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.
Novak Djokovic Storms Into Wimbledon Third Round For 16th Time
The top seed dealt with the breezy conditions and his Australian opponent with ease in what was largely a one-sided performance.
Novak Djokovic has sent out a warning to this year’s men’s draw at Wimbledon by producing a clinical win over Thanasi Kokkinakis to reach the third round on Wednesday.
The world No.3 dictated proceedings throughout his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, triumph over Kokkinakis. A player who is currently 79th in the world that has been hampered by injury issues throughout a large chunk of his tennis career. Djokovic has now won 307 Grand Slam main draw matches and a staggering 1007 at Tour level. The latest performance saw him produce a total of 29 winners against 14 unforced errors
“I’m very happy with my performance today. I thought I started with well, I was very solid from the back of the court,” said Djokovic.
“I tried to make him work a lot around the court and brought a lot of variety into the game.’
“It was not easy to serve because of the wind but from my side overall it was a really high-quality performance and I’m very pleased.”
In what was their first Tour meeting in seven years the reigning champion got off to a dream start against an erratic Kokkinakis. The Australian struggled to control his unforced error count early on which resulted in him getting broken in his opening service game. Meanwhile, Djokovic settled in instantly as he worked his way to a 3-0 advantage with relative ease. A couple games later the double break was sealed with the use of a delicate drop shot which Kokkinakis failed to return over the net. He went on to close the set out yet another carefully placed drop shot.
Contending with strong gusts of wind, as well as Kokkinakis’ speedy serve, Djokovic broke once again early in the second frame with a winning volley at the net. Despite glimmers of impressive shot-making from his opponent, it failed to materialize into any momentum as the Serbian eased to a two-set lead. Down 3-5 Kokkinakis valiantly saved four set points to hold serve. However, Djokovic proceeded to seal the two-set lead in the following game.
Djokovic’s relentless hitting overwhelmed his opponent who looked growingly lost on the court. The start of set three saw a 12-minute Kokkinakis service game where the Australian buckled once again whilst under intense pressure. Strolling to a game from victory, Djokovic closed out the match with a serve out wide that Kokkinakis returned out.
It is the 16th time in Djokovic’s career he has reached the last 32 at SW19 and his 13th in a row. Only Jimmy Conors has achieved a longer run of 14 between 1972-1985. In total, he has won 81 matches at Wimbledon which is the third-highest tally for a male player in history.
“I’m quite pleased with the way I have raised my level within two days,” said Djokovic who defeated Kwon Soon-woo in the first round.
“Hopefully I can keep that trajectory and keep getting better as the tournament progresses.”
Djokovic will play compatriot Miomir Kecmanović in the third round. He leads their head-to-head 2-0.
(EXCLUSIVE) Ricardas Berankis’ Coach On Wimbledon Showdown With Rafael Nadal
Dirk Hordorff speaks to UbiTennis about the world No.106 and his chances against the second seed.
Ricardas Berankis is no stranger to Wimbledon as he marks the 12th anniversary of his first-ever main draw win at the tournament after coming through three rounds of qualifying.
A stand-out player in his younger years, the Lithuanian topped the world junior rankings and won the US Open boys title back in 2007 when he defeated Jerzy Janowicz in the final. Transitioning to the pro level was never straightforward for Berankis who is now 32-year-old. Nevertheless, he has made his impression on the Tour with runs to two ATP Tour finals in 2012 (Los Angeles) and 2017 (Moscow). He also won the 2015 US Men’s Clay Court doubles title in Houston alongside Teymuraz Gabashvili.
Today Berankis is ranked 106th in the world, which is 56 places below his career-high. His best performance on the ATP Tour so far this season was in Abu Dubai when he came through qualifying to reach the quarter-finals before losing to Denis Shapovalov. He also reached the final of a Challenger event in Lille.
At Wimbledon this year he started his campaign with a straight-sets win over former semifinalist Sam Querrey. Making it only the fourth time in his career he has won a main draw match at the tournament. His reward is a showdown on Thursday with the formidable Rafael Nadal who is seeking a historic 23rd major title and his third in a row. Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match.
So can Berankis trouble Nadal on the grass?
The best person to ask is Germany’s Dirk Hordorff who coaches Berankis. The veteran coach has also previously collaborated with the likes of Rainer Schuettler, Lars Burgsmüller, Yen-Hsun Lu, Kristian Pless, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Vasek Pospisil.
During an email exchange with UbiTennis, Hordorff shared his thoughts about Berankis’ upcoming clash with Nadal.
UBITENNIS: It wasn’t until Melbourne this year that Ricardas played Nadal on the Tour for the first time. He lost the match 6-2, 7-5. What did his team learn from that experience?
HIRDORFF: I was not in Melbourne, but I coached unsuccessfully in a lot of matches against Rafa. He is next to Novak (Djokovic) over so many years as a true champion and a great person outside the court. You learn every match against him and Ricardas is ready for this match.
UBITENNIS: When it comes to playing a member of the Big Three, how do you as a coach go about dealing with Berankis’ mentality?
HIRDORFF: Ricardas played a good first round against Sam Querrey. Nevertheless, to play Rafa is a different issue. You need to concentrate on your abilities and not worry about history.
UBITENNIS: Nadal was sternly tested during his opening match. Does this in any way give a confidence boost towards Berankis or do you think it is irrelevant?
HIRDORFF: Every match starts at zero. What Rafa played yesterday doesn’t affect Ricardas’ match. Anyway, Rafa won his first round quite solidly against a good upcoming player.
UBITENNIS: Whilst the odds might be against Ricardas, it isn’t impossible that he could defeat Nadal. What will the key areas be for him to focus on during their match? (e.g. return position, use of slice etc).
HIRDORFF: Ricardas needs to focus on his abilities and take his fine form from the first round in this match. Rafa is a complete player, so you need to perform well in all aspects of the game.
UBITENNIS: What is the most difficult thing about playing Nadal on the tour?
HORDORFF: He is a complete player with a lot of special strengths. Strong serve, good backhand, fast, perfect coordinate and no weak parts in his game.
UBITENNIS: Ricardas might be 32 but he has shown some good results on the Tour (runner-up at a Challenger event in Lille and QF in Dubai). Given the trend of players playing later into their careers, is his best yet to come?
HIRDORFF: Ricardas had to deal with a lot of health problems. I am sure that the best part of his career is yet to come for him.
Rafael Nadal Survives Scare In Wimbledon Opener
Bidding to win his third slam in a row, the Spaniard experienced a tougher test than he expected.
Rafael Nadal’s bid for a first Wimbledon title in over a decade has got off to a shaky start after he battled his way past Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo in the first round.
Nadal was unable to tame the world No.41 throughout his rollercoaster 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, victory which is his 306th in the main draw of a Grand Slam. Cerundolo exceeded expectations by playing some inspired tennis for a player who has only ever won one Tour-level match on the grass and had never won a main draw match at a major.
“All the credit to Fran, I think he started to play great and he was a very tough opponent,” said Nadal.
It has been three years since I last played on this amazing surface and I’m happy to be back. For me, it’s always amazing to play on their court (Center Court) and I can’t thank the crowd enough for their support.
The showdown was the first real test for the Spaniard since his historic triumph at the French Open which he won for a record 14th time. Since then, he hasn’t played any ATP grass-court events leading up to Wimbledon. Although he did take part in an exhibition event at the Hurlingham Club. Furthermore, he had undergone a new medical procedure in a bid to solve the pain caused by his long-term foot condition.
“It’s not the surface we play very often, especially in my case due to different reasons. For the last three years, I haven’t stepped onto a grass court so it always takes a while,” the 22-time Grand Slam winner commented.
“Today has been an important test, especially at the start of the tournament and the difficult circumstances I arrived in.“
It was by no means a vintage performance from the former world No.1 who struggled behind his second serve by winning just 43% of those points. Furthermore, he hit a total of 23 winners against 41 unforced errors. At one stage he was facing the prospect of going into a fifth set after falling behind 2-4 in the fourth frame before upping his intensity to claim four games in a row and clinch the match.
“It’s obvious when you play well in Roland Garros there is not much time between (that and Wimbledon). I used to remember the beautiful days when I used to win Roland Garros and then play on grass at Queen’s the next day but my body doesn’t allow me to do this anymore so I have to take some days off,” he admits.
“The most important thing for me is that I am at Wimbledon 2022 and I won my first match.”
Nadal will play Ricardas Berankis in the second round.
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