From Injury To Mental Health - Denis Shapovalov Opens Up Ahead Of Estoril Campaign - UBITENNIS
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From Injury To Mental Health – Denis Shapovalov Opens Up Ahead Of Estoril Campaign

The world No.14 spoke about a variety of topics in Portugal ahead of his next campaign on the Tour.

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Denis Shapovalov has officially landed in Estoril and on Monday he took the time to speak to the media ahead of his first match.

At the age of 22 he is the top seed in an ATP event for only the second time in his career after Sofia last year. He is one out of nine top 50 players in the Estoril draw with all of the six highest ranked players never previously playing in the tournament. Ahead of his first match, Shapovalov spoke about a variety of topics ranging from injury to bubble life on the Tour.

Why is he playing?

The Canadian confirmed the tournament reached out to him on Friday. He is coming off a third round loss to compatriot and good friend Felix Auger Aliassime in Barcelona where he made the decision with his team to play this week.

” I decided pretty late, I think they messaged me on Friday seeing if I want to play and I talk to Misha ( Youzhny) and my team and we decided it’s best to get a couple more matches in before Madrid,” said Shapovalov. “To get more points situations in so that’s really what I want to get from this week.”

Injury update

Shapovalov did confirm that he no longer has an issue with his shoulder and he feels fine and ready to go.

”The shoulder feels fine but I’m still feeling it, it’s nothing serious, something I can play through, and honestly just here to get some more matches.”

Nearly went to another country

He did confirm before deciding to play that he was planning to spend a couple days in Greece where he has a place but when he got the call he realized how close it was from Spain to Portugal so he opted to make the trip.

”It was a pretty easy transition, it was pretty easy because I was planning to practice 3-4 days with Misha in Barcelona before going to Greece and we thought it could help get my feet a little more wet on the surface and just play a little bit more points.”

Form isn’t as good as last year

Shapovalov mentioned that his game on clay is not where it was last year in Rome, but he continues to work at it.

” I don’t think it’s where it was in Rome but I feel like Rome was a follow up from a really good tournament in New York. I was playing with a lot of confidence and I felt like I could roll through that tournament even though I was going through jet lag there and my body did not feel good. Just my game wise I felt really confident so I played two matches in Barcelona and I at least wanted to get one more match before Madrid and Rome before these big tournaments and both these events. I have been able to go far before and I feel I can play really well there but I just wanted to play a little more and that’s why I chose to come to this tournament”.

Is he a differnt player on the clay?

Shapovalov was asked if he sees a difference in-game when he is playing on clay as opposed to playing on hard. As well as the difference in the return game.

”No I don’t think the way I play changes, you just try to build the points a little bit more and you try to be a bit more patient constructing it on the clay, a lot of the guys are far back, it’s more slower so it’s tougher to hit and come in, you have to really pick the right ball, whatever surface I am playing on I always try to play aggressive and come in so it doesn’t really change”.

When he is at his most dangerous

Shapovalov is a player who likes to build off confidence and stressed the importance of using it to get better results.

” I think it just comes from matches, from wins, I think at the end of the day I don’t really care who I play against, I’m going to play my game, going to go for it and that’s the mindset I try to have and it doesn’t matter who is on the other side and when I can rattle off a few wins that’s when I think I’m dangerous and that’s when I think I can beat anyone”.

Felix-Auger Aliassime friendship

He was even asked about his friendship with Felix Auger Aliassime who he recently played in Barcelona and the friendship runs deep and as far back as the junior level.

” It’s great to see how far we made it the two of us from juniors from junior regrouping all the way through the junior rankings through the futures, through challengers, bouncing off each other success and each other results and playing at the highest level for sure it’s a pretty special feeling, I think it’s pretty cool and it’s great for Canada and for tennis in Canada so I think there are so many positives from it”

Verdict on playing clay

Shapovalov did confirm however that clay is not his favourite surface and he actually prefers to play on other surfaces.

” If I am being completely honest I prefer other surfaces but I do feel I have had good success on clay and I am able to play on it and I do love the feeling of playing on clay and the sliding, it is more grueling and longer points, I think my favorite is grass, there are practically no rallies and just serves and returns and it’s perfect and it’s like Canadian tennis indoors on super fast surfaces so it’s awesome but I do think I am able to play well on clay and the results have shown that so I do enjoy it but I do tend to look forward to the grass-court season”.

Being the top seed

Being the tournament new number one seed after taking the wild card means he has a first round bye and will play his first match against the winner of Corentin Moutet and Marcus Giron. He gave his thoughts on his next potential opponent.

” A tricky match, either way, I’ll see how they are playing, I haven’t seen Giron play too much so I will try and check out the match and obviously I know Corentin ( Moutet) really well and we even have a song together so I know him really well but I think he’s a really good player, a crafty player and I know him really well from juniors and we go way back so either way a tricky match but honestly it’s what I want and it’s something I am looking forward to and I think it’s going to be fun to be out there, going to be a tough battle”.

He also confirmed he was able to practice and check out the conditions of the court.

”Not center court but today was my first practice day, I landed yesterday, slow conditions here, it’s a little bit windy but the weather changes quite a lot so a lot of different things coming into play but it’s clay courts and I feel they are different every day depending on the conditions, depending on the weather, the humidity, they always play differently”.

mental health

Shapovalov this season has stressed the importance of mental health. He has mentioned several times he would be taking more weeks off due to the fact every tournament he plays would be in a bubble environment due to Covid and again opened up about how he is feeling ahead of the tournament.

” I feel good, I mean If I wasn’t ready to be in the bubble I wouldn’t have come to play but I do feel fresh and after Miami, I chose not to play Monte Carlo just to rest to be out of it for this reason so I could be fresh leading up to this long swing of events, I feel fresh, I feel good, It’s also a really good place, the room has a balcony and they have done a really good job here so it’s a really nice bubble so to speak”.

Shapovalov will most likely play his first match on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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