[EXCLUSIVE] Monte Carlo Tournament Director Franulovic To Step Down After 18 Years - UBITENNIS
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[EXCLUSIVE] Monte Carlo Tournament Director Franulovic To Step Down After 18 Years

Zeljko Franulovic’s career from player to ATP Tournaments Representative to Tournament Director in Monte Carlo. The two main contenders for the vacant position

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Zeljko Franulovic - Monte Carlo 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

On Sunday morning, during the traditional end-of-tournament press conference at the end of this year’s Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, it will become public that Zeljko Franulovic will step down as Tournament Director, a position he has held since 2005. During his days as a professional tennis player, Franulovic won the Monte-Carlo Open in 1970 when he defeated in the final Manolo Orantes 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and he was still playing under the Yugoslavian flag – he is from Split, Croatia, although he was born on the island of Korčula.

Born in 1947, Franulovic, who will turn 75 next June, has been the Tournament Director in Monte Carlo since 2005, when the tournament was won by Rafael Nadal for the first of his 11 triumphs in the Principality. His best ranking was n. 6, but it would have been higher had the ATP ranking existed before August 1973, because he obtained his best result prior to the introduction of the computerized ranking. In particular, he was a finalist at Roland Garros in 1970 when he lost to Jan Kodes, and during the same year, he also won the Grand Prix of Buenos Aires defeating in the final the favorite of the draw Ilie Nastase.

Roland Garros was certainly his most successful Major, mainly thanks to how his slice backhand remained low on clay courts. He had already reached the quarterfinals in 1969 and would advance to the semifinal also in 1971, the year after the final he reached as an outsider since the first eight seeds of the tournament were Gimeno, Hoad, Taylor, Riessen, Pasarell, Meiler, Drysdale and Nastase. That year he defeated Bartlett, Eischenbrioch. Barthes, Phillips-Moore, Nastase (in 4 sets) and Orantes in the semifinals.

Franulovic is conversant in several languages: in addition to all the languages spoken in the Balkans, he is also fluent in Italian, French and English, and he speaks also a bit of German. He was Captain of the Croatian Davis Cup Team between 1994 and 1997. He also held the role of Representative for the European tournaments on the ATP Board of Directors, where he served between 2007 and 2009.

I happened to play against him a couple of times in doubles: he was playing with Boro Jovanovic (born in 1939) while I was coupled with Beppino Bonardi at the two international tournaments in Florence and Viareggio, Italy where we crossed paths. During our first match, Bonardi and I were leading 4-1 in the deciding set, but we ended up losing. Jovanovic, originally from Zagreb, Croatia, had been a finalist at Wimbledon in 1962 when he had played with Niki Pilic. Franulovic and Jovanovic were obviously better players: maybe they had just underestimated us during our first match, but the second time around we had no chance.

The main candidates to replace Franulovic as Tournament Director in Monte Carlo are two English men with an ATP background. The first one is Chris Kermode, who was the Chairman of the ATP for six years before Andrea Gaudenzi took over at the beginning of 2020, and is now Vice Chairman of the Professional Triathletes Organization. The other candidate is David Massey, who is currently the Adjoint Director for the Monte Carlo Country Club and seems to be the slight favorite in the race because he has been living in Monaco for some time, he is married to a French lady with whom he has three children and he has an excellent personal relationship with Baroness Melanie de Massy, daughter to the late Baroness Elizabeth-Ann de Massy who has been President of the Monte Carlo Country Club and the Monegasque Tennis Federation for many years until her death on 10 June 2020.

 Of course, Melanie could have a great influence over the final decision. The Principality of Monaco is very close to the ATP, which has its European offices in Monte Carlo. However, even if the Principality would like to maintain its privileged relationship with the ATP, it would probably be inclined to maintain some kind of independence, and from this point of view Massey, who has been Vice President for Europe of the ATP between 2010 and 2019 would be a better candidate than Kermode, whose allegiance may appear more questionable, given his previous role within the men’s tour.

I spoke to Massey a few times in the past few days and I was favourably impressed by him: he attended the University of Bristol, England, for four years and he started his career at the ATP as an unpaid intern.

Kermode is more of a politician, and I don’t like politicians too much, especially when they take you for a ride with half-lies and half-truths in the attempt to convince you that pigs might fly. He became CEO and Chairman of the ATP in November 2013 following the untimely death of his predecessor Brad Drewett, who prematurely passed away from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). On 7 March 2019, the ATP announced that Kermode’s contract would not be extended beyond the end of the year. An article from ESPN suggested this was the result of a “coup” orchestrated by Novak Djokovic. He had been a modest tennis player between 1985 and 1988 before becoming a coach and then being appointed Tournament Director at the Queen’s Club Championships. He was the Director of the ATP Finals in London between 2008 and 2014.

Despite being favoured by Federer and Nadal, Kermode was sidelined by the players led by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil who later founded the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA). Kermode admitted that “the creation of PTPA is the result of a lot of frustration. It often happens that Players Representatives in the ATP Council make proposals that are important for all the players, but tournaments do not agree and vote against the motion, with the result that nothing gets done. This gives the impression that players are not listened to, so they are using the word ‘independence’”.

During Kermode’s tenure, the ATP grew considerably from a financial standpoint: in 2014, his first year in charge, the total prize money for the Tour was slightly above $90 million; in 2018 it had increased to $139.4 million. However, he could benefit from a very favourable environment that his successor Gaudenzi did not find, as he had to deal with the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic after just a few months in the driving seat.

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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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