The 'Players Voice' Movement And Tennis' Not So United Front - UBITENNIS
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The ‘Players Voice’ Movement And Tennis’ Not So United Front

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could halt the war of words being exchanged behind the scenes in tennis.

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Vasek Pospisil, co-founder of the PTPA (image via twitter.com)

In his opening match at the Miami Open Vasek Pospisil was penalised by the umpire for his behaviour on the court but it was what he said during the argument that caught the attention of many.

 

Speaking to official Arnaud Gabas the highly animated Canadian said the day before he was ‘screamed’ at by Andrea Gaudenzi who is the head of the ATP Tour and even threatened to sue the men’s governing body if he defaulted from the match. Pospisil was making reference to an encounter he had with Gaudenzi during what was meant to be a routine Players meeting that usually takes place behind closed doors and out of the media spotlight. For this reason it is hard to establish what actually happened in Miami. Although opencourt.ca claims that the the world No.67 was brought to tears at one point following a series of criticisms.

Those alleged criticisms concern the Professional Tennis Players Association. An independent body that was co-founded by both Pospisil and Novak Djokovic. The aim of the PTPA is to campaign for players to have a greater say in the decision making processes. However, the movement isn’t without controversy. The ATP is against such a movement, arguing that it divides the sports and objectives of the group are unclear. In the past the ATP Council, whose members include both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, urged their peers not to join.

“Vasek Pospišil is my good friend and I empathize with him wholeheartedly. Players on tour would agree that he is an individual of the highest integrity who cares about the well being of his fellow competitors,” Djokovic wrote on social media.
“I am hopeful players recognize the importance of standing together,” he added.

It is clear there is a divide in men’s tennis but it is unclear as to how significant it is. Following the Pospisil incident, the hashtag ‘#playervoices’ emerged on Twitter with various players supporting calls for an independent body of some sort. Former Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic wrote ‘voices need to be heard, respected and acknowledged. Don’t try to silence them, but work with them.’ Ivo Karlovic, who has played on the ATP Tour for 20 years, said it is ‘more obvious than ever that we need a players only association.’ Away from the internet, Denis Shapovalov spoke out in favour of the PTPA following his win at the Miami Open on Saturday.

“I have heard from several players a lot of not great information. So I’m definitely on the PTPA side. I think we are not underrepresented, but I think there is ways that we could be represented better,” he said.
“I don’t think that the ATP is doing the fullest job that they can be. I think there are other ways and there are players that are trying to introduce or help within the ATP bring in different information or sponsors and this and that, and basically we’re all getting shut down. They are just telling us to go and play tennis which in my opinion it’s not right.”

Quoting Kevin Anderson the PTPA does have some ‘unanswered questions’ concerning their long-term objectives for the sport. The world of tennis politics is a complicated one which isn’t helped by the fact there are seven separate governing bodies operating within the sport.

Perhaps the best way forward is to stick with facts and figures. Such as the SportsBusiness Annual Media Report of 2018 which shows that more than a billion people worldwide describes themselves as tennis fans. Furthermore, some of the sports best players are the highest paid athletes in the world. With this in mind, questions are being raised over why tennis only accounts for 1.3% of the total value for global sports TV. Etienne de Villiers, who served as ATP chairman from 2005 to 2008, said during a recent interview with Bloomberg that trying to change the business model of tennis is tough because “everyone distrusts everyone else.”

Just earlier in the week John Isner called for more transparency concerning prize money in the sport which has been dramatically reduced in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the American does acknowledge that the ATP has been more forthcoming in information recently.

“Look, there’s always going to be some things that players are unhappy about,” he said.
“I do think recently the players have felt like the tour has been more transparent with them. We’re trying to understand the process a bit more.”

It is unclear what the future has in store for the PTPA but it is clear that Tennis is not entirely united at present.

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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios

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Serena Williams on Monday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

On Tuesday, Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport in a poignant essay.  With only a month left before one of the greatest players of all-time retires, Serena will play only her third match in the past 14 months on Wednesday, as she faces fellow Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.

 

In Montreal, the two ATP singles champions from last week will collide, as Los Cabos champ and world No.1 Daniil Medvedev takes on Washington champ and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios

Those are just two of a plethora of high-profile second round matches on Wednesday.  Overall seven of the WTA top 10 and six of the ATP top 10 will be in action in a jam-packed day of tennis.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both Toronto and Montreal.


Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Not Before 1:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Medvedev did not drop a set during his title run last week in Mexico, and is the defending champion of this event.  But Kyrgios is having the best summer of his career.  He’s now claimed 12 of his last 13 matches, which of course includes his first Major singles final at Wimbledon.  And Nick is 2-1 against Daniil, though they’ve split two hard court meetings.  Three years ago in the final of Washington, Kyrgios prevailed thanks to two tiebreaks.  But at this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev was victorious in four.  Last year at this tournament, Daniil defeated a few other big servers such as Hubi Hurkacz, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka.  On Wednesday, his defensive skills may again prove to diffuse Nick’s serving prowess.  And as seen in the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios can get easily frustrated by opponents who can play elite-level defense.


Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Serena Williams – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court on Toronto

These next few weeks will be the last in perhaps the most remarkable career in tennis history.  Serena has said she does not want a lot of fanfare surrounding her last tournaments, but fans will surely be clamoring to see the all-time great one last time.  In just her third match this year, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles faces the most recent gold medalist.  Bencic is now 28-13 this season, and two of her best results this season have come in the US.  She was a semifinalist in Miami, and the champion in Charleston.  Serena is 2-1 against Belinda, though Bencic’s only victory occurred in this same city seven years ago, when the Swiss star won this title as an 18-year-old.  Williams played some good tennis during her straight-set victory on Monday, and both players will assumedly be quite nervous knowing this is one of Serena’s final matches.  But considering Williams has not defeated a top 20 player since the 2021 Australian Open, Bencic should be favored on this day.  Regardless, this opportunity to watch Serena compete will be cherished by her millions of fans.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Swiatek is now 48-5 on the year, and has won her last three hard court tournaments dating back to February (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami).  Tomljanovic reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal last month.  Their only previous meeting also occurred in Toronto, when three years ago the Australian retired after only five games.

Elena Rybakina vs. Coco Gauff (10) – The new Wimbledon champion played for a full three hours on Tuesday, eventually defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-1 in the third.  On the same day, Gauff dropped only four games to fellow American Madison Brengle. 

Tommy Paul vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Alcaraz is now 42-7 in 2022, and is coming off back-to-back finals at clay events in Europe.  Paul has accumulated 25 wins of his own this season, 16 of which have come on hard courts.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – Fernandez gritted her way to a three-set victory on Monday night in her first match since injuring her foot at Roland Garros.  Haddad Maia has 34 wins on the year, and won back-to-back grass court tournaments in June.  Earlier this season in the semifinals of Monterrey, Leylah prevailed over Beatriz in straight sets.

Qinwen Zheng vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur went 1-1 last week in her first two matches since her losing effort in the Wimbledon final.  Qinwen also lost to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, after two tight sets in the third round of that event.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet – Andreescu overcame injury to defeat San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening, requiring multiple medical timeouts in the first set alone.  Earlier in the day, Cornet took out Caroline Garcia in three sets.  Alize is 2-0 against Bianca.

Yoshihito Nishioka (SE) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Nishioka was a surprise finalist last week in Washington, where he earned impressive victories over five top 40 players, including Andrey Rublev.  Auger-Aliassime has now lost four of his last six matches.  Yoshi leads their tour-level head-to-head 2-1, which includes a dramatic three-set win three years ago at Indian Wells in a third-set tiebreak.

Jack Draper (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Tsitsipas has not played since his embarrassing behavior in a third-round defeat at the hands of Kyrgios at Wimbledon.  20-year-old Draper has earned 35 match wins at all levels this season. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?

Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters 1000 may allow the Spaniard’s ranking to reach new zeniths

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CARLOS ALCARAZ OF SPAIN - PHOTO: ANGEL MARTINEZ / MMO

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Numbers are fascinating, even worshipped by some, unquestionable and reassuring. We may forget the fallibility of subjective evaluation and rejoice with the sense of power that comes with belief that any reality, from outer space to the inner world, can be measured, and expressed with numbers.

 

And numbers have been fuelling tennis headlines over the last weeks as Carlos Alcaraz has been heading on, his rise in the rankings unblemished by the losses to Musetti and Sinner in the finals in Hamburg and Umag and ticking on like an ultimate countdown.  

In the next two weeks Alcaraz will have limitless opportunities to reap points in the two Masters 1000 leading up to the US Open since he will only be dropping the points he earned last year in Cincinnati where, after qualifying, he reached the round of 32 before losing to Lorenzo Sonego.

There is more at stake for those he is chasing: Medvedev, winner in Canada and semi-finalist in Cincinnati is surely capable of bettering such results, but it will not be a walkover. Zverev is fully committed to rehab and unable to defend his Cincinnati 2021 crown. Nadal, who missed all the second part of the last season and could be a serious challenger in terms of point harvesting, has just had to pull out from Montreal owing to his still-healing abdominal injury.    

Nitpickers may suggest that the most recent hurdles cleared by Alcaraz have not coincided with immaculate victories and that what had seemed for a long time to be a perfect set-up engine, meticulously fine-tuned, has been starting to misfire.

No doubt that his 2022 campaign had been a crescendo up to his triumph in the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he brushed aside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev. The match with Djokovic was of supreme quality and will stand out as one of the gems of the year.

Till then, his loss to Korda in Monte Carlo was the only lapse and could be considered an incident, as it may occur to any guy setting foot on clay for the first time in months, adorned with a new status as a tennis prodigy after his win in Miami and awaited by a roaring buzz of expectations.

In Paris, a first yellow alert did appear when he was on the brink of defeat in round 2 with Ramos-Vinolas in a match stained by 74 unforced errors. Then followed shining performances against Korda and Khachanov before falling in the quarter-finals to Zverev who overpowered him throughout most of their match. But Zverev was formidable that day and Alcaraz strove to the very end to find an escape way and was close to coming back, missing a set point in the fourth set tiebreak that would have tugged him into a decider.

His star seemed to be shining at Wimbledon after his impressive dominance over Otte, but two days later was obscured by Sinner. On this occasion, for the first time in his newly established career, his game appeared blunted.

Was his body starting to remind him he’s a teen, capable of formidable performances, but still to develop that endurance and resilience which are needed to maintain peak cruising over longer stretches?

Then followed defeats in Hamburg and Umag finals on clay. A final itself cannot be considered a disappointing result, but his halo of invincibility was dimmed.

Particular concern was his second defeat in a month to Sinner, where he appeared at loss for solutions over the last one hour and a half, his boisterous self-confidence slowly deflating and his body language revealing frustration. In his press conference, Alcaraz admitted such a sense of helplessness and said to be determined to figure out a way to win against the Italian. 

The point is that Alcaraz made such a great impression in the first part of this season that it has become hard to believe he can lose a match.

At his best, he can deliver any shot at any moment, with a variety rarely seen before. In an inspired instant, he can switch from herculean ball-striking to caressing a dropshot, which will land, bounceless, a few inches after the net. What about his eagerness to volley, often following his wondrously effective kick serve? Not to mention his serve which alternates power and spin, his endurance in winning long rallies, scuttling far and beyond to fling in a winner from out of the blue. Opponents cannot but be befuddled. 

And then, is clay really the surface that best suits his game? In an interview with Marca, he said he’s comfortable on all surfaces but feels that his dynamic game most suits hard courts. If we couple this statement with his enthusiasm for being in Montreal and playing the Canadian Open for the first time, after throwing in some hard work for a successful transition from clay to hard, we can be positive that the fire has been kindled, and the countdown for reaching the highest ranking orbits is running once again.      

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