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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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Why Newly Married Elina Svitolina Has No Plans To Change Her Surname

The Ukrainian explains why she isn’t using her husband’s surname of Monfils just yet as she books her place in the third round at Tokyo 2020.

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Just over a week ago Elina Svitolina tied the knot with her long-time partner Gael Monfils at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.

 

Shortly after the world No.6 took to social media and changed her name on Twitter to Elina Monfils as part of the tradition that the woman takes on the man’s name once they are married. As a consequence, various websites started to identify the Ukrainian under that name. Although she would rather that they don’t do such a thing.

“I don’t know why they changed my surname. Maybe they saw that I had changed it on my social networks,” Svitolina told BTU.
“I’m going to play as Svitolina till the very end of my professional career and will change it only after retirement.”

Svitolina explains she believes it is better if all of her achievements are made under the same name instead of two. So far in her career she has won 15 WTA titles, reached two Grand Slam semi-finals and has earned more than $20.5M in prize money.

I had numerous achievements and people know me as Svitolina. My father would be upset if I changed the surname and played as Monfils,” she joked.
“I am proud to be Svitolina and my tennis career will always be connected with this surname.”

Over the coming week the 26-year-old is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume. On Monday Svitolina survived a stern scare after coming back from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanović 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the third round of the tournament. Her win came on the day where there were shocks galore in the women’s draw with seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova all crashing out.

Svitolina will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the next round whom she has lost to in two out of their three previous meetings.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz becomes the youngest ever champion at ATP Tour level since Kei Nishikori in 2008

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Carlos Alcaraz beat Richard Gasquet 6-2 6-2 in the final of the Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag becoming the youngest ever champion at ATP Tour level since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori in Delray Beach in 2008 and the youngest Spanish ATP Tour champion since RafaelNadal in Sopot 2004. 

 

Alcaraz earned his first break in the third game to take a 2-1 lead with an inside-in forehand winner and he never looked back by holding his next service games. The Spanish teenager broke serve in the third game as Gasquet made a double fault. Alcaraz converted his third break point in the fifth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Gasquet earned three break points but he was not able to convert them. 

“I had a lot of good moments in this tournament. I beat five great tennis players. I think that I grew up a lot in this tournament and  I keep a lot of experience from this tournament. It’s going to be useful for the future”, said Alcaraz. 

Gasquet was aiming to win his first ATP Tour title since s’Hertogenbosch in 2018. 

“It was tough for me to play with his full intensity. I had a tough match yesterday. It was tough, and especially with a guy like Carlos, who is playing really fast with a lot of energy and spin. He is playing unbeievable. He is only 18 and of course he had a great future and Ijust could not play at his level and his intensity”, said Gasquet. 

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