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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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Another Defeat For Iga Swiatek – Should Her Fans Start To Worry?

Iga Swiatek unexpectedly lost to Beatrice Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals of the National Bank Open in Toronto. This was the third defeat of the WTA world No.1 in a month and a half. Is there anything to worry about?

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Iga Swiatek - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Article written by Dominik Senkowski (@dsenkowski07)

 

It was an extremely close match played in difficult conditions. Swiatek lost to Beatrice Hadad Maia 4:6, 6:3, 5:7 in Toronto.

The Polish woman admitted that she could not deal with the strong wind, saying during her press conference “I think without the wind I would manage. But it was pretty crazy out there.”

Haddad Miai, who is the first Brazilian to reach the last eight of a WTA 1000 event, revealed that she also had problems with the weather.

”We have no influence on the weather, we have to deal with it somehow. I think mentally I managed to overcome it,” she said.

Three failures

This was the third defeat for Swiatek in a month and a half. She had been undefeated since February, winning six tournaments in a row, including a Roland Garros. After that, however, she did not reach the semi-finals even once. In Wimbledon she was eliminated in the third round by Alize Cornet and then in Warsaw in the quarter-finals by Caroline Garcia. Now she did not make it past Beatrice Hadad Maia in Toronto. Do fans of the Polish woman have anything to worry about?

Of course, Swiatek as the top seed should have played better against the Brazilian. However, it must be remembered that she is still only 21 years old and has the right to fluctuate in form. Even the best tennis players of recent years – Roger Federer, Serena Serena, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic – did not win all the games in their best time. Swiatek still has a phenomenal balance of 49 wins to 5 defeats this year. She is the undisputed leader of the WTA rankings and will probably end the year as number one in the world.

There is no doubt that the rivals are more motivated to clash with Iga. In addition, they increasingly believe that they are able to defeat her since Cornet, Garcia and Hadad Maia did it. But still, it all depends on Iga. If she improves her serve, she can be unstoppable again. Recently with Garcia and Hadad Maia, she had problems with the second serve. She must pay more attention to it.

Time for Iga

Time should play in favour of Swiatek. Before Toronto, she played exceptionally on clay courts in Warsaw in a tournament organized by her father Tomasz. Frequent changes of the surface from grass to clay and hard courts in 1.5 months are not easy at such a young age. In Poland Iga said that she had no experience with it, she was just learning. She continues to learn valuable lessons and still can be better. We should remember it.

It seems that in the coming days she will be training on hard courts. She could feel more confident and come stronger as in spring. In Warsaw Iga said that she treats the first tournament before the US Open swing less seriously. She was aware that she needed more playing time to get better results. Her increasing self-esteem makes her behave calmer, even after defeats. That is why she can return to the right path soon.

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Rafael Nadal Returns To Cincinnati With Shot At No.1 Ranking

This is what the king of clay has to do to reclaim the top position.

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ATP RAFAEL NADAL OF SPAIN - PHOTO: DIEGO SOUTO / MMO

It has been over a month since Rafael Nadal last played a match on the Tour but in the coming days, he will have a chance to return to the top of the ATP rankings.

 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has been absent from action ever since pulling out of his semi-final match at Wimbledon due to an abdominal tear. He was set to play at this week’s National Bank Open in Montreal but withdrew after feeling a ‘slight bother’ in his abdominal region following training. Nadal decided not to play after consulting with his doctor.

Instead, the Spaniard will return next week at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. He confirmed his return in an Instagram post, where he wrote: “Very happy to play again in Cincy. Flying there tomorrow (Thursday).”

Whilst the Spaniard will be finding his feet in the coming days, in Cincinnati he has a chance to dethrone Daniil Medvedev from the world No.1 position. Medvedev lost his opening match in Montreal to Nick Kyrgios. To do this he would need to win the Masters 1000 event for the second time in his career and hope that Medvedev doesn’t make the quarter-finals. Nadal won Cincinnati back in 2013 after defeating John Isner in the final.

So far in his career, Nadal has spent 209 weeks as world No.1 with his longest streak being 56 weeks in a row (2010-2011). In total, he has been at the top of the rankings for eight separate periods and last held the position in February 2020.

Nadal’s No.1 stints
-Aug 18 2008 – Jul 5th 2009 (46 weeks)
-Jun 7 2010 – Jul 3rd 2011 (56 weeks)
-Oct 7th 2013 – Jul 6th 2014 (39 weeks)
-Aug 21 2017 – Feb 18 2018 (26 weeks)
-Apr 2nd 2018 – May 13th 2018 (6 weeks)
-May 21st 2018 – Jun 17th 2018 (4 weeks)
-Jun 25th 2018 – Nov 4th 2018 (19 weeks)
-Nov 4th 2019 – Feb 2nd 2020 (13 weeks)

At present nine out of the world’s top 10 players will participate in the Western and Southern Open. The only exception is Novak Djokovic who is currently banned from entering America because he isn’t vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Jack Draper Considered Skipping Montreal Masters Before Getting Biggest Win Of Career

The rising star completes a trio of British players who have booked their places in the third round of the Masters 1000 event.

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Image via https://twitter.com/OBNmontreal/

British qualifier Jack Draper says his decision to play in Montreal this week has paid off after he scored his first-ever win over a top 10 player on Wednesday.

 

The 20-year-old stunned world No.5 and third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 7-6(4), in what is only his fourth appearance in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event. Draper, who is currently ranked 82nd in the world, won 74% of his first service points and blasted 21 winners past his Greek rival. Recovering from a 1-3 deficit in the second set en route to a straight sets victory.

Leading up to this week, Draper and his team considered not playing in Montreal following his 6-4, 6-2, loss to Andrey Rublev in Washington. However, their decision to do so was the right one. After coming through two rounds of qualifying, he beat France’s Hugo Gaston in the first round before knocking out Tsitsipas.

“This is why I put in all the hard work, for nights like this on stages like this,” Draper said in an on-court interview. “Last week [after] Washington, me and my coach probably were thinking we weren’t even going to come here. We were going to maybe train a week, get a bit of confidence. But it paid off coming.”
“I didn’t really have much of a game plan. I just thought I needed to play good tennis to beat Stefanos. He’s at the top of the game for a reason. [He’s] someone I’ve looked up to the last few years. It’s just good to be out here and try to express myself on this stage.” He added.

Draper’s win comes during what has been a solid season for the Brit who has won four Challenger titles. A former top 10 junior player, he won his first main draw Grand Slam match in June at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals of the Eastbourne International.

Awaiting the youngster in the third round will be French veteran Gael Monfils who is playing in his first tournament since May. Monfils defeated Maxime Cressy 7-6(10), 7-6(8).

Draper is one of three British players to have reached the last 16 in Montreal. Ninth seed Cameron Norrie will next play home favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime and Dan Evans faces Taylor Fritz.

According to the Pepperstone live ATP rankings, Draper will break into the world’s top 70 for the first time next week.

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