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.
Daniil Medvedev ‘Happy To Play Wimbledon’ If Ban Is Lifted
The world No.2 says he is willing to speak with other players about the situation ahead of his return to action following surgery.
Daniil Medvedev says he is still hopeful that he might be able to play at this year’s Wimbledon Championships should officials at The All England Club decide to change their stance.
At present the reigning US Open champion will not be allowed to play at the grass court major due to his nationality. Officials at the Grand Slam have confirmed that Russian and Belarussian players have been banned from the event due to the war in Ukraine. Ian Hewitt, who is the chairman of The AELTC, said the action was taken in order to prevent ‘the propaganda machine of the Russian regime’ from potentially benefiting from their players’ success.
The ban is a controversial move for the sport which until now had a united approach when it came to allowing those players participate in tournaments but only as neutral athletes. Former Wimbledon champions Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokopvic and Andy Murray have all expressed some degree of opposition to the decision. Meanwhile, the ATP and WTA are considering the possibility of removing the allocation of ranking points at the event.
Speaking about the ban ahead of this week’s Geneva Open, Medvedev acknowledges that it is a ‘tricky situation’ but is still hopeful that a u-turn could occur which would allow him to play. The 26-year-old has made four main draw appearances at Wimbledon with his best result being a run to the fourth round last year.
“There has been a lot of talk around it. I just tried to follow what’s happening because I don’t have any decisions to make. It’s right now about Wimbledon itself, the ATP, maybe the British government is involved,” news agency AFP quoted Medvedev as telling reporters in Switzerland.
“It’s a tricky situation and like every situation in life, you ask 100 players, everybody’s going to give a different opinion.
“I can play: I’m going to be happy to play in Wimbledon. I love this tournament.
“I cannot play: well, I’m going to try to play other tournaments and prepare well for next year if I have the chance to play.”
The former world No.1 has been among a group of Russian players who have previously called for peace in the region. Although none of them have gone as far as publicly condemning the actions of their government. Something which has drawn criticism from Ukraine’s Elina Svitoliva.
“I had some time to follow what is happening, yeah, it’s very upsetting,” Medvedev commented on the war.
Geneva will be the first event Medvedev has played in since reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. He took time away from the Tour to undergo hernia surgery but has confirmed he intends to play at next week’s French Open despite his lack of match play on the clay.
During his time at those events, the tennis star says he is more than happy to speak with other players about the Wimbledon ban should they want to.
“Since I haven’t been on the tour, I haven’t talked to any of them face to face. It was the first time when I came here on Saturday when I can talk to players, and if they start talking about this, we can discuss,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly what’s happening, what’s going to happen, if there are going to be more decisions made.
“Same about Wimbledon. I don’t know if this decision is 100 percent, and it’s over.”
Granted a bye in the first round, Medvedev will start his Geneva campaign against either Richard Gasquet or John Millman.
Denis Shapovalov gets revenge win over Nadal to reach quarterfinals in Rome
The Canadian avenged a loss he suffered last year by beating the king of clay in the eternal city.
Denis Shapovalov booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open after beating the world number four Rafael Nadal in three tight sets 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in two hours and 36 minutes on Pista Centrale.
The Canadian fired 35 winners and served 13 aces while the Spaniard hit 34 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth.
“It’s definitely incredible to me to beat him. Having match points against him last year was kind of a hurtful feeling,” said Shapovalov who lost to the Spaniard at the same tournament 12 months ago. “Coming back here this year, I definitely remember that match. Obviously great tennis, but that one really hurt. Happy to get the win this time around”.
It was the Spaniard with the better start to the match, putting pressure right away on the world number 16 in the second game of the match and it took Shapovalov almost 10 minutes to save three breakpoints and hold serve.
At 2-1 Nadal kept pushing and struck setting up two breakpoints with his ferocious forehand and then broke the Toronto native with a solid backhand down the line winner.
After consolidating the break the world number four was hungry for more and again with his powerful forehand set up more break opportunities and broke again to take a 5-1 lead and served out the first set.
Shapovalov once again faced three breakpoints in the opening game of the second set but managed to save all of them and was able to hold serve. In the following game he broke Nadal to love for the early 2-0 lead.
He was able to consolidate the break but at 4-3 the Spaniard fought back and managed to break back to go back on serve. However, the Canadian at 6-5 was able to get the crucial break to take the second set and send the match to a third.
Nadal responded right away breaking the Canadian in the first game of the third set but the following game Shapovalov set up three breakpoints with a perfectly timed forehand winner.
He broke back the following point and at 3-2 Nadal struggled with his serve and double faulted to give the world number 16 a 4-2 lead as it seemed he was struggling with an injury.
After running down a ball he was seen hunched over at the towel box and was almost limping after points and wincing before serving or returning serve.
At 5-2 with the Spaniard serving to stay in the match and in pain, Shapovalov had three chances to seal the win and it was third time lucky as Nadal last shot went out.
I was trying to change something, he was completely outplaying me and I was hanging in there and I was really happy to turn it around,” said Shapovalov.
Shapovalov will next face Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals on Friday. In their last meeting the Norweigan was able to come out with the win when they played in the Geneva Open final last summer.
After Multiple Surgeries, Comeback Kid Stan Wawrinka Books Djokovic Showdown In Rome
In only his third tournament of the year, 37-year-old Wawrinka admits the upcoming clash will be ‘really difficult’ but he is willing to give it his best shot.
Until now 15 months have passed since Stan Wawrinka last experienced the feeling of recording back-to-back wins in a tournament of any sort.
The three-time Grand Slam champion was sidelined from the sport for a year due a foot injury which ended up requiring two surgeries. The first was done in March last year before he underwent another procedure in June. The surgeries occurred just four years after he underwent two other operations on his left knee. Despite the physical problems and frustration, the Swiss isn’t giving up on his career just yet and is proving why at this week’s Italian Open.
A day after knocking out 14th seed Reilly Opelka, Wawrinka battled on court for almost three hours to oust Laslo Djere 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-4, in front of a highly animated crowd. The rollercoaster battle saw him fight back from a 1-3 deficit in the deciding set. Then four match points came and went before he finally prevailed. Booking his place in the last 16 of a Masters 1000 event for the first time since Paris 2020.
“It’s helping me to keep doing what I love. Tennis is a passion. The crowd, the support, the atmosphere, these courts is the reason why after two surgeries and one year out (of the Tour) I’m still playing tennis at 37. To live those moments as much as I can and I’m enjoying it a lot,” Wawrinka told atptour.com following his win over Djere.
At 361st in the world, Wawrinka has become the lowest-ranked player to reach the third round of a Masters event since Taylor Dent at the 2009 Miami Open. In Rome specifically, he is the lowest-ranked third round player since Carrado Borroni in 1995.
The reward is a clash with world No.1 Novak Djokovic in what will be a true test for Wawrinka. The two have an extensive rivalry after playing each other on the Tour 25 times before, including the finals of the 2015 French Open and the 2016 US Open. Djokovic currently leads their head-to-head 19-6 with their last meeting taking place in 2019.
“It’s always special to play against him,” Wawrinka said of the 20-time Grand Slam winner. “As I’ve said many times I’m not where I want to be yet with my game and fitness level. I need those matches.’
“To have a chance to play against the best player (in the ATP rankings) it’s going to be really difficult for me because I think I’m not ready to compete at that level. (But) it’s what I need. I need those challenges and push myself as much as I can to keep improving.”
Wawrinka’s win over Djere is his 535th on the ATP Tour and his 24th at the Italian Masters.
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