Boris Becker, Mats Wilander Disagree Over Chances Of Djokovic Playing Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Boris Becker, Mats Wilander Disagree Over Chances Of Djokovic Playing Australian Open

The mystery surrounding the future plans of the 20-time major winner continues as two former greats of the game share their opinion on what he may do.

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Novak Djokovic in action during a Men's Singles match at the 2021 US Open, Monday, Sep. 6, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

Novak Djokovic is unlikely to miss the upcoming Australian Open because ‘he loves the sport too much,’ according to one of his former coaches.

Boris Becker believes the world No.1 won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to break the all-time record for most major singles titles won by a male player at Melbourne Park. Uncertainty has been cast over Djokovic’s appearance at the tournament due to its strict entry requirements. Last Friday Tennis Australia confirmed that all participants must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in line with a government health mandate in the region.

Djokovic has repeatedly refused to speak publicly about his vaccination status which has fuelled speculation about if he will travel to Australia. When questioned about his plans for next year at the ATP Finals, the Serbian replied ‘we’ll have to wait and see’ without elaborating any further.

However, Becker says the tennis star will have to follow the rules and believes he will do so. Becker is a seven-time Grand Slam champion himself who mentored Djokovic between 2014-2016.

“I can’t imagine that he won’t play in Australia,” he told Eurosport Germany’s podcast, Das Gelbe vom Ball.
“He loves the sport too much for that, he loves tennis history too much for that. He wants to reach the 21 Grand Slam wins. Australia is his best Grand Slam. He has already won nine times there. Why shouldn’t he win a 10th time?
“He says it is his personal decision whether to get vaccinated or not. It is nobody’s business. I’m with him on that.
But if he wants to play on the tennis tour – and we’re also having this discussion about [Bayern Munich footballer] Joshua Kimmich – then you just have to follow the rules. That means you have to be vaccinated in order to play.
“That applies to Djokovic, that applies to Kimmich and that applies to every athlete who is at home in their respective sport.”

Djokovic has won the past three editions of the Australian Open with his win-loss record currently standing at 82-8. He has won the men’s title more times than any other player in history and it was in Melbourne where he won his maiden Grand Slam back in 2008.

Sharing a somewhat different view on Djokovic’s potential appearance in Australia next year, former world No.1 Mats Wilander said he ‘wouldn’t be surprised at all’ if he didn’t go. The Swedish tennis great told Eurosport that whilst the tournament is Djokovic’s most successful, he cast doubt on if it is the most important to him when compared to other major events.

Is the Australian Open the most important tournament in his career? Well, it is the most successful Grand Slam for him. I’m not sure if it is more important than the French Open or Wimbledon or the US Open, but it is his most successful Slam,” said Wilander.
“It would be the most natural place for him to break the tie of 20 Grand Slams with Roger and Rafa. But at the same time, Novak Djokovic, I think, is thinking about his own health.
He’s thinking about the future. He’s thinking long-term, and so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Novak doesn’t go.”

Djokovic is currently in Austria for the group stages of the Davis Cup Finals. It is unclear as to when he will make a final decision on his plans for the new season. Should he be vaccinated, he will have to board a charter flight between December 27 and January 3 and provide a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival in Australia.

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros 2024: Casper Ruud Explains Geneva Decision, Martin Etcheverry Talks Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Two-time finalist Casper Ruud is into the second round with a straight sets win over Felipe Meligeni Alves.

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Casper Ruud has explained the decision behind playing in Geneva last week after he defeated Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3.

The world number seven is into the second round after a straight sets win over the Brazilian qualifier.

Ruud has reached the final the past two occasions here having lost to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in those respective finals.

Now the Norwegian is targeting more success in Paris this year and spoke about his opening round performance after the match, “Yeah, I was honestly very happy. I think it was a good start,” Ruud stated in his press conference.

“I think Felipe is a dangerous player, and obviously I didn’t know him so well. So not easy to know what’s going to come out of his racquet. I think he was firing pretty good serves and forehands.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty high-quality match and happy to be through in straight sets. That’s just what I was kind of hoping and looking for. Yeah, I’m very happy to be through.”

Given Ruud’s history at Roland Garros, there would be no reason to suggest that the Norwegian would need to play his way into form.

However that’s exactly what he did in Geneva the week before Roland Garros as he won the title in Switzerland.

After his opening round match Ruud was asked about why he always plays in Geneva instead of practicing on-site in Paris, “No, I decide based on the fact that I enter the tournament, and with the purpose of going. But of course, if you do super well in Madrid and Rome and you play, let’s say, 10 matches or more within those two weeks or the two tournaments, maybe, depending on how your body feels, it’s kind of easier to skip it,” Ruud explained.

“But that wasn’t the case for me in Madrid and Rome. I played only four matches there. I lost early in Rome. If I didn’t play Geneva I would have had 17 or 18 days since I lost in Rome until starting in Roland Garros, which in my eyes, my feeling, is just a bit too much. For some players, they don’t think it’s too much. They don’t have a problem with it.

“But for me I like going into tournament kind of mode and feeling in the zone when you’re playing an official match. That’s why I like playing. It gives me kind of confidence and match feeling going into a Grand Slam, which is the Grand Slam that I personally feel like I have the most chances to do well in.”

Ruud will aim to continue his good run of form when he takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round.

Martin Etcheverry Speaks On Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Finally Tomas Martin Etcheverry defeated Arthur Cazaux in four sets to seal his place in the second round.

The Argentinian is a big Novak Djokovic fan and after the match spoke about his love for Roland Garros and has tipped Djokovic to win this year’s tournament, “I think it’s my favorite tournament since I was a child, and I always want to play here,” Martin Etcheverry explained.

“This is a moment of the year that I want to be here and try to play my best tennis because I want to get a good result here.

“Yeah, is he my idol, and he is the No. 1 of the world. I don’t know, like six years right now. Yeah, I always try to watch him, trying to improve the game. I always trying to saw him. Yeah, I think he’s going to be No. 1 a lot of time. I don’t know if they have a good year this year, but I think it’s Novak Djokovic. Maybe he can win this tournament.”

Martin Etcheverry will play another Frenchman in the form of Arthur Rinderknech in the second round with Ruud being the potential third round opponent.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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