Benoit Paire's Approach To Life On Tour During A Pandemic Is Like No Other - UBITENNIS
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Benoit Paire’s Approach To Life On Tour During A Pandemic Is Like No Other

The French tennis star views playing matches behind close doors as just a ‘workout’ and is undeterred by his series of defeats or criticism from others in recent months.

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MUTUA MADRID OPEN DE TENIS 2021. Benoit Paire of France vs Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece

It has become a weekly occurrence that France’s Benoit Paire finds himself tangled up in some sort of controversy and the Italian Open is no different.

The former top 20 star took to the court on Monday and faced home player Stefano Travaglia who he lost to in straight sets. Besides yet another loss on the Tour, Paire received a code violation for ‘unprofessional conduct.’ After arguing with umpire Carlos Bernardes over a first serve being called out, which the TV hawk-eye later confirmed, Paire decided to take a photo of the court marking. Even after the match he invited Travaglia to come and look at the mark, which he didn’t.

There is never a dull moment when it comes to the life of the Frenchman on Tour who has opened up about his personal struggles with bubble life. However, he took a swipe at organisers in Rome for another reason.

“I got the vaccine two days ago and asked to play as late as possible because I couldn’t arrive until last night (Sunday at 10 p.m.). In the end, they put me today (Monday) at ten in the morning, I could not even hit the ball once here, I could not train the last days,” L’Equipe quoted Paire as telling reporters on Monday.
“I still have a little pain from my shot from the vaccine, it’s a bit heavy to lift my arm. I knew it. I did what I could.”

Continuing his monologue about life on the Tour, Paire openly admitted that he tries his very best when playing in front of fans. This year’s Italian Open is taking place behind closed doors until the third round. Then in agreement with local health officials the tournament is allowed to welcome up to 25% of their capacity.

The result is not the most important, the important thing is to spend a little time on the court. As I have always said, with an empty stadium, I take it as a workout. When you know the atmosphere in Rome, seeing the stadium empty is a bit hard. It’s week after week, it doesn’t matter,” he stated.

The ironic thing about the current COVID-19 pandemic and Paire’s unhappiness with the rules in place is that when it comes to the rankings he has been one of the biggest beneficiaries. He is currently ranked 35th in the world, despite only winning two matches out of 11 tournaments played so far this season. This is due to adjustments to the rankings calculations to help support players who may encounter troubles travelling to certain tournaments during the pandemic.

I will keep my Marrakech final because I keep half the points and I won there (in 2019. The tournament was cancelled in 2020). I had a fourth round at Roland and I will keep a third round no matter what, I will keep a third round at Wimbledon, I will keep my final in Lyon. I’m not worried,” he explained.
“Even if I go down, I will go down 50th in the world. Just when things get better and the pandemic has passed, we will have to rediscover the pleasure of being on a court.”

One of the most remarkable views of the 32-year-old is that his lack of wins on the Tour hasn’t dented his confidence. In fact, he openly states that he will return back to peak form when the Tour’s COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed and he plays in front of people every week. Suggesting that all this time he hasn’t been playing to his full ability out of choice.

However, what if this plan of Paire’s backfire? His home Grand Slam, the French Open, is less than a month away. At Roland Garros he will be hoping to rely on the support of the public who will be allowed to attend on a restricted basis. Even though he has recently been barred by the French Tennis Association (FFT) for playing at the upcoming Olympics due to his recent behaviour.

“I will train myself. I’m trying to find a trainer, to find help on the physical level. I’m not saying I’m giving up. I do not give up,” Paire assures.
“I’m just saying it’s tough at the closed-door tournaments right now. I am quite sensitive and when I see that I am making good shots and that nothing is happening on the court, there is no noise. Whether I do a double fault or a winning stroke, it’s exactly the same.’
“In Roland (Garros), there will be a few people, I will try to find a little fun even with friends of mine and try to be ready. And if I’m not ready, it will be for the next tournaments.”

It remains to be seen what the future has in store for Paire. Fortunately for him, the ATP has recently sent a document to players outlining an easing to restrictions related to COVID-19. Meaning players will have more freedom during tournaments. Could this enable him to be more consistent and less controversial on Tour? Only time will take on this one.

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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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