tournament regarding Federer’s attendance and Miami and here’s what he said via email.

“The way entries work at ATP Master 1000 events is the ATP sends an automatic acceptance list (usually six weeks out but this year due to COVID they changed the entry deadline to four weeks out) with all the players who have entered the event and receive an automatic entry based on their rankings. Federer was on the entry list sent to us last week. On Monday we were notified by the ATP that he was withdrawing.”

I checked the Miami Open’s website to see if tickets were still available today and it appeared to be dysfunctional (at least using Chrome browser.) But it appears to show that a tournament pass for the grandstand court starts at $5,150 or $2,000 for court one. I don’t know what they’ll charge for parking this year, but when I went in 2019, it was a whopping $40 unless you pre-purchased it on the tournament website, an arrangement I didn’t know about until I got to the venue. I called the tournament hotline and waited on hold to enquire about tickets, but alas, no one was available and a voice mail wasn’t promptly returned.

I understand that this and other tournaments are struggling now and have to change their business model given the limited attendance arrangements.  But preventing fans from buying single session tickets locks out all but the most affluent fans. James Blake has been very vocal in arguing that tennis needs to work harder to be accessible and inclusive and not just a sport for the country club set.

I hope he plans to invite plenty of underprivileged kids to the event to make up for the tournament’s upper crusty ticketing arrangement. And I hope the event allows any Federer fans who paid $5,000 to see him play refunds if they want them. It’s true that when you buy tickets for a tournament, you never know if your favourite player will be there. After all, players get hurt, lose early or pull it regularly.

But given the high dollar amount of the tickets, the fact that no single session seats were available, and the fact that we Federer fans are unusually devoted to our favourite player, I hope the Miami Open shows leniency and also double checks with Roger first before advertising that he’ll play in the event in the future.

Dave Seminara is the author of Footsteps of Federer: A Fan’s Pilgrimage Across 7 Swiss Cantons in 10 Acts (£13.64/US$17.00 for the paperback edition)

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Elina Svitolina Splits With Coach After Five Years

The tennis star issued a brief statement saying ‘the time is right’ to go in another direction.

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image via https://twitter.com/ElinaSvitolina

Elina Svitolina is on the hunt for a new coach after parting ways with Andrew Beetles.

 

The two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist issued a statement on Monday confirming that she will no longer be working with her British mentor with them both deciding to go ‘their own ways.’  Beetles, who is the former hitting partner of Ana Ivanovic, spent his first full season with Svitolina back in 2017. He started as an assistant coach before later being promoted. Under his guidance, the Ukrainian rose to a ranking high of three and won 11 Tour titles.

“After 5 years and 11 titles together!! Andy and I both agreed it was the right time to move our separate ways. I am very thankful for all his hard work and endless support. I wish him only the best in his future career!’ Svitolina wrote on Twitter. 

The announcement comes a week after Svitolina suffered a shock first round loss at the Tenerife Open to Colombia’s Camila Osorio who went on to reach the final. So far this season she has won 41 out of 61 matches played on the Tour with her best performance occurring at the Chicago Open where she won the title. Svitolina also won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games and reached the quarter-finals of the US Open. 

Svitolina, who married Gael Monfils earlier this year, is currently ranked sixth in the world. She is hoping to finish the season ranked inside the world’s top 10 for the fifth year in a row.

There is currently no information about who may take over as the new coach of the 27-year-old. 

Svitolina’s 2021 results

  • Melbourne 1 – QF
  • Australian Open – R4
  • Doha – QF Dubai – R2
  • Miami – SF
  • Stuttgart – SF
  • Madrid – R1
  • Rome – QF
  • French Open – R3
  • Berlin – R2
  • Eastbourne – R2
  • Wimbledon – R2
  • Tokyo Olympics – Bronze medal
  • Canadian Open – R2
  • Cincinnati – R2
  • Chicargo – Champion
  • US Open – QF
  • Chicargo 2 – QF
  • Indian Wells – R4
  • Tenerife – R1

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Stefanos Tsitsipas leads the line-up at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna

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Stefanos Tsitsipas leads the line-up at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. The Greek star will play in the Austrian capital for the second time in his career. 

 

Tsitsipas will face 2017 ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov in the first round. The Greek player will be looking to avenge his defeat against his Bulgarian opponent, who took the win in three sets 6-7 6-4 6-4 in their previous head-to-head match at last year’s edition of the Vienna tournament. 

Tsitsipas will be aiming to win his third title this season following his triumphs in Monte-Carlo and Lyon. 

Number 2 seed Alexander Zverev will play in the Erste Bank Open main draw for the second time. This year Zverev won two Masters 1000 titles in Madrid and Cincinnati and the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.

Matteo Berrettini will open his campaign against Alexei Popyrin. The Italian star is the third seed and has a good chance to qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin. This year Berrettini won two titles in Belgrade and Queen’s and reached two finals at the Madrid Masters 1000 and Wimbledon. 

Hubert Hurkacz holds the final qualifying spot for Turin in ninth place with 2955 points, 110 points ahead of Jannik Sinner, who won his fourth title this season in Antwerp following his previous wins in Melbourne, Washington and Sofia. The 20-year-old Italian star also finished runner-up to Hurkacz in his first Masters 1000 final in Miami. 

Sinner has become the first Italian player in history to win four ATP titles in the same season and is the youngest player to win five ATP Tour titles since 19-year-old Novak Djokovic claimed the Estoril trophy in 2007. Sinner will face a tough first round match against Reilly Opelka. 

Sinner dropped just a total of eight games against Lloyd Harris in the semifinal and Diego Schwartzman in the final. 

The line-up also features another Masters 1000 chmpion Cameron Norrie, who won at Indian Wells and is currently ranked 11th in the ATP Race to Turin with 2795 points ahead of this year’s US Open semifinalist Felix Auger Aliassime (2330 points). 

Andy Murray will play in Vienna for the third time in his career as a wild card. Murray won the Austrian tournment twice in 2014 and 2016. He will take on Hurkacz, who won his previous head-to-head matches against the British player in Cincinnati and Metz. Murray beat Frances Tiafoe in a marathon match after 3 hours and 45 minutes in Antwerp last week. 

Kevin Anderson got through to the qualifying round to secure his spot in the main draw. The 2018 Vienna champion will face Alex De Minaur, who won two titles in Antalya and Eastbourne. The top first-round matches are: Diego Schwartzman against Fabio Fognini, Gael Monfils against Lorenzo Musetti, Daniel Evans against Carlos Alcaraz. 

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Ann Li clinches her first WTA Tour title in Tenerife

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Ann Li clinched her first WTA Tour title with a 6-1 6-4 win over 19-year-old Spanish player Camila Osorio after 1 hour and 10 minutes at the Tenerife Ladies Open.

 

Li reached her second final after her first title match against Anett Kontaveit at the Grampians Trophy in Melbourne last winter was not played just before the Australian Open. 

Li converted five of her ten break points and hit 15 winners. Osorio earned her first break in the opening game. Li bounced back by winning six consecutive games with three breaks of serve. The 21-year-old US player hit 8 winners to 6 unforced errors. Li broke Osorio at love with a forehand return winner in the first game of the second set. Osorio got the break straight back in the second game. Li earned the decisive break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and served out the win with a forehand overhead for 6-4 in the 10th game.

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